The man in the eye of the political storm backed himself stiffly into a corner of his lawyer's waiting room, nervously clenching his hand as he spoke the words that summarized his emotions about the affiar.
"It falls into the category of life being unfair," said Dr. Peter Bourne, the young British-born psychiatirst whose friendship with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter had carried him to the heights of Washington social and political prominence and then - it seemed yesterday - rudely dropped him.
He appeared shell-shocked as he glanced out the window for the car that would whisk him out of Washington to seclusion. The car was now more than an hour late.
"This was really a very trivial issue," said Bourne of the controversy over his prescription of a tightly controlled sedative, Quaalude, for a White House assistant. "But it created a burden for the president. The best thing I can do for him is resign."
Though he still appeared stunned, he spoke clearly and articulately. He had not thought there would be any publicity about the incident, he said. And he had not expected "this crescendo of pressure from the media" when the publicity came.
"It may be unfair," he said. "But it's a reality. If I hadn't worked in the White House, no question would have ever been raised about this."
But Peter Bourne did work there - as chief drug abuse and health adviser - and the issue was raised. Late yesterday afternoon, with a "sympathetic" call to the president, he [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
The resignation followed a full afternoon of "floating" meetings Wednesday during which top presidential adviser Hamilton Jordon, Robert J. Lipshutz and Jody Powell came "in and out" along with Bouurne's lawyer, Charles Morgan, Jr.
Bourne said it was a calm session. "There really wasn't that much talking. We just sort of reviewed the things that were involved. They were extraordinary supportive . . . They bent over backward to try to discourage me from doing what I am doing."
Does this mean they asked him to stay on the job? he was asked. "Well, no. But they didn't ask me to leave, either."
Initially, Bourne took a leave with pay. "But when I got up this morning and looked at the papers, I knew what I had to do."
There was the telephone call to his old friend, the president. Then he sent a message through a third party to Rosalynn Carter, his most loyal supporter. Then the White House announced his fate.
Others, like Bert Lance, have lashed out bitterly on such occasions. Bourne was controlled. He never fought it, he said.
The Quaalude incident began "late on a Friday afternoon," he recalled. His administrative assistant, Ellen Metsky, "was having trouble with her sleep. I suggestes she go to a psychologist, but she said 'no'. She just wanted to sleep."
Bourne said that while many doctors would have prescribed barbiturates, he thought that drug was too dangerous. So he chose 15 Quaalude tablets to help Metsky.
Using his own stationery, he wrote out the prescription under a fictious name, Sarah Brown. "That was my idea," he says.
His reason was twofold, he said.He said he was concerned that the Drug Enforcement Administration, with which he has had sharp policy disagreements, might find out about the Metsky prescription and use it against his office.
He also said he thought that a prescription written under the name of a psychiatrist could suggest that Metsky has been under psychiatric care, which he said she has not.
That might show up in a security clearance investigation and impede her chances of future government employment, Bourne said. "It shouldn't be that way," he said. "But these things come back to haunt you.
"Something like 13 million prescriptions are written for Quaaludes each year. There were 50 million pills dispensed. I was asking about 15 of them."
Bourne argues that anonymity is not an unusual feature medical practice and that people are admitted to hospitals vevery day anonymously. Other authorities have said that use of a fictitious name of a prescription for a controlled drug is legally and ethically questionable.
The first indication that there might be a problem came about nine days ago. Bourne said he was called by a "law enforcement" official from Virginia and asked if the prescription was "legitimate."
A week later he informed Lipshutz of the situation. Wednesday, The Washington Post reported it. But for the publicity, Bourne said he would not have resigned or even contemplated resigning since he felt, and feels, he said, that he has behaved properly.
He said that the White House aides he prescribes for on occasion are his "personal friends." Asked why they cannot use the White House physician, he said: "He has more than enough to handle. They often have to wait in line."
Even as late as yesterday afternoon the Washington Star was reporting that Bourne intended to stick it out.
As the paper hit the streets, the White House announced his resignation.