The Carter style reappeared for two hours in Washington last night, right in the window of Kramerbooks, where a hand-lettered sign announced to passersby: "MEET HAMILTON JORDAN TONIGHT!"
Inside, as advertised, was Jimmy Carter's former chief of staff, politely signing copies of his book, "Crisis." He's been doing that on his 14-city tour for most of the last month.
"It's going to be over pretty soon," he said, drinking the first of two light beers. "Real soon. Like right now. I'm going to jump out the window." Instead, he kept signing books.
So did Jody Powell, the former press secretary. "I wrote the damn book," said Jordan, watching as Powell autographed "Crisis" at the request of a fan, "and Jody signs it. That's the way it always was in the White House. I did the work--and Jody got the credit."
The party was a roundup of the usual suspects, mostly top and mid-level former Carter aides. Everyone else drank wine and leaned on the book stacks, kibitzing about the Nov. 2 election and gossiping about nothing really juicy. No one was observed hunting for his or her name in the indexes of all the Washington books lying around, although there doubtless were a few sneaks.
Over near the Lady Diana works was Gerald Rafshoon, Carter's former media adviser. He talked up his planned TV docudrama about the hostage crisis, prompting somebody to ask: "Where are you going to shoot it?"
"White House Land," said former Carter speech writer Hendrik Hertzberg, now editor of The New Republic. "It's a theme park."
"Spain," was what Rafshoon said.
Meanwhile, Jordan kept signing "Crisis," which chronicles his last year in the Carter White House. He was strategically displayed right in the front window of the Dupont Circle bookstore, so people walked by and peered through the glass. Some just gaped and pointed, but others, enticed, strolled in.
"I'm a chemist in town for a convention," said Aner Carlstrom from Pinole, Calif. "I was walking down the street, and I saw all the action. I just came in because I wanted to see a celebrity." Well, what did he think? "He looks a lot younger than I thought someone who was running the country would."
Among the first to arrive at the party was Lloyd Cutler, the former White House counsel. "Don't want to interrupt the autograph hounds," he said, patting Jordan's shoulder, "but just want to tell you it's a hell of a book." Stuart Eizenstat, the former domestic policy adviser, made a brief appearance; so did Ron Nessen, Gerald Ford's former press secretary.
"I didn't realize this was a 'Hey, Come In and Meet Ham Jordan Tonight' party," Nessen said, then amended: "But it's a good way of selling books." In fact, there's something to that. At fancy book parties where people dress up and go to the big house of a rich friend, everybody expects a free book. When you invite the folk off the street, they have to pay.
So how many books were sold?
"Nine," said the Kramerbooks cashier.
"Oh, stop it," said Anne Brooks, the sales representative from Putnam, Jordan's publisher.
"Fifty," said the cashier, repenting.
Meanwhile, Jordan was still signing books. Powell, who'd bought three, was standing next to him like any other autograph-seeker, pulling his books one at a time out of a Kramerbooks plastic bag. He wanted the first one signed for his sister in Bluffton, S.C., the next for his sister's boss, and the third for the Bluffton Library.
"Are they going to be Christmas presents?" asked Eleanor Randolph of the Los Angeles Times, one of numerous reporters who surfaced to say hello to the old crowd.
"No," said Powell, who's still writing his own book. "I'm not going to be able to get away with something this tacky."
And Jordan was still signing books. "I got up at 4 this morning and now I have to take the Metroliner to Philadelphia to do the 'Larry King Show' at midnight. I probably won't be in bed until 3 this morning."
"How's Dorothy?" somebody asked, referring to Jordan's new wife back at home in Lawrenceville, Ga.
"Dorothy who?" he said.