THROW DOWN the kickstand of my 850 Norton at the F St. mall, cross over to the National Press Building, ascend seven stories and slide into my little home away from home. Switch on WGMS, prepare for another anything-could-happen-and-probably-will day.
Though I admire grudgingly what coffee does to galvanize other people's metabolisms, I'd still prefer not using it to shock me into life. Give me a fusillade from the "1812 Overture" any day.
After a brief conference, my colleague and I forgo sending an item about Menachem Begin's determination to move his offices to Arab East Jerusalem -- a policy strongly opposed by Moshe Dayan and other prominent Israelis. It's a good item, but Gen. Dayan had already spoken his piece Friday on an Israeli talk show. By today, it's stale.
Call the director of Washington's National Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue. He's livid over quotes in a Channel 5 report that had him resigning after attempts by Moslem fundamentalists to politicize the center. This he vehemently denies, insisting that the TV station's reporters hadn't even talked to him, that he's leave-taking at the end of the year because his term is expiring. But don't try to convince local Moslems of this. They say takeovers of the center and physical intimidation of the worshippers account for his departure. As one who was slightly roughed up covering one of the earlier incidents, I'm inclined to agree.
Because of its reputation as a major news center, the Press Building seems occasionally to crawl with characters of many kinds. They all want you to print their views on a really astonishing range of subjects. Moonies, people with strange inventions and conspiratorialists of ever description come knocking. One, who was here again this morning, is a rather jolly, rotund Marxist from South American who is "a personal friend of [Saudi] King Khalid." And he is an adviser to the royal family. And the Soviets are storing a billion tons of supplies in Antarctica. And he and Jimmy Carter are persecuted by "the Serpent."
Had an unproductive chat with the press secretary of U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. I'd wanted Waldheim's reaction to a report in this morning's Christian Science Monitor that the secretary-general had endorsed Palestinian statehood during an Arab League dinner. If true, this would go beyond his familiar "self-determination" theme. Though I couldn't drag an answer out of the spokesman, the issue bears close scrutiny. Tuesday
File a story on a demonstration scheduled by a Palestinian rights group for Wednesday. They plan sitdown strikes in front of American Red Cross offices throughout the country, to protest the deaths of two Palestinians detainees in an Israeli prison. The two, along with other political prisoners, were on a hunger strike and had been force-fed.
I call the press officer of the National Red Cross Headquarters here. He knows nothing about it. I mean to check with the New York office of the International Committee of the Red Cross -- since the rights group has asked it to investigate the "murders" and conditions at the prison -- but I get waylaid and forget.
The U.N. approved by a huge margin another "scathing" resolution today, this one demanding Israel's withdrawal from all Arab territory and proposing a West Bank/Gaza state for the Palestinians. There appears to be escalating worry in the Moslem world that if the Palestinian issue isn't solved in a dignified way, another tragedy will befall the area.
I file a story on the U.N. resolution, fleshing it out with a few comments from our ample store of informed sources, observers and analysts.
Plans for gutting and refurbishing the staid old Press Building are impressive, to say the least. The atrium, which starts at the seventh floor of this 13-story landmark, will be dropped down to the lobby level. The lobby itself will become a huge mall, carefully landscaped, with most offices looking down on it. When finished in 1983, the place will resemble something like a Hyatt House. We look forward to it. Wednesday
Today's Jack Anderson column tightens my jaws. He continues to dump on the President and on the Saudis, telling readers that Jimmy is beholden to the "sheiks" in the matter of his peanut warehouse. He's got to dance to their tune, therefore, he says, on weighty issues like the F-15 equipment sale and the strategic petroleum reserve.
Aside from the fact that Carter has repeatedly said the warehouse is strictly unencumbered, Anderson ought to examine the Saudi establishment a bit before sweeping his scythe into it. If he did, he'd learn that one Saudi businessman, acting on his own and in private, does not an Arab conspiracy make.
It's also annoying to find the columnist (who habitually flogs human rights violators throughout the world) endorsing the following bit of good cheer: ". . . bribery . . . satisfies the Arab sense of deviousness."
Took a call from a man close to boxer Mohammed Ali. Ali said several times he'd like to box somewhere in the Arab world. He had initially chosen Egypt for the contest, then demurred after Sadat's separate treaty with Israel brought down the wrath of the other Arab states on his head.
This contact thinks The Greatest may be willing to rope-a-dope over to Saudi Arabia. If it could be arranged, this would be a mighty PR coup for our office. Normally, the fight game is slightly out of our ken, but the Saudis really like Ali -- the world's most famous Moslem. Thursday
Interview Senator Adlai Stevenson (D., Ill.). The discussion was informative, but as usual I didn't cover as much as I'd planned.
The son of the '52 and '56 Democratic presidential candidate is displeased with Israel's settlements policies, echoing official U.S. policy in calling them "obstacles to peace." He suspects the settlements -- and more recently, Begin's office transfer and his vow to "forever reunify" Jerusalem -- will radicalize moderate Arabs and incense the "rejectionists" further. The senator speaks gloomily of another war.
I didn't wear a tie today; I'm giving my throat a rest. And I may not wear one tomorrow, either -- or next week, for that matter. In a city which is generally hotter than Khartoum and is presently melting away under record temperatures, tie-knotting becomes an exercise in self-strangulation. It's not for nothing, moreover, that in the Old West a "necktie party" was a lynching. From now on, it's caftans for me. Friday
File two stories, one on Henry Kissinger's warning at today's meeting of the Senate Energy Committee that "some event" would disrupt U.S. access to Mideast oil within the next five years. His testimony gave no hard evidence to justify such certainty, beyond a general awareness of "volatility" in the region.
Would the Kissinger's geopolitical clairvoyance had been fixed upon Iran and Afghanistan before "some event" left those nations in shambles.
The other piece deals with an amendment to an Israeli anti-terrorist law that makes a crime anything resembling support for the PLO. The amendment's language is vague, and fails to say just what might be construed as "support" for the guerrilla group. Palestinians I know say this legislation must be viewed as a clear abridgement of free speech. They also feel the recent clampdown on the West Bank's four universities snatches away Israel's claims of academic freedom in the territory it occupies.
A Virginia realtor calls to ask about placing an ad in Almadina. He is offering a "fantastic investment": a mountaintop retreat with 187 acres, a farmhouse with separate hunting lodge, "possible natural gas site," etc., etc.
His offer is academic, however. The Saudi information minister recently prohibited any publications printed in the kingdom from accepting real estate ads. Reason? American poseurs ripping off potential Saudi clients.
A birthday party for a motorcycling buddy. He's 24 today. Strange, it occurs to me I know neither his last name nor what he does when we're not cruising. But somehow it doesn't matter -- we both drive Nortons.
There are some 20 revelers at the party, plus barbequed farm creatures. The turkeys and hams had been slowly cooking under those dome-shaped grills all day, and were done to a sublime tenderness. The beer was cold.