UNITED Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick is like many others, who are often smaller and younger, who threaten to leave home.
She informed the world, and especially Ronald Reagan, several weeks ago that she was packing her bags, and this time she meant it. Reagan, like the father in the domestic drama that ensues when a family member, feeling unappreciated, heads for the door, looked up from his newspaper and said, "Do you want to talk about it?"
A meeting was scheduled. But before it could take place, he negligently mentioned, in an interview with The Washington Times, that he just didn't have a job worthy of her. She took the hint and canceled out, pleading a press of business, visible to no one else, at her detested place of employment.
The ambassador's conservative fans, many and ardent, have been making a considerable hullaballoo.
The White House's favorite columnist, George Will, called her "the one indispensable person in government." Right-wing guru Richard Viguerie declared that her departure would be "a loss from which Reagan's foreign policy will never recover."
The ambassador meanwhile submitted to a series of interviews in which she let it be known that she felt herself the victim of a White House staff cabal, backstabbers who could not withstand the strength of her personality and her views.
The president tried to divert her from her suitcases by offering her any embassy she fancied, the top position at AID, the post of counselor to the president. But she was still pouting. Either she became his national security adviser, or better still, secretary of state, or she really was off to the south of France to write a book.
Reagan obviously feels that while she may be incomparable, she is not invaluable. He has balked at firing George Shultz from State or Robert C. MacFarlane from the NSC just to make her happy.
It is easy to see why Kirkpatrick thinks that she is not asking too much. She is madly popular with his core constituency, the right wing. She was a heroine at the Republican National Convention. Only Reagan's acceptance got more applause than her philippic against her own, "the blame-America-first" coterie of the Democratic Party. Her attack on her lily-livered brethren set off excited babble about the heady possibility of putting her on the Republican ticket in 1988.
But such is Reagan's luck that despite the grumbling, no one will be unalterably alienated by his failure to find employment for so conspicuous and articulate spokesman for his own views about the communist menace, and so impassioned a defender of his position that American interests are best served by befriending right-wing tyrant governments around the world. Viguerie seems resigned to her "temporary" departure. Human Events feels it has done all it can.
Her enemies, she tacitly acknowledges, are Michael Deaver, who doesn't like to see his leader pushed around, Chief of Staff James Baker and Baker's deputy, Richard Darman. They were put off, it seems, by the vigorous campaign she put on a year ago to succeed William P. Clark as national security adviser.
George Will suggests that being "plastic personalities" themselves, they feel menaced by someone who, whatever else she may be, is not plastic.
But the amenities must be observed, and the president and Kirkpatrick have rescheduled their meeting for Tuesday. No one is sure whether he will make her an offer she cannot refuse or merely wishes to show the right wing anew how greatly he prizes someone for whom he cannot find a spot in the "loop."
The ambassador came back to her old stamping ground, the American Enterprise Institute, this week as a speaker at a convention lunch.
Her speech was so low key and bland that it could have been made by Jim Baker himself. She was at pains to deny the premise of her value to Reagan, her unerring instinct to blame all global conflict on the villainy of the Soviets and to see all disputes through the prism of East- West rivalry. That is not the case at the U.N., she said several times.
During the question period, one ruffled conservative implicitly accused her of having lost perspective and of having undermined the president's mammoth defense budget.
Madame Ambassador was, for once, incurably mild. It was astonishing to hear her speak pleasantly, even humorously, about the U.N., which she has represented previously as a rock pile on which she thanklessly labors. She told several anecdotes and said nothing biting about the Third World.
Maybe she was trying to show her enemies at the White House that she is not all that formidable, that she would not, as national security adviser, rattle Reagan to the soles of his feet every time she popped into his office with bulletins from the misbehaving globe.
One AEI staff member was baffled by it all. "Maybe there's a moderate in all of us," he said dubiously.