One of the more interesting places to be these days would be inside Mike Deaver's head. There, thoughts and questions must ricochet: What did I do wrong? Why me? What is this all about? Is this a nightmare and, if so, when do I wake up? The answer to the last is clear: Not yet, Michael, not yet.
The fact is that Washington is having a jolly good time punching around Mike Deaver now that it has him out in the open -- away from his protector, Nancy Reagan, and her protector, the president. The man is being pummeled by the press, by his fellow lobbyists and by present and former members of the Reagan administration. Deaver, it seems, is one of those guys who forgot to be nice to subordinates. Now the munchkins are munching on him.
For just a second, put yourself in Deaver's place. Tell yourself that you're not the first person to go from government to public relations. The town is full of people like that. And you're not the first to do so from the Reagan administration, either. Many former Reaganites are now consultants of one sort or another, and some of them represent foreign governments. Deaver may have South Korea, but Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, another firm with Reagan connections, had the Philippines government under Ferdinand Marcos. Need some ladies' shoes?
Maybe it's the money. Billings of more than $2 million in the first year of business is more than enough to attract envy, but then Deaver is not the first person to get rich in Washington. Robert Keith Gray, the chairman of Ronald Reagan's inaugural committee and former Eisenhower White House aide, makes what we used to call a nice living. His firm has grown tremendously in the past several years, and he too represents foreign governments -- Turkey and, for a while, Angola. No one writes very much about him.
Okay, maybe it's the publicity. Deaver posed for a Time magazine cover in which he was shown seated in a limousine, talking on the phone with the Capitol in the background. "Who's This Man Calling?" Time asked on the cover. Time provided no answer, but everything about Deaver suggests that it was the president. He is one of the few people who can get Reagan on the phone. That's what makes him unique.
And that, in a nutshell, explains the entire Deaver imbroglio. Sure, there might be a matter of law involved -- whether Deaver ignored it and met too soon with White House aides, whether he cut a deal with Canada while still in the White House. But these are misdemeanors: Canada and acid rain is not exactly Libya and atomic weapons. These allegations amount to a device to make the moral and personal case against Deaver. We all pretend we are talking about the law. But we are really talking about the feelings we all have for someone whose career, we think, amounts to nothing more than attaching himself to someone more important -- and then exploiting that relationship.
When he appeared on the McNeil- Lehrer News Hour, Deaver said he was valuable for his ability to "strategize." Maybe. But to the rest of the world, Deaver's value is his relationship with the Reagans. His is a totally reflected glory. He commands the same respect and loathing as a boss's son who conducts himself as if he built the company.
That is where the comparisons to Clark Clifford are way off the mark. Clifford may have started as an aide to President Harry S Truman, but his value to clients amounted to more than proximity to a former president. Years after being a Truman aide, Clifford became Lyndon Johnson's secretary of defense. No one can imagine Deaver doing the same.
Ironically, Deaver's problems are compounded by the president's age and popularity. The more popular Reagan is, the more people will be outraged by what they see as Deaver's exploitation of him. And the older he gets and the more "detached" Reagan becomes, the more people will resent someone who claims the president's imprimatur -- who flourishes the president's daily schedule. It is name dropping on a grand scale: Let's see, if it's 2:45 then Ron's napping. (When it comes to Deaver, Ron certainly is.)
The law is important, and Deaver's alleged violation of it is worth the attention of the news media. And maybe Deaver personifies something about Washington that is worth being concerned about -- the role of money. But Washington is really out to get Micheal K. Deaver for reasons that make this still a town not that different than most others in America: it's simply disgusted.