JOSEPH KRAFT, the celebrated columnist who gave us that serviceable phrase, Middle America, has recently coined new terminology to illuminate the political landscape - Big America and Little America.
As I get it, Big America consists of places like Washington which run things. Little American is all of the rest of out there. People in Little America cannot think big like those of us in Big America. I wonder if their brains are too small.
To find the answer, I beamed in on a typical household in the heart of Little America, where the family is at the breakfast table, chewing earnestly and trying to digest the latest news from Big America.
Dad reads the newspaper, his lips moving with concern.
"My stars, Mother, the president fired Joe."
"Jo who?" Mom asks.
"Not Jo - Joe. Joe Califano, the greatest secretary in the history of Hew."
"And after what he did for soaring medical costs."
"And chasing after the Welfare Mama," Dad says. "I loved his liberal courage for that. Joe tried to make government work for all the people."
"Wait a minute, Dad," says Junior, who is munching the pre-sweetened cereal that rots his narcissistic little teeth. "I thought you always said that Wilbur Cohen was the greatest?" Junior's obnoxious backtalk is sympotmatic of the decaying family structure in Little America.
"Look, it's right here in the newspapers. "I am the greatest," Califano told the reporters. Oh, my stars, Brock too. Carter fired Brock too."
"Carter can't fire Brock," Mom says. "Brock is the National Titular Republican."
"Don't be a wimp, Mom. Brock is Adams, the secretary of Dot.
"What is Dot?" Mom asks, totally intimidated by Junior, which is another symptom of decay.
"Brock is the guy who wanted to cut back on passengers trains in order or save energy," Dad explains. "He drives an electric golf cart to work everyday to set an example for the rest of us."
"Who can afford," Mom asks, "when the yen and the deutchmark are driving down the dollar on world money markets?"
"That's Blumenthal. Say, there, he's gone too. He's the one with the German accent who devalued the dollar, Mother."
"All the time, I thought that was Kissinger," Mom says, chuckling at her own pea-brain ignorance of national affairs.
Junior snorts in his sugar cereal. "If certain people were paying more attention, they would know the price of gold soared after Blumenthal got fired."
"Carter is no dummy," Dad concedes.
"Jimmy's heart is in the right place," Mom opines, "but he may be too small for the job."
"He's only 5-9. That's a little president, all right. They say he's not big enough to fill Jerry Ford's boots."
"But he bumps his head less," Junior interjects.
"What we need in this country in another Lincoln," says Dad. "Lincoln was over 6 feet, wasn't he, Junior?"
"The largest president in American history was Grover Cleveland, who weighed 315 pounds," says Junior, reciting from his storehouse of useless, little-known facts.
"That's a big American," says Dad.
"Grover Cleveland dodged the draft during the Civil War, went to Yale and sired an illegitimate child."
"That's an obese American," says Mom.
Junior's obscure facts are erroneous, typical of the declining educational standards in Little America. Pound for pound, William Howard Taft was the largest president.
Dad pounds the breakfast table, expressing the churlish distemper rampant in Little America.
"Don't this cut it, Mother. Jimmy fired his buddy Griffenbell and - hold your spoon - Dr. Schlesinger, the Czar of Doe."
"Well, Griffenbell always said he was quitting but he never actually did," Mom says. "Maybe Jimmy wanted to give a little nudge by dumping these others."
"I call it scapegoating," says Dad, "and I don't like the smell. Us ordinary Little Americans will ask ourselves: Is it fair to make a scapegoat of Dr. Schlesinger and his pipe just because hie Energy Plan caused a little disruption in our lives?"
Mom and Junior nod vigorously in the affirmative, typical of the rampant distemper.
Dad says, "I think it will only contribute to our lack of faith in institutions and our declining confidence as a nation."
"I always did say," says Mom, "if you can't stand the malaise, get out of the kitchen."
Junior grinds his decaying teeth in frustration.
"Ye gods, Dad, it's politics," Junior rasps triumphantly. "The politics of scale. If you ever watched latenight TV, like "Saturday Night Live," instead of reading newspapers all the time, maybe you wouldn't be so out of it. Carter is hunkering down with Little America, getting ready for 1980. His only chance is a smaller cabinet."
"He's already short without hunkering," Mom says.
"You mean," says Dad, "he's offing the big people in his cabinet and replacing them with smaller ones?"
"Don't try to talk hip, Dad. It makes me puke. Check out the new secretary of Treasury, a real shrimp next to that big cigar with the accent. Pat Harris is diminutive, not to say petite, alongside Califano. Joe became a regular Bluto after he quit smoking. Also she's black."
"They say on TV she's black, but she looks Jewish to me," says Mom.
"Mother, that's what they call a two-fer in Big America."
"Face it, Dad, Carter is downsizing his cabinet. This guy Civiletti is as tall as Griffinbell, but he is also a tall Italian."
"He hasn't been Italian as long as Califano has," Dad whimpers.
"And look at the Czar - a regular giant with his pipe. This new guy is head-and-shoulders beneath him."
"Schlesinger, Blumenthal, Califa(o - those were the giants beloved by Big America," says Dad, moving his lips wistfully.
"Yeah, Dad, but all the voters live in Little America. Carter may be short, but he's not that dumb. He knows small is beautiful in 1980."
This sort of political cynicism, which is rampant in Little America these days, is one more reason why Big America has so much trouble running things.