David Stockman's mother may be a perfect example of the mood of the American voter.
Having heard her son's harsh remarks about farmers -- she is one -- Carol Stockman said they "don't set too well with me."
But what about her son's boss, President Reagan, who, after all, made the decision to eliminate farm subsidies? Carol Stockman didn't mention him.
Members of Congress drifting back to town report a curious silence in the country. Only farm-state representatives heard anger and agony.
That's the way it is supposed to be.
Take the case of the severe cutbacks in student loans. Is Reagan being denounced by parents who now must dig deeper to send their children to college or by the young who may never go to college because of the new restrictions? Nobody seems to think it's his fault or even his idea.
They're blaming Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, who spanked college students for self-indulgence. They are sybarites, he sneered, who won't give up their cars, stereos and beach vacations in their pursuit of higher learning.
Sen. Robert T. Stafford (R-Vt.) answered that had he known Bennett's views about student loans, he never would have voted for his confirmation as head of the department that Reagan had once vowed to eliminate. But Stafford did not blame the president.
When cries of "author, author" go up, Reagan does not come out. He dislikes speaking of unpleasant topics. His surrogates, the constituency-bashers, take the tomatoes.
Interdicting the fire that is aimed at the chief is nothing new in politics, but the White House reaction to one of the current interdictors certainly is. Reagan's chief of staff, Donald T. Regan, declared displeasure with Stockman. From hearing Stockman say that the farmers had brought their foreclosures and bankruptcies on themselves by greed for land, they might conclude that Reagan is "unsympathetic" to their plight.
Why, the president had to scrap plans for a stopover in Iowa on the way back from his vacation. Because of Stockman, he was unsure of his welcome in a state that voted overwhelmingly for his reelection.
It was curious thanks for the budget director, who had turned on his family for the cause.
Reagan wants it all. He wants the cuts, and he wants the plaudits of the victims.
It is a lot to ask, but he didn't get where he is by thinking small.
He loves being popular. We should be glad he is so proprietary about his standing with the American people. It could keep us out of war.
His off-the-wall radio speech from California on Saturday sounded like a call to arms against the Sandinistas.
He was scary, saying that the Sandinistas have to go because he can't stand them; previously, the rationale for "contra" aid was to stop the Sandinistas from supplying arms to Salvadoran rebels.
The mercenaries we funded until Congress put its foot down, the president calls "our brothers." These "brothers" of ours are burning clinics and killing, kidnaping and torturing peasants.
But they remind Reagan of Lafayette and Kosciusko. He says that for us to abandon them would be "to betray our centuries-old dedication to supporting those who struggle for freedom."
The president could have been venting personal frustration more than enunciating a policy. If he dared, he would send the Marines to Managua tomorrow morning to rout the Marxist-Leninist crowd.
It is never wise to underestimate the cowardice of Congress. Members are spooked by Reagan's mandate, demoralized by his phenomenal luck.
President Jimmy Carter was driven out of office by 52 hostages held in Iran for 444 days. In Lebanon, Reagan has only five, and one of them, journalist Jeremy Levin, got out last week on his own. In South Korea, the ugly attack on Kim Dae Jung at the Seoul airport was almost immediately countered by the unexpectedly good electoral showing by dissidents -- an ex-post-facto vindication of "quiet diplomacy."
But even if Reagan could wring more money out of Congress for the contras, it would do him no good with the people. Doting though it is, the public is dead set against military involvement in a new set of jungles.
In short, a war with Nicaragua would be unpopular. And, lucky for us, Reagan does not like unpopular things.
Also, nobody else could take the rap for it. As commander-in-chief, he would have to explain the unpleasantness. We should be thankful he loves being loved.