While President Reagan and Walter F. Mondale are beating the bushes for votes, James H. Boren is running for president from an overstuffed easy chair in his Falls Church home.
The president of the International Association of Professional Bureaucrats insists that he is the bureaucrats' choice for the White House. His campaign slogan: "I have what it takes to take what you've got."
Boren, 58, is a former bureaucrat who makes a living poking fun at his former colleagues. As such, he has plenty to say about the two recent political conventions. Of the Republicans' gathering in Dallas, Boren said: "When featherheads meet with featherheads, everything floats."
His perspective of the precedent-setting vice-presidential candidacy of Geraldine A. Ferraro: "Women tend to make very poor bureaucrats -- they have a tendency to want answers to their questions and move directly to a solution."
Boren came here in 1957 to work as a congressional aide. Later he went to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Peru, where he founded Partners of the Alliance, part of the Alliance for Progress aid program.
In 1968, he created his bureaucrats' organization, which, he proudly says, has grown to 1,700 members who include corporate and government officials. "We have excellent ding-a-lings and yo-yos in the corporate world," he says.
Four years later, he decided to make it a full-time, albeit offbeat, career. Today, Boren says, he earns his income solely by delivering about 75 lectures a year and writing articles.
While reluctant to divulge his speaking fee, he notes that it is considerably less than those commanded by Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon. This month, Boren is scheduled to address the Washington State Bar Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a gathering of IBM employes.
The round-faced Oklahoman -- a cousin of Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.) -- says he left government because he was frustrated by its antiquated procedures. "I was having to spend time clearing the underbrush within the bureaucracy to do my job," he says.
His rhetoric is not intended to "stick pins in public servants," he says, but to let the world know that these people manage to do their jobs in spite of the system. Some of his best sources of information and anecdotes are government insiders who are also fed up. These people often keep a very low profile, Boren says, because government's "efforts to protect whistle blowers are all cosmetic."
Boren delights in creating his own form of governmental double-speak. He has set it out in four books, including his latest, "Fuzzify!"
In Boren's world, agency reports full of puffery are "bloatated." Bureaucrats who travel both sides of the street -- between government and private industry -- issue "birectives."
"Dynamic inaction" is the process of doing nothing, but doing it with style. Boren says the Environmental Protection Agency is an example of that when the agency's top officials commission study after study about acid rain but fail to come up with policies for the problem.
"If you study something long enough," Boren concludes, "it will go away."
Boren illustrates another of his principles, "creative non-responsiveness," with an example from the corporate world. He said he once took what was described as a direct flight from Washington to Houston. Arriving at the terminal, he was directed to the New York Air shuttle to La Guardia Airport, where he was to catch the flight to Houston.
Boren's wife, Alice, who serves as his business manager, says she is accustomed to lunacy: her father, Dr. Laurence J. Peter, wrote "The Peter Principle," which holds that in a hierarchy, individuals rise to their level of incompetence.
Boren, also a chili aficionado, has been endorsed by "Chili Monthly" and appears on the cover of its August edition. He plans to play host for a chili cook-off in Lafayette Park Sept. 17. If elected, he pledges to close Camp David and move it to the Hard Times Cafe in Alexandria, where chili is a specialty.
Boren's home office is full of memorabilia, including a picture of President John F. Kennedy, in whose presidential campaign he worked in 1960, and framed messages from friends and foes.
Like any good bureaucrat, he has a rack full of rubber stamps: "Oops: Office of Error Implementation," and "DRIVELATED: Division of Floatational Bloatum." They reinforce the endless supply of Boren dictums such as: "You won't get lost if you stay in a rut."
Or this one: "When in charge, ponder. When in trouble, delegate. When in doubt, mumble."