Up at 6 a.m. and in the office a little after 8. There are still about a dozen phone calls to make for the open house Alfred Kahn is hosting Wednesday for reporters who have covered him, at the CAB and in his anti-inflation job. Although he submitted his resignation last week -- having decided months ago to return to cornell no matter what happened on Election Day -- we have not yet received the president's response to his letter. I check with presidential personnel and find there is no word yet from camp David. It is just a formality, of course, but trying to coordinate the timing of Fred Kahn's resignation announcement and the president's response turns out to be more complicated than expected.
Every office in our third floor suite in the Old Executive Office Building is in total disarray. Files are being cleaned out and people are packing cartons with papers to be sent to central files. I start sorting out my files and am discouraged by the thought of all the time and effort that went into projects whose fate is to be consigned either to the waste basket or to some musty archive.
I grew up in Washington and have watched administrations come and go here for 40 years, but this is the first time I have seen it from the vintage point of the White House staff. And it is a cheerless, anxiety-ridden scene. Every now and then, someone wanders in to trade horror stories. We hear that 3,000 people are unemployed in Washington as a result of the election. Then the figure is corrected to 5,000 -- or is it 6,000? -- counting congressional staffs.
Last week was like a wake and the mourning period continues now. First, we worried about the outcome of the election. Then we worried about the future of the country, with its sharp turn to the right. Now we try to figure out how Ronald Reagan can increase defense spending, balanced the budget and cut taxes, al at the same time. And, as a counterpoint to this, there is the continual nagging worry about finding a jog. At the moment, it is all doom and gloom. I suspect morale will improve, though, once we start job-hunting seriously.
With a birthday coming up soon, age is on my mind. Experience may be an advantage in some things, like baking a cake or making love, but is it a help or a hinderance to a middle-aged job-seeker? Is a maturity a plus or a minus? I'll soon find out. Tuesday
Today is a holiday and, since I will be away this weekend, I use the time to do some Saturday-type chores. I think about shopping for clothes but decide to postpone that until the future is a bit more secure.
I buy a stock pot that had been ordered weeks ago and run into a colleague from the White House Press Office. The other day, she said she thought she might have better luck finding a job in another city and I sent her a list of executive recruiters another colleague had given me. If someone with talent and experience has trouble finding a job, what will happen to me?
When a former bass called last weekend and suggested I come to New York to work for him, I began to realize that I couldn't rule out the possibility of leaving Washington, His call was a tremendous psychological boost but it would be hard to pull up stakes after a lifetime in this city.
At 4 p.m., I go to a committee meeting of a group that sponsors dinner dances and we start to plan this year's parties. We decide to hold the first one on Jan. 20, inauguration night. Wednesday
Presidential personnel calls to say that the president's response to Fred's resignation letter is on its way to our office. The letter arrives and, with references to Fred's role in deregulating the airlines, is clearly more than a perfunctory response.
News of Fred's resignation hasn't gotten around much and requests for interviews are still coming in. This morning we have heard from WTOP and The Wall Street Journal. Sarai Ribicoff, a reporter with The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, calls to say that she will be in Washington Dec. 8 and would like to interview Fred then. I explain to all concerned that he will be in Ithaca and we will forward requests to him there. Thursday
A curious thing is happening. I find that I have lost all interest in reading the newspapers. Until recently, I read The Washington Post and Star, New York Times and Wall Street Journal every day and glanced occassionally at The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune to check on news of the economy. I still get the papers but I barely skim the headlines and find it difficult to concentrate.
A meeting with Emily Soapes of the presidential papers staff to decide which of Fred's audio and video tapes should be sent to the Presidential Archives. We have tape recordings of radio and TV appearances, as well as newspaper interviews. Emily explains that the archives would like copies of anything Fred wishes to contribute. He goes over a maste list and checks those he thinks might be appropriate, such as recent appearances on "Firing Line" and "The Advocates." We provide blank cassettes and Emily arranges to have them dubbed. She is an oral historian and is trying to interview 75 members of the administration before Jan. 20.Fred already spent an hour with her and has agreed to another interview tomorrow, feeling a certain responsibility to future historians to record the administration's anti-inflation battles.
At lunchtime I order 50 copies of my resume.On the way back to the office, I realize with a start that I have been so busy worrying about the content and appearance of the the resume (Should it be Xeroxed or printed? On what kind of paper?) that I haven't yet figured out where to send it. I feel a certain sense of urgency, since our jobs will be abolished Jan. 9 and December is not the best time to be out looking.
A friend calls with a possible job lead. I follow through with a quick phone call and drop one of the handsome new resumes into the mail. Then I tackle the files again and wonder what to do with duplicate copies of Fred's speeches and congressional testimony.
After work, I go to a cocktail party in honor of two visiting Smith College classmates, designed to stir up interest in our class reunion next spring. Both Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush went to Smith and we joke about the fact the I may be able to visit the White House again sometime if they entertain the Smith College Club there. Friday
Today -- my birthday -- starts on a somber note. Sarai Ribicoff, the reporter who called about an interview, was killed in a robery attempt in Los Angeles yesterday. She was Sen. Ribicoff's 23-year-old niece.
Dennis asks me to brief Ellen Malcolm on economic policy issues that can be included in a speech Esthe Peterson is giving next week. I go through the speech file -- vowing to keep it intact until the last possible moment -- and pull out material that might be useful to her. Ellen has been working for Esther for only two months now and must find another job.
I make a number of job calls -- trying to place some of our secretaries, as well as scouting around for something for myself. A friend in public realtions says he has an opening on his staff but it wouldn't be right for me. I get the message immediately and suggest a bright young women in the media liaison office.
I call another friend who owns a major Midwestern public realtions agency. I know that he is expanding his company and wonder whether he might consider opening a Washington office. We discuss a partnership arrangement and speculate on whether I could line up enough business to make it worthwhile. It's an intriguing idea and we agree to talk again soon. One more option to consider.
My daughter calls from Alaska to wish me a happy birthday and we decide that this whole experience should be considered an opportunity, not a problem. Since I generally change careers every seven years anyway, it just means that I'm a little ahead of schedule now. Lisa has just won a major court case and is brimming with good news. Only two years out of law school, and I'm delighted with the way she is handling her responsibilities as assistant attorney general with the Alaska Public Utilities Commission.
A super birthday celebration is planned for this evening. Four couples who are among my oldest and dearest friends (and who probably knew I needed cheering up) are taking a friend and me out to dinner. We go to Jean Louis for an elegant meal that includes two wines. Feeling very pampered, I have finally forgotten the trials and tribulations of job hunting. And I'm looking forward to a quiet relaxing weekend in the country.
I decide that this is definitely the best birthday I have ever had, despite the tension and anxiety that are just below the surface.