A short quiz. Who wrote the following?
"I was appalled by the false promises of the 1984 campaign. Ronald Reagan had been induced by his advisers and his own illusions to embrace one of the more irresponsible platforms of modern times. He had promised, as it were, to alter the laws of arithmetic . . . . After four years in office, the Reaganites had no more sense that governance involved facing facts and making palatable choices than they had at the beginning."
(a) Walter Mondale in his book, "Where's the Beef?" (b) Tip O'Neill in an offhand remark to his caddy, (c) Gary Hart in his book, "My Favorite New Jersey Jokes," (d) Jesse Jackson in his book, "If I Can Make It Rhyme, I Can Make It Shine," or (e) David Stockman in "The Triumph of Politics."
Logic says that the correct answer is anything but (e). After all, that's Stockman, the self-styled conservative ideologue, the man The Post described in a headline as a "zealot." That man would not have waited until now to have written such a statement. In all good conscience, he would have spoken out during the campaign itself. He would have told the American people that he -- a Reagan administration insider -- knew the president was spouting hogwash.
But, alas, it is Stockman who now confesses that he was, by his own characterization, the Albert Speer of the Reagan administration -- the technocrat who knew better. There he was, surrunded by dummies, PR men and bootlickers who served a president who only dimly understood his own economic program, and he said noth
What is the obligation of the public man? Should Stockman have resigned for policy, rather than personal, reasons and made his differences clear? Did he have a responsibility to a public that in 1984 was going about the dismal business of choosing a president? After all, he couches his policy differences with the Reagan administration in the gravest terms: "If we stay the course we are now on, the decade will end with a worse hyperinflation than the one with which it began."
The trouble with asking about the obligation of the public man is that the question is posed in a vacuum. In Stockman's case, the answer is complicated by money. In other words, the question becomes something like: "Should I enter the debate now (probably to no avail) or should I keep my mouth shut and put it all in a book?" The $2.3 million answer will be in bookstores by the end of the month.
The money Stockman received for his book represents a kind of bribe. Of course, we don't see it that way. But what is it if, as seems to be the case, it induces a public official to serve himself first, a publisher second and then, last, the public that paid his government salary?
Stockman personifies what money is doing in Washington. Government service, like graduate school, is seen as a rite of passage -- something you do before making lots of money. Prudence says you keep one eye on a potential employer while, with the other, you do the public's business. In Stockman's case, it meant holding your indignation until it could be sold.