My friend Fallon is a longtime student of the apocryphal, from which he translated the following fabrication. Everyone who can understand this simple fable, according to the fabled Fallon, already understands our upcoming 1982 congressional campaigns.
Here's the story: Stalin, knowing that his time was short and that Khrushchev would be his eventual successor, summoned Nikita to a very private meeting. After telling Khrushchev how lonely it could get at the top, Stalin said: "I've left for you two letters containing my wisest counsel in the bottom drawer of the desk. Do not open the first one until things are totally terrible. The second letter should only be opened when you are sure there are no answers to your problems, when you are despairing."
Khrushchev took over and enjoyed a Russian honeymoon. Then followed trouble: a failed harvest; the five-year plan was two years late and many rubles short; plotting by his political enemies. At 3 a.m. one morning, Khrushchev broke down and opened the bottom desk drawer and read the first letter. Its message: "Blame everything on me . . . Stalin."
That's what Khrushchev did successfully in a major party address. All the troubles of the present were pinned on the policies of his predecessor. It worked, and the pressure was off, for awhile.
The second honeymoon was brief. Hostilities along the Chinese border, another lousy crop and the humiliating Cuban missile crisis did very little for Khrushchev's job rating and even less for his own peace of mind. He was down. Then he remembered the bottom desk drawer. Making certain he was alone, Khrushchev quietly opened the envelope and read the one-line message: "Write two letters . . . Stalin."
Fallon insists, and he's probably right, that just about everyone in our national administration appears to have read the first letter. In fact, when the latest depressing unemployment figures came out last week, deputy presidential press secretary Larry Speakes' first inclination was to pin the blame on the Carter administration by stating incorrectly that our most recent recession began in July of 1980, six months before Ronald Reagan became president. Speakes subsequently corrected that to read July of 1981, six months after the Reagan inaugural.
This week, after The Washington Post revealed that Republican National Chairman Richard Richards had been delinquent in repaying $292,000 in federally guaranteed loans, Larry Speakes expressed confidence that Richards would "work it out to the satisfaction of all concerned." And then, spokesman Speakes added, in the true spirit of Fallon's first letter, that the loan from the Small Business Administration to Chairman Richards had been made in 1977, when we all know who--Ronald Reagan's Democratic predecessor--was president and commander in chief of small business loans.
Lately the president and his surrogates, in defending Reagan's recently revealed tolerance for large federal deficits, have expanded the targets of culpability beyond Jimmy Carter to the "policies of the past 40 years." Those four decades, of course, include 16 years of GOP stewardship of the Republic and the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
In spite of all the bad economic news facing the nation and the administration, there appears no likelihood that anyone will be even close to opening the second letter. But the advice in the first Fallon envelope will almost surely be followed, right to the letter.