The president, upon returning from back-to-back summits with the Soviets and our major allies, announces a "major energy address to the nation" and, without explanation, abruptly cancels the speech within 48 hours.
If that had been done by President John Connally, President Edward Kennedy or President Ronald Reagan, the saloons of Washington would have been thick with rumors about a) an international crisis involving the Soviets and/or the Chinese or b) a presidential scandal involving an attractive French woman or a large land deal in Colorado.
But in the third summer of Jimmy Carter's presidency, virtually all speculation on the cancellation assumed that President Carter and his people, 27 months after his "moral equivalent of war" speech, could not decide on an energy program.
Everyone from Gov. Julian Carroll of Kentuckey to Rev. Jesse Jackson of Chicago is knocking Carter's White House staff. Such criticism ignores a basic political fact: Every staff is ultimately a mirror reflection of the president. It was no accident that people like Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Magruder and Closon had reserved parking spaces at Richard Nixon's White House. A new president, most especially a new Democratic president, has virtually unlimited choice in the selection of staff. Who, in or out of politics, is going to turn down the president? There might be less risk in criticizing Jordan, Rafshoon, Moore or Powell, but there is a lot more reality in placing responsibility on their employer, James Earl Carter Jr.
Unlike most presidents and most politicians, Carter apparently does not first determine what he wants to say on a particular issue and then seek the most appropriate time and forum to communicate his position to the rest of us.
Instead, time and again -- on issues as different as welfare reform, national health insurance and B1 bomber -- President carter has first announced an imposed deadline for the particular decision and then meet the deadline line with hiss decision, whether or not he was completely ready. In contrast to most presidents, Mr. Carter does it backward.
The Eizenstat memo, while woefully short on substance, was a very condid political document. Remember that it was a letter from the home front to the traveling party in Tokyo and it was full of bad news about the anger and irrirability of Americans stucts in gas lines Every president needs somebody to give him the bad bad news and Eizenstat or somebody on his staff still cares enough to give it to Jimmy Carter, straight.
Jerry Ford, in deep political trouble in the early autumn of 1976, developed the Rose Garden strategy. Is it possible that Jimmy Carter, in similar political peril, is responding with the Camp David strategy?
It's only a matter of hours before the Gay Teamsters or Radical Feminists for Free Elections in the Philippines hold a press conference to denounce the failure to invite any representative of their organizations to Camp David.
Who will be the first person to Rsvp His or her regrets on an invitation to Camp David? Just as long as it's not Woody Hayes or Tom Snyder or anybody who's ever been to Studio 54.
Finally, there's the interesting analysis of one fierce Carter supporter: At last count there were about a dozen Republicans running for president with a single message: "The federal government should do less, a lot less."
Shrewdly and adroitly, Carter goes all the republicans one better. Instead of doing less, the government will do nothing. If less is good, than none should be better. By one simple non-move, Carter has confounded all his conservative critics. Pretty damn clever, right?