When we last left the president, he was in his Oval Office. Gerald Rafshoon was telling him that White House advisers had changed their minds and that he should not go on television with his energy speech after all.
And the president was saying, with due exasperation, that he wished his advisers would get their act together.
That was last week's story.
This week's story is about how the president is going on television today at the prime time of 9 p.m to tell the nation about his energy plans.
It is about how pressures are brought to bear upon a president; about how minds get changed; about how, when this happens, some advisers win and others lose; and about how all of them play the game.
It begins on a Wednesday, a week ago. The morning newspaper arrives on the doorsteps of Washington with a report that Jimmy Carter's advisers had told him that it would be wrong to go on television to announce his new energy proposals. It would be wrong, the advisers are quoted as saying, because the proposals would be technical and the speech would thus be dull - and because the mere act of interrupting television programming signals a crisis but this would not be the sort of speech that would have quick-hitting crisis solutions.
So there would be no massive applause throughout the nation.
The president's policy advisers - Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger and domestic policy chief Stuart E. Eizenstat - favored the prime time television speech to announce the policy they had worked on for so long. Other advisers - communications director Rafshoon in the forefront - favored a lower profile approach, perhaps a speech to the National Press Club, perhaps just a statement to reporters. As of last Wednesday, the advisers pushing the low-key plan were confident that they had won. One was quoted in that Washington Post article a week ago as saying: ". . . in the end, we came to the right conclusion. We just got there, perhaps, in a funny way."
But that was not the end of it. The pressures were just beginning to build.
On that same Wednesday morning, in the Old Executive Office Building, presidential adviser Anne Wexler is convening meeting of outside power brokers - some lawyers, some lobbyists, a group that she gets together with each Wednesday in an effort to hear ideas from outside the iron gates on what Carter ought to be doing.
They are talking today about energy. They have read the morning newspaper and they think the Rafshoon approach is wrong.
One in attendance says, "How is the president going to get people to follow him if he's not going to lead?" Another recites the argument from the opposing side, "well, he [Carter] is not too good at speeches . . . ." Someone observes: "The article in the morning paper makes it look like Carter's media advisers are running the shop, instead of Carter."
The meeting is reconstructed from sources who attended. One recalls: "In the end we came down hard in favor of prime-time TV."
Wexler asks one of the outside advisers within to put the group's thoughts down in a memo, "so I can get it into the president."
The president is already getting the message. He is meeting with a group of 14 senators and members of Congress - "The Solar Coalition" - in the Cabinet Room on that same Wednesday and they are urging him to go public in a big way.
Sen. John Durkin (D-N.H.) speaaks first on the subject. "I don't care what your wizards advise you," Durkin tells the president, in a reference to the newspaper story, according to one source who was in the room. "You should take it directly to the peopl. You should go on television."
Carter listens in silence.
The next day, last Thursday, the pressures are elevated. Schlesinger and Eizenstat have renewed their urgings for a television speech. And now the highest-ranking of Capitol Hill - "the heavy swingers," Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) calls the group - meet with Carter in the Cabinet Room. House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr., Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, Sens. Jackson, Russell B. Long and Frank Church, and House Majority Leader Jim Wright were in the group.
They are unanimous in urging that Carter go on television to make his energy case. Scoop Jackson does not think it will be dull. "It is the No. 1 causative problem of inflation," he says.
Carter makes no commitment.
So here is Carter, right smack in the middle off swirling pressures that were not really of his making.
tFirst, weeks ago, his advisers had all been telling him that the way to do the energy proposal was in a big prime-time television speech. So he gets out in front publicy on that. An then Rafshoon had gone to him and said that after reviewing the proposals, he and the other advisers had come to feel that he could go on TV, but it would be wrong, that's for sure.
As one source recalls, Carter was angry and his reply to that was, "Okay, but I wish you'd get your act together."
Rafshoon, in retrospect, does not now recalled the "okay" part of it (that would indicate that Carter had agreed not to do it on television). But he does recall that the president was understandably angry and that he said: "Get your act together and we'll see when we have the rpogram ready."
The Carter White House officials now take care to stress that there had never been a "final decision" (some say "finalized decision") by the president himself until this week.
"In my mind I thought we shouldn't do it. But I've changed my mind now. I think we should have the guts to go on TV - because the issue is too important."
As they look back on the events of the past week or so, many presidential advisers say they believe that the newspaper article of last week alerted those who felt strongly about the need for a television speech on energy and prompted them to speak up. There are others who emphasize, at the same time, that last week's article appeared midway in the decision process, and that Carter would propbably have come to the same conclusion had it never appeared.
And one of the senior Carter advisers adds: "Whatever concern the members of Congress had before about the president going over their heads to the people has vanished on this one. They want him out there in front on the bad news about energy.
"The concern was always about whether you can explain something like that is so complex and technical - and not have people's eyes glaze over.
"Now we'll see."
EPILOGUE: The winners are not gloaters today. But they are not without trying a deft touch or two. One adviser who always favored the TV speech could not help but observe: "Some of the president's advisers have always told him that he'll never go wrong if he follows his own instincts. Well, this time he did."
That sort of advice has come to be well known within as the trademark of only one adviser: Jerry Rafshoon.