Although the Carter-to-Reagan transfer of power is going extremely well at the top, there is some blood-spilling and cat-fighting at secondary levels of government as the Carter people (the ins who will soon be outs) harass the Reagan folks (the outs who will soon be ins) and vice versa.
One of the most interesting aspects of the transition is to see loyal (for the past 3 1/2 years) Democrats suddenly sounding like Howard Jarvis or Barry Goldwater. Amused career bureaucrats, and Democratic appointees who plan to go down with the ship of state next January, report behavior changes in collegues who -- until the morning of Nov. 5 -- had been proudly identified Democrats. Some had even managed to cultivate Georgia accents and had mastered the art of making friends and coworkers think they had the ear of somebody at the White House or the Democratic National Committee.
Generally speaking, Carter aides are lavish in their praise of the friendly but business-like aproach of Reagan transition personnel. They say the GOP people have done their homework, are asking all the right questions about operations they soon will inherit, and are saying all the right things to reassure career bureaucrats that guillotines are not being set up for future use.
By the same token the Reagan folks feel they are getting full cooperation from top Carter aides, who are prepared to go out with style and grace and leave the government in the best shape possible. That makes sense, since many of the Carter people will go on to bigger and better jobs, their worth enhanced by four years in Washington. And the Reagan people can afford to be nice, since they have won all the marbles!
However, at lower levels of the transition, there are some signs of tension.
The Reagan people, in some instances, make no bones of the fact that they think they are walking into a political minefield and/or a bureaucratic mess created by the Carter types. And the latter on occasion make it clear that it is all they can do not to lose their breakfasts as the new Philistines make stupid requests or fail to grasp what is being spelled out to them. Couple of examples:
Republican bureaucrats who managed to burrow into government when Ford left and Carter came in are now shocked, nay, incensed, that sneaky Democrats are trying to hang onto their jobs by crawling under the merit system blanket. Some are supplying lists -- to resident Reagan transition types -- of died-in-the-wool Democrats who are trying to convert to the new religion or pass as long-time conservatives.
Some Democratic appointees, anxious to establish their willingness to work with the new administration, are fingering former friends in hopes that the black cloud of unemployment will pass them by. Several officials -- who know they are on the Republican hit list -- say that long-time "pals" now avoid them in the hall, or pretend they have just met when they encounter each other in elevators.
The knowledge of federal operations that Reagan aides bring to their inspections both reassure, and frighten, some bureaucrats who survived through Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter. In one agency Reagan aides arrived shortly after the election with notebooks already filled with god-knows-what-kind of plans for change, or to stop wrong-headed things already in motion. Publications being readied for the printer were scrutinized (presumably for pictures of Carter as president). In one case, a booklet already being distributed to U.S. government offices in the Philippines was ordered withdrawn by the Reagan folks for some offending matter in it.
One mid-level Carter appointee said that a former friend and coworker -- a fellow Democrat undergoing a party change -- gave the transition team detailed information on how to fire him, with a few asides as to why it should be done quickly.
Perhaps the cruelest blow of all was struck against a political appointee who arrived at his office last week to find his reserved parking space, which he pays for, occupied by a strange car. He stormed around and found out that the car belonged to a member of the Reagan transition team. The Reaganite had been told by a favor-currying official (who hopes to stay on the federal payroll) that nobody in particular used the parking space and why didn't he use it?
The Carters were gracious when they showed the Reagan's through their big white house the other night. But in the real world, at least in some places, it is down and dirty, and kiss my parking space!