The scene: Book party celebrating the publication of Jim Fallows' book, "National Defense," co-hosted by Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Random House last night in Room S-207 at the Capitol.

The crowd: Lots of senators, lots of journalists, lots of Hill hangers-on, a generous smattering of blasts from the past, including friends from Fallows' days on the Harvard Crimson, the Washington Monthly and as speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. Senators tended toward the Democratic side of the aisle, many of them trailing long track records on the swords-into-ploughshares side of the defense question.

Some of the senators present had read the book, like Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark). "I've read it cover to cover, and so have these three young men here [of the bright and shining, young and eager intern variety]. It's given us some ideas for what to do when the defense bill comes up."

Others hadn't, although, like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, they still had good things to say about it: "It's a much needed book that tries to present a thoughtful insight into defense needs and postures," said Kennedy, although it was tennis he was talking with Fallows, not MX missiles.

Most surprising guest appearance: Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.). "He came, I was impressed," said Fallows.

Most diplomatic quote from a three-star general who didn't need West Point to know when he's outnumbered: "I'm a strong proponent of having responsible and concerned criticism, and of people who are willing to spend the intellectual effort on understanding and meaningful diaglogue." This from Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, president of the National Defense University, present at the party because Fallows had conducted seminars there in the past.

Most undiplomatic quote from an ex-Carter speechwriter: "Jim Fallows has written such a good book that he will overcome the stigma of having been Jimmy Carter's speechwriter."

Most thoughtful point of view overheard all evening: "Fallows' critique [of Defense Department requests of proven monumental expense but unproven practicality] is beginning to show up in established journalistic and intellectual circles. It's beginning to penetrate beyond the immediate world of the liberals and intellectuals who were largely responsible for the defense buildup in the first place as a way of not having to draft people."

Most frivolous point of view expressed: "This is a room the Pentagon would love to nuke. Half their problems would be solved."