Donald J. Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management, was incorrectly quoted in Mary McGrory's column in yesterday's Outlook section as saying that the only job tougher than Faith Ryan Whittlesey's was being "Teddy Kennedy's confessor or Pat Moynihan's liver." That comment was made by the toastmaster who introduced Devine.
ALL IS RIGHT with the right wing.
Sure, life isn't perfect. Lawyers, Ivy Leaguers, reporters, feminists still infest the national scene, and Nicaragua is uninvaded. But Ronald Reagan is in the White House, the "malignant AIDS" and "staff infection" has been cured by large applications of Patrick Buchanan and Donald Regan. And their enemies within, James Baker, Richard Darman and Michael Deaver, are gone or going.
The Democrats are still around, but it is to laugh. Teddy Kennedy exists but to be a butt of Tory jokes.
The occasion that illuminated their state of mind was provided by a roast given for Faith Ryan Whittlesey, the presidential assistant for public liaison who is leaving to become ambassador to Switzerland. Ms. Whittlesey is a blazing heroine to these people, and they could not bring themselves to roast her.
She was affectionately referred to as "old Miss MX" and "the poor man's Jeane Kirkpatrick" and "a Rock of Gibraltar amid a sea of nincompoops." She was given the ultimate accolade -- more important than a cabinet post or an ambassadorship, she was told -- "She is one of ours."
What the conservatives treasure her most for is her toughness. When Whittlesey took over at the White House, said Peter B. Gemma Jr., executive director of the National Pro-Life PAC and one of 14 male speakers, the ladies room was renamed "Crazy Right-Wing Extremists' Room" -- "and it had no facilities."
"I'm talking tough," he said to appreciative laughter.
That was about the level of the humor at the affair, and several of the orators remarked about the tastelessness of the jokes. But the right-wingers, having themselves a wonderful gloat and snicker, were quite unrepentent. They like strong stuff and they like rough stuff.
The Blue Room at the Shoreham was no place for wimps last Thursday night. How's it going to be when Sen. Jesse Helms' crowd takes over CBS news? Instead of Dan Rather, it will be "Good evening, I'm Roberto D'Aubuisson."? Rep. Bob Dornan (R- Calif.) was introduced to loud cheers. He is the militant who took Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) by the necktie on the House floor and called him a wimp. On several tables were bumper stickers proclaiming "Downey is a wimp."
The revelry opened with a "martial arts ballet" performed to by three small boys in kimonos -- one of whom was the only black person in the room -- to the strains of Beethoven's Fifth, while the impresario, Jhoon Rhee, intoned, "Right is righteousness, left is sinister." Immediately following, a cast of five kicked and punched their way through a rather chilling rendition of "God Bless America."
The oratory was of a similarly robust nature. When the youthful master of ceremonies, Peter Keisler, was introduced, he got booed. Being a law student and at Yale was a double anathema. The righties collected a new grievance against lawyers, who, for some reason, are as loathed as moderates. Some "legal eagle" had set upon Attorney General Edwin Meese, who had been scheduled to speak, and told him that he could not participate in a fund- raising affair. The Whittlesey roast benefited something called the Committee for Responsible Youth Politics.
Young Keisler, a wordy host, redeemed himself by saying that CIA Director William Casey had had to leave early, "murmuring something about the imminent invasion of Nicaragua" -- a jibe as popular as a subsequent call from another speaker to "send the MX to the contras."
The president's director of the Office of Personnel Management, Donald Devine, wowed the crowd by saying that the only job tougher than Faith Whittlesey's was being "Teddy Kennedy's confessor or Pat Moynhihan's liver."
"I thought you would think it appropriate to introduce an element of mean-spiritedness," he added.
Devine was the first to slam The Washington Post, one of the evening's preferred dartboards. He has two well-trained conservative dogs, he said, and "when they bring in the Washington Post in the morning, one brings it in shredded and the other brings it in wet."
More references to Teddy Kennedy, to Judy Goldsmith, Now's national "chairshrew," more jeers at the "gender gap," at the hated, routed White House pragmatists who wouldn't let Reagan be Reagan. The Rev. Jerry Falwell was a model of brevity and civility in the raucous, below-the-belt japery.
Phil Nicolaides, once the Voice of America and a late speaker, said, "I don't think I could do anything to be tasteless at this point."
But the once implacable right- wingers were pleased. They were being themselves. And now, in the second term, with the wet blankets and the wimps gone, they know that Ronald Reagan will be himself, too. Him with his hair down is all they ever asked.