Sen. Floyd K. Haskell (D-Colo.) called President Carter yesterday morning, by which time his anger had subsided, if only slightly.
Haskell's problems was this: Carter is travelling to Colorado today for what had been planned as a harmlessly symbolic Sun Day speech at the Solar Energy Research Insitute in Golden, a suburb of Denver. Haskell, a supporter of solar energy who would also benefit from a presidential appearance at a fund raiser for him, had no objection to that.
But on Sunday, Haskell leanned that carter was bringing with him Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland and Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus, and he was livid.
Yesterday morning, according to his press secretary, David Michaels, the senator called the President and told him, "You are bringing with you the symbols of the two most hated Carter administration policies in the West and you better take the time to meet some of these people."
So it was that yesterday White House officials were scrambling to put to gether two meetings with Colorado residents who are upset with the administration's farm and water policies.
The last-minute rearrangements were indicative of the problems the president faces as he sets out today on a three-day trip through the politically hostile territory of four western states.
They also illustrated why some Democratic members of Congress from states where Carter's popularity has sunk to new lows are having trouble deciding how closely to identify themselves with the administration in an election year.
The Far West has never been Carter country, and it seems even less so today than it was in November 1976, when President Ford swept the region. Carter was last in the West in October, part of a seemingly aimless trip that is still remembered for, his prediction in Des Moines that a new strategic arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union would be signed "in a few weeks."
White House officials seem determined to erase the memory of that listless fall journey as they seek to prop up Carter's political standing with stops in Colorado, Carlifornia, Oregon and Washington.
Part of that effort will include one of the few times the White House deliberately has set out to "make news" during a presidential journey. Deputy press secretary Rex Granum said yesterday that announcements of government actions affecting the West are being timed to coincide with Carter's stops in the region.
"Our perception is that people in the West sometimes feel they are not clearly heard in Washington," Granum said.
White House officials would probably get little argument on that score from western Democratic politicians. The problem goes back to the first days of the administration, when the new president sought to kill a number of water projects in the water-conscious western states.
The troubles have been deepened by subsequent administration decisions on farm policy, energy and other matters.
Just a few days ago, news leaked out from the Energy Department of a plan that could lower heat and power prices in the East by as much as half a billion dollars a year at the expense of the rest of the country. The report was big news in Denver, making Haskell's office equally unenthusiastic about a third member of the Carter entourage to the Sun Day festivities, Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger.
But Schlesinger is going, along with Bergland Andrus, into the jaws of what Michaels, the Haskell aide calls "the 'us against the world' mentality" that permeates the West.
It all started as one of those simple "symbolic things they like to do" in the White House, Michaels said.
"The last thing we wanted was a bunch of farmers demonstrating outside a solar facility, but now who knows what's going to happen," he said. "Now it's the focus of all kinds of issues."