Democratic Party Leaders met yesterday for the first time since last month's devastating defeats, and spent most of their time pointing fingers.
All the unspoken frustrations of the last four years suddenly burst forth as Democratic chairmen, governors, congresmen and political wheelers and dealers of various stripes jockeyed for position and influence.
The setting was a day-long series of meetings, luncheons, receptions and hallway politicking around a gathering of democratic state chairmen and the party's executive committee.
Most of the frustration was vented over the operation of the Democratic National Committee and party reforms of the last dozen years. Various state party leaders complained that the national party had ignored them, drained money needed for state activities and reformed itself almost out of business.
"In our state [the national party] has been the enemy. I've spent more time fighting national than fighting Republicans," said Tennessee Democratic chairman William Farris.
"The reformers have reformed us right out of politics," said Delaware party chairman Henry Topel.
Maryland chairman Rosalie Abrams, once thought of as a reformer, proposed far-reaching party rule changes that would give elected officials a greater role in the party and undo many of the revisions of the last decade.
President Carter's name was not even mentioned in yesterday's formal sessions. His handpicked party chairman, John C. White, was on the defensive much of the day, though, with most of the hallway politicking focused on lobbying for his replacement. Two of the top candidates -- Charles Manatt, chairman of the party's finance committee, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton -- were present. But selection of a new chairman was put off until the full DNC meets Feb. 26 and 27.
One of the few official actions taken yesterday was passage of an executive committee resolution calling for a full accounting of party expenditures for the last four years.