In the eyes of some of her closest conservative friends, Faith Ryan Whittlesey makes Jeane Kirkpatrick look like an old-time liberal. Or more precisely, as Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh put it to 400 Whittlesey fans last night, "like a Democrat."
It was the $100-a-plate Faith Whittlesey Roast at the Shoreham Americana, yet another milestone in that great Washington tradition of ridiculing the famous by reminding everybody of the gaffes that made them famous. In the case of Whittlesey, White House director of public liaison who leaves soon to become U.S. ambassador to Switzerland for the second time in five years, there seemed to be plenty of raw material. What there didn't seem to be plenty of were funny jokes.
A few that might qualify were these:
On Whittlesey's personnel practices: "Faith is my kind of personnel officer," said Donald Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management. "Her second day on the job she fired 70 percent of her staff."
On abortion: "Some say Mrs. Whittlesey's right-to-life stance is not 100 percent pure. Well, I'm here to set the record straight," said Peter B. Gemma Jr., executive director of National Pro-Life PAC. "Oh, sure, Mrs. Whittlesey has exceptions to the pro-life position but there's some logic . . . She's advocated the right to life is undisputable for every preborn baby. She seems to favor, however, monitoring these newborns until they're age 18, getting a voting analysis on them and then deciding who will be a productive member of society."
On Central America: "Imagine the surprised faces of the freedom fighters in Nicaragua when they receive their first shipment of cuckoo clocks, conveying the message that time is running out for the Sandinistas," said Robert R. Reilly, special assistant to the president for public liaison.
On the arms talks: "She'll be able to give insights from her combat experience at the White House," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell. "When she said 'I'm leaving,' unlike Mike Deaver, she left."
On power: "She came to Washington relatively inexperienced," said columnist M. Stanton Evans. "From James Baker she learned that absolute power corrupts and that absolute power is absolutely delightful."
Whittlesey, 45, who reportedly decided to take the job in Switzerland because there wasn't any absolutely delightful place of power left for her at the White House, had her rebuttal. But by that time, the entire back row was empty and about one-third of the crowd had left. ("I'm going to take my two minutes the way the other 10 roasters should have done," scolded Falwell, when he was introduced.)
Whittlesey said she thought Stanton Evans was training the young to take over the media until she saw him trying to trade a pair of 17-year-olds for CBS stock. And on White House days, she said "It took me a long time to realize that 'Star Wars' referred to White House dinner seating lists."
She received a telegram from President Reagan. The Committee for Responsible Youth Politics, formed in 1971 to identify and recruit young conservatives, received the proceeds from the dinner.
Last night, though, the crowd was more interested in identifying middle-aged conservatives among them. They included Sen. Jesse Helms, Sen. John East, Sen. Arlen Specter, Rep. Bob Dornan, Rep. Vin Weber, Rep. Don Ritter, Richard Viguerie and CIA Director William Casey.
Entertainment was courtesy of the Jhoon Rhee Institute, with commentary by the institute's namesake, who reminded everybody of his "might for right" philosophy.
"Webster's dictionary defines right as righteous and left means evil or sinister. It's also international," said Rhee. "We find the same meaning in many different languages.