Sen. Ted Stevens is on record as saying that he would rather be anywhere in his beloved Alaska than here in Washington.
His frequent unkind remarks about life in the nation's capital have cut D.C. partisans (especially editorial writers) to the quick.
But can you blame him?
How would you like to work in a place with two bathtubs full of hate mail? Worse, the mail denounces you for something you didn't do in language that would make a sourdough blush. Of course you wouldn't like it. And neither does the Senate's assistant majority leader, who gets enough flak for things he does do.
To make matters worse the letters, stored prior to answering in some old bathtubs in Stevens' rather spartan Civil Service subcommittee offices, aren't even from Alaska.
Politicians (like columnists) would rather get letters that are nice. But hate mail is better than no mail. Getting cussed by your constituents at least shows they know who you are. But the letters clogging Stevens' subcommittee drain come from Ohio, Utah and Washington, D.C.
The folks are responding to a photocopied letter circulating in various federal outposts saying that Stevens wants to take away government employes' sick leave. 'Tain't so!
It seems that somebody who is either very mean or very dumb or maybe both is trying to frighten federal workers. This isn't hard to do.
Feds have been in a state of shock since President Carter cut off their hot water and started charging them to park at the office.
They were "rescued" by President Reagan. He put the non-Defense side of government on a diet that cost 12,000 workers their jobs. Now he wants to make them work an extra 10 years before they can retire and to link job security and pay raises to performance rather than seniority.
All of the above is the reason that federal workers will believe almost anything, if it is bad.
And this is the reason the bogus letter, which says Stevens wants to limit all government workers to seven days of sick leave a year, has upset so many government workers. It sounds horrible enough to be true.
The truth is that Stevens had proposed a revised sick leave system--for future federal workers--in a retirement bill he introduced last year. The bill died in Congress. He has not introduced it this year. If he does, an aide said, it will be minus any language dealing with sick leave.
It is easy to sympathize with Stevens.
A number of people have called this column (some long distance) demanding to know why there was a cover-up of the sick leave changes. Some callers suggested that Donald Devine (the head of the Office of Personnel Management) and I had conspired to impose a news blackout until the dirty deed was done, that we shared the same barber, or worse!
The thing is that there is no pending legislation to change the federal sick leave system. There is no news blackout. Sen. Stevens, who represents lots of federal folks in Alaska, is not guilty. Not only that, but he is up for reelection next year.
So if you get one of those photocopied letters that starts out "Proposed Sick Leave Changes!!!" Don't panic. You have enough things, career-wise, to worry about without getting sick worrying about sick leave.