Members of the Senate Finance Committee may have qualms about some provisions of the tax-revision plan proposed by Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), but they haven't forgotten that Packwood has the power to erase their favorite breaks from the tax code. During the committee's first meeting on the Packwood plan Wednesday, senators took pains to praise Packwood before dumping on its specifics.

Packwood, of course, knows the score. When Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) opened by thanking Packwood for his "hard work," Packwood responded that he was reminded of his clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court, where "any time you saw a Supreme Court opinion start out, 'The learned trial judge,' you ought to watch out because the poor devil was going to get whapped."

Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii) made his statement last, as the committee was about to break up.

"How much time do I have?" he asked.

"About 90 seconds," Packwood said.

"It will take me five minutes just to sing the praises of the chairman," Matsunaga said.

"You have 6 1/2 minutes," Packwood responded.

Light Reading . . . "When it comes to worldwide machinations and agents who carry the fates of nations in their well-appointed attache cases, the best stories are usually those in which clear-cut heroes and heroines surmount impossible odds, while recognizable villains expire in exotic ways."

The author of that sentence should know whereof he speaks -- he is Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, who was persuaded by The Wall Street Journal to review the latest tome from Robert Ludlum, "The Bourne Supremacy." The result is a generally negative reading. Writes Weinberger, "Such moral turmoil has been a requirement ever since John le Carre cracked the best-seller lists, but it is, I think, disturbing to be told that one's own team cannot achieve its good ends by reasonably fair means."