A few people, most of them not residents of the place, are committed to making Seabrook, N.H., into the Berkeley of the anti-nuclear movement. Seabrook wakes up to demonstrations just about as regularly as most communities receive a strike threat from a group of outraged public employees.
Last February, only a few days before he, the only genuine nemesis of nukes on the ballot, would have his candidacy rejected by the voters of Seabrook and the rest of the state, Jerry Brown was confronted by something every politician loathes and fears: bad news.
Brown's manager, a man whose loyalty had never been questioned and whose abilities were almost universally stipulated, was one of those to deliver the news: the year 1980 waws not to be 1976. The contest was between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. Jerry Brown would have only a small non-speaking part in the drama, and it was not going to change.
Now, in fact, there may really be something different about the New Politics, something more than all the unnew stories about seaweed salads and Zen tacos. But no difference asserts itself in the subject matter of bad news.All politicians, from the Pacific Time Zone or "The Last Hurrah," react the same to it: they hate, reject and deny bad news and they sometimes rough up the messengers who cared enough to bring it.
In the Brown campaign, these people were to become non-persons. Brown, in a performance that would have pleased Norman Vincent Peale, ignored those dreary folks and chose instead to heed those newer aides who reported sightings of breakthroughs and upsets in the making.
Ted Kennedy is going through in July what Jerry Brown faced in February -- and just about as well. In yet another 1980 Democratic campaign, loyalty is again passing for wisdom. The macho shout to "go to the mattresses" like the outnumbered troops of an aging don is almost a guaranteed ticket to the high councils of the campaign. Anyone arguing at such times that "the fellow in our party who beat us might actually insert fewer bamboo shoots under the fingernails of widows and orphans then the fellow in the other party" is branded a security risk.
But the problem for the Kennedy campaign, eight months after its birth, is that while there may exist a council of high campaign planners, there is still no campaign plan. The argument for this serious charge is based in part on a Washington subspecies of circumstantial evidence. Over the past few weeks, Kennedy has met with two groups populated by the most chronic leakers to the press in the country: labor leaders and member of Congress. Politicians have been known to leak like colanders, something for which all reporters are very grateful.
Nothing has been reported out of these meetings because, quite apparently, there is nothing to report. One of Kennedy's most talented and effective people, who has proved his dedication in the hard currency of domestic tension, remarked with equal parts of sadness and bitterness: "Now that the campaign is no longer focused on the candidate or on the upcoming primary, the realization is hitting everybody else. What we have known since the beginning: that there is not now and never has been either a national campaign or a campaign plan."
It's a little bit as though the secrect is now out that Uncle Harold has not had the flu all those weekends, that the problem is more serious and the family had better face it.
John Connally and Howard Baker were never asked what they were trying to prove by running for president, whether they truly wanted to win. Hundreds of people who never even glimpsed the emotional Cuisnart that is a presidential campaign asked such questions of Edward Kennedy and answered them, almost always without talking to him. For the people involved in the enterprise, a presidential campaign is at its very easiest an organ transplant without benefit of any anesthetic. Friendships, reputations and marriages are often casualties of the intensity and the pressure of a campaign.
For Edward Kennedy, who began on the premises (which drew at the time very little argument) "I'm better than the other guy. I can beat him," the campaign must have been especially difficult. He is, for all sorts of understandable reasons, an especially vulnerable candidate. All candidates know that everyone they ever knew in the secnd grade will know whether they win or lose. Now Kennedy, who for 10 years has been treated and covered like a man who was about to be president, must confront the unappealing prospect of returning to the Senate and his colleagues there, some of whom may be rejoicing at his defeat -- in many cases, the same ones who implored Ted Kennedy to sepak at their fund-raising dinners.
It may simply be easier to continue to campaign than to stop. Even without a plan.