This month's winner of the David A. Stockman Kiss-and-Tell Award is Mona Charen, a 29-year-old former speechwriter to the First Lady whose account of life in the Reagan White House is published in the new issue of Washingtonian magazine. But Charen turns a wittier sentence than Stockman ever dreamed of, and her article, "What the White House Women Think of the White House Men," is an entertaining act of bridge-burning.
The title is something of a misnomer. Charen wrote a little about how White House men peddle the allure of their putative power among women outside the White House (women inside the White House apparently know better) and about how uncomfortable they are with female colleagues.
But much more entertaining is Charen's reiteration of Nancy Reagan's role in the White House. "Mrs. Reagan is treated with the kind of gingerly respect due a lioness. One admires its beauty, anticipates its desires and never, never gets it angry."
Half of the article is devoted to the machinations of "the mice" -- the coterie of chief of staff Donald T. Regan who "are frightened by ideas -- even Ronald Reagan's ideas . . . . They treat his approval ratings like a porcelain vase perched on their heads that can be kept safe only by holding very still." Equally problematic, Charen wrote, is the meddling of the National Security Council staff, which removes from all of Reagan's speeches any reference that might roil foreign policy waters. Charen said that Peggy Noonan -- one of Reagan's best (and most conservative) speechwriters, who has since left the White House -- "fired off a derisive memo reassuring the NSC boys that 'the C word [communism] and the F phrase [free enterprise]' had been, as they requested, removed from a presidential address."
A word of caution: Charen applies the word "ethereal" to communications director Patrick J. Buchanan, shown here as "such an ethereal creature in so many ways that it seems more likely that the plotting and scheming simply passed beneath his notice . . . . Buchanan was a happy and prosperous man before Don Regan asked him to be communications director. In the year and a half since, he has endured indignities, abuse, foul play and failure. And all at the hands of people who haven't one-tenth his intellect."
Charen, like Stockman, is bitterly disappointed at the failure of the "Reagan Revolution," and made clear where her sympathies lie. Following stints in public liaison and public affairs, Charen quit the White House, and in the fall will join the speechwriting staff of presidential hopeful Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.). Games People Play . . .
The Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies is planning a novel exercise in grass-roots feedback. On Sept. 10, groups of 16 citizens will assemble in all 50 state capitals to play "Debtbusters," a game developed by the center to mimic the budget-balancing challenge that confronts Congress. The idea is to give citizens "a first-hand look at the difficult tradeoffs that must be made in working toward a balanced budget," and to give a representative slice of the populace a chance to tell policymakers where their priorities lie.
The center has arranged, through a local coordinator in each capital, to bring together balanced groups of contending interests -- "farmers, military personnel, teachers, nurses, bankers, retired persons and local business and political leaders" -- who will be presented with 41 of what politicians are wont to call "tough choices." They include such options as canceling the Midgetman missile (saving $ 2.4 billion), raising Medicare premiums ($ 6.5 billion), ending mass transit and highway aid ($ 5.6 billion) and increasing taxes on tobacco, beer and wine ($ 13.9 billion). Whichever options they choose, the citizen-players must eliminate a projected deficit, based on a combination of Congressional Budget Office estimates and administration military budget requests, of $ 111 billion by 1991.
The result of this "megathon" will be forwarded to Washington for analysis and presentation to Congress as a "People's Budget."
According to the Roosevelt Center's Jill Leonhardt, the main aim is to identify areas of agreement that transcend regional and other divisions. "If these folks, whose interests are so diverse, can come to consensus within their groups, we think it's certainly worth listening to." Rated R . . .
When the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography released its controversial report in July, The New Republic featured a barefoot Attorney General Edwin Meese III on its cover in a much-discussed illustration rendered in the pinup style of the artist Vargas. Evidently determined to push its luck, the magazine has in its new issue a full-page advertisement for a signed and numbered poster of the illustration, with a pitch almost as provocative as Meese's recumbent, come-hither pose: "Own Your Very Own New Republic 'Playmate of the Year.' "
Justice Department spokeman Patrick S. Korten, when told about the offering, laughed and said, "Oh, my. Well, Mr. Meese got quite a good chuckle out of the magazine cover. I hope he'll autograph my copy." Told that the poster was being offered at a whopping $ 50, he said, "Good Lord. Even Farrah Fawcett can't say that." Your Assignment . . .
The ranks are shuffling near the top at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. James D. McKenzie, the assistant director who runs the FBI Academy at Quantico, is moving to Chicago to head the office there. James W. Greenleaf, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, will take McKenzie's job.
John J. Schreiber, now deputy assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division at headquarters, will become head of the Washington Field Office. Dana Caro, now head of that office, is retiring to take a job in private industry.