Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) sits newly isolated in his government-bland Senate office, his committee ch irmanship going and much of his power gone, surrounded by political wreckage he foresaw more than a year ago and new ironies and paradoxes he never could have seen.
Jackson waits, not entirely disguising the sligted feelings of a man long accustomed to at least a pipeline to the ultimate power of the White House, for a telephone call that hasn't come and perhaps never will.
The call was expected from the man who wreaked all the havoc surrounding Jackson -- from Ronald Reagan, offering the Senate's most prominent Democratic hawk a place in the president-elect's Cabinet. Maybe Defense; maybe State; maybe a Cabinet-fringe post as head of the CIA, the newpaper accounts said for two weeks running. Probably nothing, the accounts from top Reagan advisers finally have been saying the past few days.
The news lands every morning on the doorstep of the man John F. Kennedy teased with the vice presidency 20 years ago, whom Richard M. Nixon wanted for a touch of bipartisanship in his Cabinet, who reached twice for the presidency, who has been too often a bridesmaid.
It's not the way Jackson likes to get the word, especially since Reagan has been tromping around Capitol Hill lately, especially since Jackson volunteered early to do his bipartisan bit and serve on Reagan's foreign-policy advisory group.
It's not that the telephone hasn't been ringing -- but that only adds to the irritation and the paradox.
The calls are coming from worried staffers on his Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, half of whom will be out of work when Jackson loses the chairmanship in January. The staffers have taken half-humorously to sending over bumper strips from Jackson's 1976 presidential campaign. "Jackson Means Jobs," the old campaign slogan reads.
And calls from the Republicans . . . they're coming in droves from people who want the man who played in Camelot to find them jobs in the Reagan administration. That's a bit much for a man who isn't getting the right phone call himself.
But the call from the man doesn't come, not the call offering him a job he still is not sure he would take, not the call from some top lieutenant coyly trying to determine exactly where Jackson's head and heart are now, not even the call saying the president-elect will need his advice and counsel as part of the loyal opposition in the Senate (sorry, senator),
"I'm not lobbying for anything," Jackson says, slightly defensively but clearly truthfully, because Jackson, a wallflower at too many political dances in the past, isn't about to make the first move. "No one has talked to me, not the president-elect or any of his aides, and I haven't talked to anyone."
In Jackson language the words are code that the telephone call is long overdue, that he is tired of reading that big oil nixed him, that Reagan aides think he is too liberal on domestic issues to fit into an ideological Cabinet, that he not only isn't the front-runner for a Cabinet post but isn't even on the lists going to Reagan.
Jackson, known as the last of the Cold War liberals while detente rode high in the '70s, is absolutely mum about which way he would go if the offer came.
But most of his friends are convinced he would have made the leap, although he might be too aggravated now. At 68, they say he has little stomach for a secondary role in a Senate gone Republican for the first time since his first two years there when he spent a frantic debut as a minority member of the old Joe McCarthy committee.
They say the top slot at State or Defense would be the perfect career capstone for the old hardliner, who once said the Soviet leadership reminded him of "burglars walking down a hotel hallway, trying every door."
Jackson was the political front man on the non-existent "missile-gap" crisis in Kennedy's 1960 campaign, then threatened to scuttle Kennedy's open-air test-ban treaty in the Senate. He wrote off Jimmy Carter early as a foreign-policy disaster.
And his words now, as he sits isolated in a Senate office filled with mounds of unmailed Christmas cards and fading photos in which he is flanked by JFK, indicate he is looking at an upcoming foreign policy that makes him more comfortable than that of any president he has served with since Harry Truman.
Carter, in Jackson's view, had some foreign policy pluses -- most notably China and the Camp David accords. But he just rolls his eyes skyward as he bemoans "the Carter view of the world, especially his view of the Soviets, which he didn't change until the tanks rolled into Afghanistan."
"What I feel about now is that we might be developing a foreign policy that makes us credible once again as a nation, both with our allies and our adversaries," Jackson said. "And what I feel particularly good about is that the president-elect appears to be consistent in his views and that he is bringing people of professional quality into the area of foreign policy."
Jackson pauses, just barely perceptibly, after those words "people of professional quality," as if the phone ought to be ringing. Instead, the "Jackson Means Jobs" bumper strips sit there, silent reminders of the wreckage of his power base, and his talk switches quickly to how he saw all this coming.
Over a year ago he warned quietly that the Carter presidency was in such disarray it would bring down the Democratic empire in 1980; he actively played the behind-the-scenes dump-Carter game that lured Edward M. Kennedy into his bedeviled reach for the Democratic nomination.
Perhaps more than any other senator Jackson argued -- and took the argument directly to the Camelot heir -- that not only was the presidency at risk but Democratic dominion in the Senate was, too.
Jackson is a serious man, not one for appreciating life's ironies, particularly the grand irony that all he foresaw has come true and now the man who wanted to restore Camelot is waiting unhappily for a telephone call from Camelot's polar extreme.
On Friday he is to meet with the foreign policy transition team, an equal among the restored luminaries: former president Gerald R. Ford, Henry A. Kissinger, Alexander M. Haig, and the new luminaries: Richard V. Allen, John G. Tower. He expected a little more than that.
Then, barring that telephone call that still hasn't come, he will return to his vastly changed Senate, where Idaho's James A. McClure soon will be running the committee Jackson once commanded, where Tower, who apparently has been getting calls about the Defense Department, or Strom Thrumond will become the eminence on the Armed Services Committee on which Jackson had so much clout.
"It will be a manageable adjustment," Jackson said. But he expected a little more than that, too.