It was the kind of Washington party during which the host manages to attend a meeting at the Capitol and a meeting at the White House without missing more than a couple of the endless photo opportunities. In other words, it was the kind of party at which senators excel.
"He's just up here for a little fun," said Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) at his farewell reception yesterday for the now-former Office of Management and Budget director David Stockman. As the cameras flashed lights and the reporters flashed questions, Dole added, "We told him he couldn't talk."
Stockman did get out a few words. A very few words.
"I'm a civilian today," he said to the question of what he thought of the budget compromise that the Senate and House were scheduled to vote on later in the day.
"I'm unemployed," he said to the question of what he's doing with himself these days.
"I've got a little transition period," he said of his plans before he starts at Salomon Bros. "Maybe a little [R&R] after all these years."
"He's a very competent guy," he said of James Miller, the FTC chairman nominated to replace him. "They'll probably ask him a lot of questions but he shouldn't have much trouble."
Then Dole was off to one or another meeting, and Stockman moved deeper into Dole's office, where a few trays of canape's and crackers awaited him.
"This is a typically lavish OMB layout, isn't it?" said Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), surveying the offerings. "They don't have anything on the table."
The senators rushed in and out over the course of two hours, often stopping to make a last-minute-of-the-last-day deal over Dole's phones.
"Considering what was on the table," said Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) of the budget compromise, "I'm satisfied."
As Stockman received his admirers, words like "budget," "vote" and "how much is he going to make?" floated around his grayed head.
"He's overtime today," said Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.). "I thanked him for donating his first day to the government."
"By the time he got down here," Domenici remembered of Stockman, "he would know more about the programs than the Cabinet members and the senators and congressmen representing those issues. He's been there longer than anyone else has. Someone new -- it'll take them time to catch up."
Echoing one of the city's favorite truisms, Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) said, "One thing I can say about him is he has a brilliant mind and knows the federal budget better than anyone I've ever seen before."
Another thing he could say about Stockman was that the two often disagreed.
And will he agree more often with Miller?
"Nope," said the senator. "I won't."