TOO STATUESQUE to be called Muffie, too feminine to be called Mabel, the new White House Social Secretary, Mabel (Muffie) Brandon, has impeccable credentials for the position during the Reagan presidency: good manners, good breeding, well modulated voice, Smith College education -- the same college Nancy Reagan attended.
As Muffie herself says, she is a survivor. Her childhood was stepped in academia; her family is Harvard blueblood and highly intellectual. A cousin, James Bryant Conant, was a famous president of Harvard and a noted scientist. A grandather was a Harvard Overseer, and still another ancestor translated the Bible into a American Indian language around 1860.
A late and only child of a second marriage, much was expected of her and she became the focal point of the entire family. While still in college she married an aspiring writer and, very soon, had three children.
The marriage was stable enough until the family's move to Washington, D.C., where it encountered too many of the city's typical pressures. Then a divorce, years of bringing up the children on her own, and a second marriage, to one of Washington's most enduringly popular bachelors.
A longtime correspondent for the prestigious London Sunday Times, Henry Brandon, born in Prague, 19 years older than his wife, is usually thought of as the dean of Washington foreign correspondents. His business requires that he be well connected with the powerful of the moment. Partly through this marriage, Muffie gained great ease in dealing with known personalities, as they were often dinner guests of the Brandons. Henry Kissinger, when secretary of state and well before, would spend many hours at their home; Prime Minister Heath of Great Britain would walk down -- they were then living back-to-back to the British Ambassador's residence -- after a state dinner at the embassy to have a drink at the Brandons. Ambassadors, senators, Cabinet members, White House assistants, labor leaders and authors could all be seen in the Brandons' home.
To this Muffie eventually added another category: the corporate world. When her fourth and last child was five years old, Muffie went into business by herself. She formed a company called Washington Corporative arts, its purpose to advise large corporations on how to invest money in the arts in order to gain visibility in Washington. Among the functions of her business was to plan and organize large and small receptions, seated formal dinners -- scrutinizing guest lists, coping with menus, entertainment and the inevitable last-minute changes. Thus, the last piece fell into place.
Muffie has now become a visible part of the select and ever-changing Washington establishment within the establishment. The sweet seductive smell of success, to which this city so eagerly responds, surrounds her. The calls, the mail, the invitations proliferate and, even when the job is done, nothing will ever seem quite the same again.
Dressed casually in slacks not to be worn at the White House, Muffie greets me on a Sunday afternoon at the Brandons' Georgetown home.
INA GINSBURG: Muffie, when we met each other years ago who would have thought that you'd be the White House Social Secretary and I'd be interviewing you?
MUFFIE BRANDON: I would be the last person on this earth to have thought that. You know, one of the things they teach at the Harvard Business School is that a good businessman must project his life. He must have a five-year plan and a 10-year plan. I'ved never lived like that. The maximum I've ever projected is one year. I live in the immediate, really from week to week. And I've always believed that you make each day as nice as you can.
Q: Planning has never worked out for me. I know that much.
Well, in the world we live in, who can? I know there are a lot of schemers around and a lot of grand designers. I'm not sure the schemers work out any better than those of us who live day by day. I think women just have to be flexible.
Q: Is it a coincidence that you have twice married writers, journalists?
Maybe one of the reasons I'm so interested in newspapermen is that I tend to be very engaged with the present. I'm also very interested in history. And a good newspaperman has a great sense of history and is also terribly engaged in the present. I think I always wanted to be around creative people. I admire them. It was part of my childhood -- creativity was an understood part of my life.
Q: Do you think that's truer of Boston than other places?
I think Boston is unique in this country in that there is such an intense population of academia. We lived in Cambridge. My parents were deeply involved in the Boston Symphony, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University. There wasn't a day that went by that someone from one of the three wasn't either at the lunch table or the dinner table. My father, after he retired from banking, became an Oriental art consultant to the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard, and spent the last 23 years of his life, the happiest years of his life, collecting Chinese art for himself, for the Boston Museum and for the Fogg Museum. I remember the scholars who flowed through our house from all over the world. As a little girl, I was taken to Europe every summer, not for the Folies Bergere et toutes ces choses, but for the museums and for the great galleries. I was taken to Sweden one time. I was very excited and I was left literally on the steps of the palace to wait for my father.
Q: What about your mother?
My mother lived in China for a time. They were married in Boston and brought together their love of China. She was more interested in archeology and the history of China. My father was interested in art. My father was also an excellent musician. He played the piano beautifully. We would sit in our little 19th-century Henry James library in Cambridge -- quite dark, everything covered with dark furniture coverings, you know, good Yankee frugality -- and we would listen to a record. And as though we were at a concert.
Q: In a sense, your parents were lucky that you took to it.
I rebelled. No question. But my rebellion was that I refused for years to have anything to do with Chinese art and I went off into Dutch and Flemish 16th and 15th century. My adolescent rebellion took the form of Franz Hals. I thought it was pretty strong. Because they were always hoping that I would take to the Chinese.
Q: How long were you divorced?
Q: How long was that marriage all right?
It was fine until we got to Washington. I think marriage is a very difficult institution anywhere, but I think in Washington it undergoes stresses that do not exist anywhere else. Henry and I have long debates about this. He says Washington is just the same as any other company town. I've seen it and I've seen women in Washington ignored, neglected, I've seen them zip into the spotlight and then whoop! Their husband's job changes and suddenly they are no more. I think what happens to people here is cruel and I think if you don't have great resources intellectually and a great sense of humor and some really loving friends it can be very difficult. It does not change and humor is essential -- gallows humor.
Q: What happened here? Were you suddenly left out?
Suddenly, I was plunged into a place and all anybody cared about was what my husband did. It was nuts and I was very young. Suddenly, we were in this cauldron. I haven't seen many people who came through like we did -- very few of those marriages survived. I do not know of a single marriage that survived.
Q: You survived. You made a success of it.
The last chapter hasn't been written. I was leaving then. was going back to Boston with my children, to a land that I understood and to people I loved, where life was rational and comprehensible to me. And then I met Henry one night. He was leaving a party as I was walking in the door. I thought: My, my, my. He was in black tie and he was obviously going on to someplace very swish.
Q: I never knew how you and Henry actually got together. Because what I do remember was that you were going out with J. Carter Brown, the director of the National Gallery, and it looked as though that was somewhat serious. And it seemed very fitting, too -- the Massachusetts background, for one.
It was serious for a while; then it was finished. I didn't even know Henry then.
Q. Were you really in love with Carter?
Not really, though Carter and I would have had a perfectly agreeable life together. We came from the same background. We had the same interests. I do believe that's terribly important. By that time I had begun to wonder whether love existed. I know a woman has to make accommodations. I had begun to question whether my 19th-century romanticism was, in fact, there. Whether Freud and Jung were right -- maybe they were more realistic.
Q. Henry was certainly the bachelor.
I know. And I sort of forgot about him. And then we were seated next to each other at dinner and I still cannot remember whose party it was. I can remember the table -- it was candlelit, the candles were very high, silver candelabrum, beautiful shiny mahogany table. I remember talking to the man at my right for a long time -- don't know who he was. And then Henry and I turned and we talked. And then he asked me out and I really hadn't been dating. Everybody said, Well, this is an international roue so be careful. We did not go out publicly at all.
Q. I was rather surprised when I discovered it. I think I found out when Henry was in the hospital and I came to visit and his whole room was decorated with drawings -- posters. I asked who'd done them. And he said, "Muffie."
I slept on the floor for two nights. I didn't leave the hospital, because the nursing was terrible. That was just before we got married. And in a strange way the girl from Boston and the boy from Prague understood each other. And still do. It is a supersonic communication. It has not been easy because Henry has been a very vital, busy, important journalist and maybe that's why I subconsciously wanted to go to work.
Q. Who was the British ambassador who gave you a wedding reception?
The Freemans. They gave us our dinner. And David Bruce. It really was Henry's 20th year in Washington, and the embassy wanted to salute him. And they gave it as a 20th anniversary to Henry. But that night our wedding was announced and we were married the next day. Nobody knew. And David Bruce (Ambassador Bruce) got up and gave the warmest toast any journalist has ever received. And then he, in his own fabulous way, gave us a benediction.
Q. Did it catapult you into a different strata in Washington than before?
Well, I was much younger than Henry and I had always moved with my age group. My age group is now becoming the leaders and the journalists and the political clout and the corporate Washington, but back then they weren't. I was certainly catapulted into a group of people who were having enormous impact on history. I mean, Kissinger, the Bruces, and all of that. These were people who were making decisions that were going to influence the future of manking. And I was keenly aware of that. However, undaunted, I chimed in. One famous night I was told to go to the kitchen to wash the dishes because I was talking -- too much.
Q. Henry looked at you?
No, he didn't just look at me. He said, Go, go wash the dishes.
Q. Who was there?
Henry Kissinger. And I debated him about Watergate and I tried to explain to him why we Americans were so outraged about Watergate. He didn't understand. And I had to say my ancestors didn't come over on that rotten leaky boat and the rest of them didn't go over the Rockies in buckboards to have the president lie. There is a cutoff. You can do a lot of hanky-panky when you're a leader, but you must never lie to your people. And get caught. Maybe the lie isn't the greatest thing. Maybe the getting caught is. I don't know. But once your people know that you haven't been honest with them, it's over. I was sent to the kitchen after I gave the speech.
Q. Did you enjoy getting to know these people?
I enjoyed it to a certain extent. I made one great mistake. I thought that all of these people were going to be my friends. That was a great error. tI was very young and naive. I thought the people who came to my table and whose table I went to were my friends. That is not the case. These are acquaintances. Some of them, indeed, have become dear friends. I didn't know the name of the game. And nobody ever sat me down and told me. I just assumed. So I was hurt, to answer your question.
Q. Can you take what you are doing now in your stride?
My dear, I'm enjoying it. I'm seeing it happen. I couldn't be more honored than to be where I am. But I can take Washington with a delicious grain of salt.
Q. But isn't it also a triumph in a way?
No, I haven't viewed this as a triumph. I left a business that I love, which was doing well, to take this job. Somebody asked my why I did it. Because I come from a family of service -- service is deeply ingrained in my bloodstream. I really took this, maybe naively, as a way I could serve. I put in horrendous hours. It's not easy. But if I can help in some small way the White House to run well for our American guests and our foreign guests, I'll do it.
Q. The story was all around Washington, and I don't know how accurate it was, that 75 people had been interviewed for the job you now have by Tish Baldrige [Jacqueline Kennedy's social secretary] and by Nancy Reynolds [a close friend of the Reagans]. And no one seemed to click with Mrs. Reagan. And all of a sudden, there you were and it seemed right. When did you come into this? Were you one of the 75?
On January 23rd, I had to go to Fairfax County courthouse to discuss a speeding ticket which I had gotten when I drove to our farm. Well, I went into court and I explained to the judge, and the officer corroborated my story of innocence and said, Your Honor, I suggest that this ticket be ripped up, and then it was ripped up. I was so happy that I drove back into the city in the rain and the mist of that January morning, and thought of all the people who had suggested to me that I please call Tish and try for the position. I said, No, I don't want to bother. But driving back in the car, I thought well, maybe this is my day and maybe it's time after four years of running a business to do something else. I went to the office and picked up the phone and called Tish at the White House. And I said, Would you like my resume? She said heavens, yes. So I sent it down and it got lost in the White House. She said they never got it. So I sent down another one. That was Wednesday. Thursday I went for my interview with Mr. Peter McCoy. He is Mrs. Reagan's chief of staff. He walked out of the room. He said, I have to make a telephone call, will you excuse me? When he came back, he said, Will you come with me? I said, Yes. Trot, trot, trot, down the hall. Up the elevator. Suddenly, there I am having tea with Mrs. Reagan. I think I had a run in my stocking.
Q. What happened?
She is the most charming woman. She puts you at ease in two seconds. We laughed, talked about college. She asked if I wanted the job. She said it's a terrible job, very hard. She asked what would I do with it? And I told her how I envisioned it.
Q. How do you?
I envisioned it as -- I have the title Social Secretary. It drives me crazy. But nobody's come up with a better one so we have to live with that. I think that I should be your eyes and ears. I think that taste and charm and hospitality and warmth and style should be absolutely unspoken -- given when one crosses the threshold of the White House. I said, I do not mean that there should be opulence because I don't feel good taste is opulent. I've been brought up in the tradition of simple good taste, that's good food in season, beautiful flowers in season, gracious people who have the time to talk to you, gracious hospitality. Well, we talked about that. And I left. I came home and told the family I'd had tea with Mrs. Reagan. Everyone was interested and that was that. The next day I went to work. I had to run an opening at the Corcoran that night: Billy Al Bengsten. I had the flu and wasn't feeling very well. I came home, and lo and behold there were a few dishes still to be done, so I was in the kitchen washing them, and the telephone rang. And Mr. McCoy said, Mrs. Brandon? I said, Yes. And he said, Do you know why I'm calling? I frankly assumed they were calling to say, 'thank you so very much for stopping by, but you're not at all what we're looking for. And he said, Mrs. Reagan would like you to be her Social Secretary. I almost dropped the phone. I said, Oh, my God, what have I done now! It was Friday night. Henry got home late. All weekend we talked and then some friends came over, sat in the kitchen Saturday night, and we listed out my 10 points. I didn't know what the salary was. I didn't know when to begin. I didn't know about my staff. I hadn't seen my office -- nothing. Mr. McCoy and I met in the coffee shop at the Hay-Adams Hotel on Sunday morning at 10 o'clock and we ironed out the 10 points and he said, When can you begin? I said, I run a business, I can begin the first of March. He said, No, we've got the Thatchers visiting on the 26th of February. You've got to do it. Well, one of the great things about being a woman, I've decided, is that when we have to, we can do it. In three days, I had resigned from my business, found a new preident, signed off from the business, turned everything over to her, and was working half days at the White House. I went right into the Thatcher dinner, having never done a state dinner in my life.
Q. The newspapers referred to you as the quintessential Washingtonian. What do they mean?
Would you mind telling me what the quintessential Washingtonian is?
Q. I think what they are driving at is that your dinner parties with world-famous people will never be read about in the papers. An insider's insider.
Never, never written about. If I can help it. I hate personal publicity. When Henry and I were married there was a flurry of magazines that wanted to do articles on us and the house and we turned down all of them. I've agreed to interviews now because I think there are things that are misunderstood about Mrs. Reagan and about the administration and I would like to go on record putting some of them straight.
Q. Such as?
Mrs. Reagan is not an extravagant woman. She's a woman of consummate good taste. She wears some of her clothes for eight and 12 years. When she does buy something, it's good, but she doesn't buy much. In the second place, she is not unthoughtful. She's actually terribly thoughtful. She never said that nonsense about the Carters moving out. It was so unfair that the press never even bothered to check it. Nobody picked up the phone and tried to reach her in California to check this. She never had the chance to confirm or deny. It's not like her. Every woman would like to move into a house where the painting has been done and the plastering has been done. That is human and normal. But she never, ever, ever, in her wildest dreams would have expected the president of the United States to move out. That's not in her character. She's got excellent manners. She has a great reverence for the office. The other thing is that her husband is proposing a major economic change in our country, and she's very aware of that. pThe entertaining at the White House is going to be smaller and simpler. We are going to use in-house musicians, in-house florists, in-house china and tablecloths. We are going to serve food in season and there are not going to be extravaganzas.
Q. In-house flowers, you have access to the --
The arboretum, yes.
Q. You mean people haven't used that before?
Not really. And we have wonderful White House florists who haven't been used.
Q. White House florists? Where are they?
Exactly. Because in former administrations people always felt they had to go to the grand wonderful florists outside. Rusty Young does it for us. He's the head White House florist. He does every floral arrangement in the White House with a group of women volunteers.
Q. Where do the flowers you have in the basement come from?
Well, they are bought wholesale at the flower market at 6 in the morning. They have a White House allocation for flowers. But we buy only what is in season. We've had tulips for six weeks -- they're in season. And when their season ends, we'll use other flowers.
Q. Who supervises what goes into the bowls and into the vases?
I'm down there a lot. Mrs. Reagan has a great sense of flowers. And she and I talk, then I go down and talk to them, and then Mrs. Reagan talks to the florists, also. She likes what I would call "loose English arrangements." There are certain flowers that she likes and she loves certain colors. She's wonderful with colors of coral, yellow and whites. You won't believe it, but the White House has never owned the little tube vases that you use on your tables in your house. I had to go out and buy some -- wholesale for three bucks each. We're going to use them with one lovely stem. The White House wasn't built for the demands of parties. The storage facilities are nil. Mrs. Reagan is trying now to bring back the kind of entertaining with which the staff of the White House can feel they are on top of. The butlers are superb.
Q. You still have to have additional butlers, for bigger parties.
We do. But they are old-timers. If you have 130 people as was done before for dinner, the butlers simple cannot get through the tables. They have to wiggle and scrunch. We're not going to do that. We're staying at 96. Eight tables of 12. You and I have been to the White House when we had to stand at the entertainment mushed against the wall. That is not gracious. If we cannot fit people comfortably in to be our guests, they will not be there. And sometimes I may have to be a dragon lady. But that's all right. You know that for the first time the other night for the Thatcher dinner, I gather, in the history of the White House, every member of the official party had a seating card in the East Room for the entertainment, which was the Harlem Ballet. So I had the calligrapher's office do beautiful cards. Each guest was assigned a social aide, from a social military office, and they were escorted into the East Room and shown to their seats. We had seating plans drawn.
Q. Was this by protocol as well?
By protocol. The first three rows of the East Room were seated and I can't tell you what it looked like. Everybody flowed in, and everybody sat down -- the people who should have been up front were up front. The rest of the guests were around. It worked like a charm. And we'll do it for everything from now on.
Q. Ninety-six people.
Yes, plus 30 after dinner. About 130. It was wonderful. And the fires were lighted. It was very special. Mrs. Thatcher adored it and the coincidence was that the Harlem Ballet had been asked to be the resident company at Covent Garden this summer, by request of the British government. The evening was magic.
Q. What else are you planning?
I think we'd like to do some slightly less rigid evenings and have people come into the East Room and have little chairs and the little tables around. Break protocol and have some of our wonderful, wonderful cabaret moments. We'd have Mabel Mercer or Dinah Shore or Bobby Short. Some of our cabaret greats. People should go away thinking I've had not only a rewarding worthwhile work evening full of diplomacy and blah, blah, blah, but I've had fun. Right?
Q. You discuss the flowers and the menus with Mrs. Reagan in the morning?
Yes, I do the seatings with her. I do the guest list with her.
q. Where does the guest list come from?
Well, at state dinners a great deal of it is already in place from the State Department and the embassy involved. We have a few seats left for us to use, a very few. Maybe eight to 10 couples and that's it. Mrs. Reagan decides, of course. She's got a fabulous instinct for people. She knows people all over this country. And she knows who will go with who. It's marvelous. The Reagans love to dance. There may be dancing at every state dinner. The president and Mrs. Reagan lead off. They take a spin around the floor to the Marine orchestra. They wave good night and go upstairs. But the rest of the guests dance. Now what's wrong with that?
Q. Who decides on the wine?
Well, the president is a great wine connoisseur, particularly of Californian wine. He knows his vintages and he is a great wine aficionado. He's very involved in the wine, especially for state dinners. Otherwise, the chef does, and I do a bit. Mike Deaver is a great wine connoisseur. He is helping, too. We've got a very good cellar already. And I don't have to worry about it.
Q. Someone chooses from the cellar that you have?
Oh, yes. The president advises on the purchasing. The president is a Renaissance man. He loves food and likes wine.
Q. Do you use European wines?
No, we don't. Not at all. Why should we? There is a wonderful California champagne, too, from a small vineyard. It's been such fun. These are men who are delighted to be involved in affairs of state, but also -- like Europeans -- can immediately take 10 minutes to discuss one vintage versus another.
Q. What is the line of authority now, because Gretchen Poston, the social secretary under President and Mrs. Carter, operated very much on her own. She was almost a law unto herself.
This is a very different setup. It is for Mrs. Reagan and to Mrs. Reagan that I feel ultimately responsible. And to the president -- the office of the presidency. I am not a law unto myself. My immediate boss is Peter McCoy, who is a brilliant administrator. He ran Sotheby Parke Bernet for 11 years in Los Angeles. We all have our duties, our lines of demarcation. I think one of the greatest skills that this administration brings to Washington is the art of administering. I'm still very new. I'm not a good bureaurcrat. I'm learning it. Because i've always been a law unto myself until now.
Q. You had your own business and never a job under anyone?
That's right. It's a very hard transition. But everybody's been very patient with me. We all laugh about it. As somebody said, Muddie, you're a loose cannon. Well, I haven't meant to be and they know that. I'm learning to memo everydody on everything. And i'm learning the channels of protocol within the White House. But coming in as a rank outsider and being so new, they have been amazingly tolerant of me and suportive and nice. It's made my life . . . It could be hell. You know, everybody laughs and says, there she goes again charging ahead. And I think, Oh, God. But I'm learning.
Q. What staff do you have?
My adorable assistant Linda Faulkner from Dallas. She was there already. We both laugh and say, Thank God we get along. I mean there are six lines on the telephone ringing. Mrs. Reagan wants to see me in two minutes. There are six events that have to be written up and downstairs by 4 o'clock. All you can do is laugh. One of the things I gather is that in former administrations my office was not always a source of laughter. It was a place where there was a good deal of acrimony.
Q. How many people do you memo?
Immediately, I memo about five. When you have an event, it has to go out to absolutely every person who is involved in any way in that event. If the president is going to attend a breakfast, the Secret Serivce must have the memo, the usher's office, everybody in the White House who has anything to do with the movement of the president has to have a memo. And that is about 30 people. My office runs every single social event that goes on in the White House.
Q. Has Washington really changed as far as clothes are concerned? Do you think it has already trickled down -- the new elegance?
There is no question about it. Talk to the Elizabeth Arden Salon. I'll tell you, in the corridors of the White House, the difference in the way the women are dressed and the way they were dressed in previous administrations. We don't have to be super chic. But I remember a girl meeting me not too many years ago in clogs at the diplomatic reception door. I never got over it. We do not wear pants. We do not wear clogs. We represent our country.
Q. Muffie, I can't say that when I walked into the Eisenhower Theater the other night for the opening of Elizabeth Taylor's play, it was so different.
Women were not coming from the office in their suits. They had gone home and changed. There was much more black tie. Then at Ford's Theater Gala the other night -- no question. All the designer clothes. The jewelry where I was sitting was staggering.
Q. Are there people in Washington who have jewelry?
Well, a lot of people at Ford's Theater came in from elsewhere. The ladies here will just have to get along with their old cut crystal. But you know Mrs. Reagan does not wear a lot of jewelry. She's never been a jewelry person. Let everyone else slather the diamonds on. She'll just come out looking absolutely chic and elegant and simple. This idea that you have to be draped like a Christmas tree to be elegant is nothing. But Americans have never understood that.
Q. Do you have a hand in those private luncheons when Mrs. Reagan goes into Georgetown?
My suggestions are not always taken, and I have made some. The luncheons have been a fabulous thing. She loves it. She's got to get out and have a sense that there is some life other than her official life. Even I get 50 letters a day.
Q. Requesting what?
Everyting: I want to play at the White House, I want to be a guest at a dinner, I want to give linen. Please tell Mrs. Reagan not to show the soles of her feet when she is with an Islamic guest because it's impolite.
Q. If it's advice like that, I think that's very valuable.
Yes, but you get crank mail also. I got my first piece of hate mail after a television performance in New York -- some lady shrieking at me about Mrs. Reagan's coats. The animal protection people are after her about her mink coats. Barbara Bush has a mink coat. Pat Haig has a mink coat. I have a mink coat.
Q. Why was she screaming at you?
Well, because she saw me on television in New York. I've been on "Good Morning America." It was a name she could write to. Once you surface as a name in the White House, they come out of the woodwork. Every problem, but I want to read my mail, nuts and all. You learn.
Q. What's a full day, Muffie?
I get to the White House at 8 and I dictate from 8 to 9 every morning. Every letter that crosses my desk is answered. Then we go into staff meeting if I'm not downstairs at a presidential breakfast. Then we'll work on a luncheon and we've got several state dinners coming up. We're starting to work on them. It's a hard thing. I work until 7:30 at night sometimes.
Q. Do you think the press minds that Mrs. Reagan is so careful with them in what she actually says?
I think you only get careful after you've been burned. I doubt that Mrs. Reagan ever had bad press in California. But this is a very new experience and it's bewildering her. I think there are two reasons: After Vietnam and after Watergate, the Washington press corps became very suspicious and negative and they've got to stop it. Because the war in Vietnam is history and so is Watergate and they've got to start looking at situations and people as they really are and not taking their own prejudices into interviews. That's the first thing. And the other thing is I think there is a generational problem. The president and Mrs. Reagan live in a manner of their generation which is not exactly the manner in which the young reporters in their 20s and early 30s live. Some of the young reporters are unfamiliar with this manner, the politeness, the charm, the attitude towards life.
Q. When did you get interested in politics?
My real baptism politically was with Adlai Stevenson in 1956. Then I worked for President Kennedy. But once I married Henry, I couldn't be actively involved in politics because I had friends on both sides of the aisle whom I supported as individuals.
Q. Did you work for Bobby Kennedy?
I worked for Bobby, yes, in the Oregon primary just before he died. I quietly did thin;gs for my Republican and Democratic friends and I voted for the president. But I really became not as interested in partisan politic as in excellence in government. I think you have to encourage people. They take a terrible beating; it's a horrible sacrifice. Their privacy is invaded. tThey take a huge financial licking as well.
Q. Is Henry still delighted with your job?
Yes, he is very supportive. We both are too tired to talk about anything but the children and the dental bill and taking the dog to the vet. I never discuss my work with him because there isn't time. We have to talk about our own family.
Q. Muffie, eventually when this is over, will you go back to your business or will you write the book that you were telling me about? What about a book on Washington?
Oh, a book on Washington. I don't think I'll ever write it. It's like a gossamer mirage. You put your hand out and you think you've got it and you close your fist and it's gone.