I have here in my hands, connoisseurs of Washington parlor games, what purports to be the real thing, a leaked document. And a document used to brief the president, no less.
Now whether that is so I cannot certify, but this one has the ring of authentic Washingtoniana: it resounds with pomposity and gobbledygook.
My secret source, whom I'll never identify and who supplied the document at great personal and professional risk, whispers that it was prepared by wizards in the Department of Commerce. The purpose, supposedly, was to persuade the president, or his Cabinet underlings, that Commerce should pick up some of the Department of Energy's functions. Energy, you know, has been given the black spot by R. Reagan. It is slated to be abolished. Hence, the bureaucratic end-run power play.
The document, or "talking paper," as the briefers of high official Washington like to describe their art form, consists of page after page of martial-sounding slogans, all helpfully written in bold upper-case letters: REINFORCE OUR ECONOMIC RECOVERY PROGRAM: STRENGTHEN OUR ECONOMIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL BASE TO ENHANCE AMERICA'S COMPETITIVE POSITION
That's the first page, laying out the grand themes to come.
Among the "key elements" to be covered is Point E. When I came upon it, I began to realize that this must be the real thing, for it employs the very latest and most voguish word in Washington's post-election vocabulary. It reads: E. REBUILD ECONOMIC INFRASTRUCTURE
Now only a true insider would use a word like infrastructure. It awes president and press. It seduces legislators. It bedazzles the public. It carries undeniable authority. It promises bold action. At last, it proclaims, they're finally getting down to the real problem; they're going to tackle the infrastructure.
The New York Times, most churlishly, I thought, pointed out the other day that infrastructure used to be called by a simpler, more understandable word -- "pork," as in material scraped out of a politician's barrel and freely dispensed to a grateful citizenry.
But in this reincarnation, Washington's officialdom has dressed up the old pork and given it new majesty. Besides, The Times is surely wrong. My dictionary defines infrastructure in descriptive language bound to make the bureaucratic heart of Washington beat faster: in.fra.struc.ture, n. 1. the basic, underlying framework or features of a system, as the military installations, communication and transport facilities of a country. 2. a clandestine system or framework for supporting and implementing unlawful or subversive activities.
I ask you, what could be more perfect to persuade a president? It has everything valued in Washington: military gridlocks, clandestine operations, subversive activities, illegal actions.
Two more pages of upper-case letters hammer home the message: TRADE STRATEGY: FIGHT FOR U.S. INTERESTS IN FREE TRADE
And: MAINTAIN ECONOMIC GROWTH AND JOBS WITH INNOVATION
(I love the innovation.) Then, in a masterstroke, the briefer produces a graph headed TECHNOLOGY EXPLOSION. It is a simple graph with a learning curve that runs from the year 10,000 B.C. until it reaches the year 2000 A.D., a period in time labeled "total knowledge."
Here, genius enters the scene. Through all the millennia, the learning curve remains flat across the bottom of the graph. But then, suddenly, it takes a dramatic turn up and up till it runs off the chart after achieving "total knowledge." The takeoff point is marked at the year 1982.
Grab it, Mr. President, it's yours. What an accomplishment awaits the Reagan administration. To it falls the honor of leading the nation and world into a period of total knowledge.
All of this requires, of course, a plan. Naturally, the secret document comes complete with an ACTION PROGRAM and A LEADERSHIP ROLE FOR THIS ADMINISTRATION. One of the ways to do this is to transfer some of the present Energy Department functions, such as national laboratories, to Commerce. Once that is done, the administration can get on with its task of ORGANIZING FOR THE INNOVATION LIFE-CYCLE.
Among the proposals to achieve that goal are the creation of a Presidential Council on Innovation, the striking of a new National Technology Medal, the calling of another White House Conference that, among other things, would BUILD GRASS-ROOTS SUPPORT FOR PRODUCTIVITY INITIATIVES and use TELECONFERENCING.
There you have it, a call for action and a glimpse at the way Washington really works.
Last secret revealed: some of you may think the president is squirreled away at his ranch this holiday weekend, boning up on his briefing books about his MX "Dense Pack" proposal and plan to solve unemployment by taxing the unemployed. I have it on high authority that it's not the Dense Pack briefing book that occupies his mind. He's preparing to lead the charge on the infrastructure.
So rest easy, fellow Americans, and enjoy your holiday. We have heavy labors ahead of us. Onward, innovation life cycle. Upward, learning curve of total knowledge. Forward, wizards of Washington.