I've clipped out this photograph that I'm going to take back to Oregon in case anyone ever asks me how Washington really works.

It shows Alexander Haig at his confirmation hearing, and directly behind him, as his counsel, is Joe Califano. You've got Nixon and Ford and LBJ and Carter all summed up in that one photo. That's Washington to me. It's pragmatic. It endures.

After only 18 months, I don't know much about the enduring power network of Republicans and Democrats in Washington. But it is fascinating to see how this structure treats seats in Congress as its own.

Sure, they realize the people of California elect Bizz Johnson. But on the other hand, Bizz Johnson is their chairman. He has been for some time, and they are comfortable working with him. They have a proprietary interest in senators and congressmen, especially committee chairmen, and they don't like any tampering with that familiarity.

People out in the states who want to run for an office like senator find it very hard to grasp that they have to come here to Washington to court as well as convince this network if they expect to win.

The potential candidate eventually comes to understand that whatever the base of the special interest that's important to his or her state -- whether it's the steel industry or the bauxite people or the crawfish cooperative -- the money runs through Washington. The Political Action Committee is probably here, and the advice about whom they should give that money to is certainly here.

You understand things like that much better when you have worked in Washington.

But in leaving this town, you are more likely to carry away images of unforgettable people than you are of power networks.

An example is Sen. Russell Long, whose skills will probably be more apparent in the minority than they were when he was running things. The senator has humor, wisdom, and he's a man of his word. He's seen folks like me come and go, but he's very polite about that.

I come away with tremendous respect for Sol Linowitz. In a city where so many people seek personal identity in the jobs they have, he's secure. He has integrity.

Bob Strauss is an institution. I'd be disappointed if I had not come to know him. I was surprised, if that's the right word, to find that he never peddled favors. He works very hard, but he makes politics fun.

One real surprise came when some of us were invited by the president to watch a movie one night at Aspen Lodge at Camp David. I had some pretty decent cigars, but I left them in my cabin because I didn't know Jimmy Carter that well, and I didn't think he'd enjoy my cigar smoke during his movie. As soon as we sat down, the president pulled out a cigar. Naturally, I asked him to hold up the film while I ran back to get mine.

One other image that sticks in my mind is from the campaign trail. It is an auto worker in Lordstown, Ohio, saying, "I ought to be able to afford to buy the things I'm producing."

That one still bothers me, because as Democrats we somehow came across as indifferent about this crucial problem of jobs and the economy.

In fact, we did care. We did know a lot about the necessary restructuring of our industrial base to provide tomorrow's jobs. We were facing up to painful decisions.

Democrats won't be coming back to Washington until we can prove it.