The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, January 12, 1977, Image 2

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Presidential hide-and-seek not needed
PLAINS, Ga. — There is every
reason to take seriously Jimmy Car
ter’s desire to escape from the
“strange and unnatural world” in
which past Presidents have moved.
The quoted phrase is not Carter’s.
It came from his press secretary,
Jody Powell, in describing Carter’s
desire to avoid being trapped inside
the ring of “stalf, press and politi
cians” that surrounds a Chief Execu
tive and bars him from meaningful
contact with most citizens.
But if the phrase was Powell’s, the
sentiments were unmistakably Car
ter’s. Veterans of the Plains press
corps can regale newcomers with
endless stories of Carter’s efforts to
outwit the hovering reporters and
continue his normal pattern of life in
his hometown.
According to these accounts. Car
ter on occasion has gone so far as to
order his Secret Service drivers to
keep off the headlights on his car
when leaving his house in the dark,
in order to gain a precious few min
utes’ head start on the pursuing
press. At other times, the Secret
Service using Carter’s car has led the
press on a high-speed chase in one
direction, while he heads off in the
opposite direction in a different car.
The stratagems have worked, on
occasion. He was able to attend a
funeral in nearby Americus, unde
tected by the press, and to slip away
on a few other short trips.
But, inevitably, his evasive tactics
have produced counter-measures in
the press — monitoring of Secret
David S.
Service frequencies for clues to Car
ter’s movements, and efforts to out
guess his plans and await his arrival
at likely destinations.
This almost childish cat-and-
mouse game is compounded by the
difficulties created for the press by
the fact that Carter’s staff is not al
ways well-briefed and up-to-date on
his plans for activities that unques-’
tionably are of public interest.
Part of this confusion is the inevit
able result of operating in the im
provised environment of Plains, a
town which was surely never de
signed to serve as a presidential tran
sition headquarters. But part of it
stems also from Carter’s overly
casual attitude toward keeping his
own press aides briefed on his plans.
The result has been a largely un
necessary and unhealthy increase in
the tensions between Carter and the
resident press corps — a snappish
ness on both sides that seems unjus
At the root of the problem are two
quite legitimate but conflicting de
mands. A President is entitled to a
private life. And Carter, more than
most recent Presidents, really re
quires frequent contact with the or
dinary, everyday world in order to
maintain a healthy perspective. The
small talk of Main Street, the peanut
warehouse and the Baptist Church
are important to him.
On a larger scale, regular visits
with a variety of citizens are seen by
Carter as a safeguard against the
traps of the “closed world” of Wash
ington insiders.
But legitimate as that desire is, it
does not negate the equally legiti
mate duty of the press to monitor the
activities of a President, And, sadly, '
the press cannot ignore the possibil
ity of an accident or tragedy involv
ing a President at any moment of
public exposure — whether he is
quail hunting or chatting on the
As a practical matter, a President
cannot just wander loose, as most of
us can do, uninhibited by a protec
tive circle of security agents and a
pack of pursuing reporters and
But that does not mean he has to
be entirely confined to a “strange
and unnatural world.” What is
needed is some neutral ground, on
which the President can visit infor
mally with anyone he wishes, with
the press outside but aware of where
he is and what he’s doing.
Certainly, no one objects to his
doing that indoors, at his home here
in Plains or, in a couple weeks, at the
White House. The guest list for
White House dinners or receptions
can be made just as democratic as
Carter pleases.
But there’s also a useful model in a
meeting Carter held during the
campaign in Scranton, Pa. He ar
ranged with local Democratic and
union officials to have an hour-long
discussion of unemployment prob
lems with about a dozen jobless
workers from the area. The meeting
was held in a hotel ballroom, with
Carter and his guests seated around
a table, and reporters and camera
men at a distance where they could
listen and film without being obtru
It struck me at the time that Car
ter was exceptionally skillful at put
ting the workers at ease, drawing out
their stories and their suggestions,
responding directly to them — and
helping them ignore the watching
press corps.
The exchange was interesting, not
momentous. But it seemed to satisfy
Carter’s own needs and gave some
real meaning to his later comment,
during the first debate, that unem
ployment was not a statistical prob
lem but a tragedy for individual
With some imagination. Carter
can have that kind of contact with
citizens as President, without play
ing the game of hide-and-seek that
has marred the coverage of his ac
tivities here.
© 1977, The Washington Post
British seem to be happy
despite economic plight
LONDON — Britain is plagued
by unemployment, inflation, grow
ing racial strife, a depreciating cur
rency and the threat of a political
crisis. Its standard of living, once the
world’s highest, has dropped pre
cipitously within recent years.
French have administrative continuity
PARIS — One of the more puzzl
ing aspects of the American political
scene, at least in French eyes, is the
selection of a new administration.
For we cannot quite understand how
the U.S. government, with all its
complexities, can afford to replace so
many of its senior civil servants with
fresh and often untested officials
whose main, qualification is loyalty
to the incoming chief executive.
Here in France, the bureaucracy
remains intact whichever party takes
office, and this has the distinct ad
vantage of providing the country
with continuity.
But the French system, it seems
to me, also has its drawbacks, since it
tends to encourage excessively cen
tralized government and it fre
quently shuts out the imaginative
and original ideas that can only
emerge with a periodic turnover of
administrative personnel.
Thus the United States may gain
benefits by adopting features of the
French bureaucratic structure, and
perhaps it would be in our interest to
borrow something from the Ameri
can experience.
An apparent difference between
American and French civil servants
is that the Americans give their al
legiance to the government while
the French pledge fidelity to the
state. As a consequence, bureaucrats
in France stay on the job regardless
of the regime in power.
This was dramatized in 1940,
when France was overrun by the
Germans, who set up a puppet gov
ernment in Vichy under Marshall
Philippe Petain. Rather than join the
resistance movement, most French
officials went along with Petain, on
the grounds that he represented
The same thing happened in 1958,
when the Fourth Republic crumbled
and General de Gaulle became Pres
ident of the Republic. Many old
politicians disappeared, but the
bureaucrats who had formerly
served them continued to work for
de Gaulle, and he welcomed their
to develop the backward economies
of certain French regions.
Most important, they have
guaranteed France’s stability, par
ticularly during periods when the
political situations have been turbu
lent. The Fourth Republic, which
finally collapsed in 1958, could not
have held toghether as long as it did
without the solid French bureau-
Yet a Gallup survey conducted in
70 countries not long ago found that,
with the exception of the Australians
and the Scandinavians, the British
regard themselves to be the happiest
people on earth. The poll also found
the British more satisfied with their
economic lot than any other Euro
peans except the West Germans.
The French civil service again
threw its weight behind Valery Gis-
card d’Estaing, when he captured
the presidency from the Gaullists in
May 1974.
The prospect now is that a leftist
coalition of Socialists and Com
munists may come to power within
the next year or so. But this is not
likely to change the bureaucratic
structure here.
Senior French civil servants are
more than a professional group.
They are virtually a caste, most of
whose members have been trained
at the National School of Administra
tion, a state institution especially
created to educate top bureaucrats.
These men and women are high
calibre figures who have come
through rigorous competitive exam
inations, both to enter and be
graduated from the School of Admin
istration. They know each other from
their school days, and hence their
sense of solidarity is strong. Their
ethics are above reproach, their am
bition being to exercise authority
rather than to earn fat salaries.
Lately, however, many civil ser
vants here have begun to move out of
the bureaucracy into politics. Gis-
card himself is a former finance offi
cial, and Jacques Chirac, who re
cently resigned as prime minister,
also once was a bureaucrat. Similarly
several graduates of the School of
Administration are currently work
ing for the Socialist Party.
If this trend continues, France
could gradually start to resemble the
United States to the extent that the
invisible government of bureauc
rats, which has functioned so effi
ciently until now, may become a
more visible government of politi
Should this occur, France will
have lost its impartial adminis
trators, whose skill at keeping the
country on an even keel has been
useful. At the same time, though,
the government may become more
sensitive to the attitudes of the
people, and this would be a step in
the right direction.
These attitudes betray the statis
tics, which show the British on the
average to be half as affluent as
Americans and not much wealthier
than Italians. But perhaps we can get
a bit closer to real conditions by look
ing at three of my acquaintances.
One of the best tests of the way a
country’s income is distributed is re
flected in the lives of its senior citi
zens. Miss Violet Goldsmith, now 70
and retired, has little beyond a pen
sion amounting to $31 per week,
most of it from the government and
the rest from the grocery store in
which she worked.
She owns her home, an 18th cen
tury cottage in an Essex village. She
presses her own wine and makes her
own dresses. She cannot afford a
television set, and her brother pays
her telephone bills. She eats reason
ably well, but her house, which lacks
central heating, is chilly in winter.
When Miss Goldsmith is ill, the
National Health Service treats her
free of charge. Her main complaint is
that bus fares have gone up. Other
wise, she says, the quality of her life
has barely changed in three years.
Chambraud writes on political af
fairs for Le Point, the French weekly
Bill Williams, a 35-year-old
middle-level executive in a London
firm, is having a harder time. He
earns nearly $10,000 per year after
They are responsible for many of
the innovations that have been in
troduced here within recent years,
such as fiscal reform and the efforts
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taxes, and he finds it increasingly dif
ficult to provide for his wife and two
car, one-twelfth on alcohol ai
bacco, and about the sameaj
Bill suffers from the flat British
wage structure. An American execu
tive in a big company earns about 11
times more than the average worker.
Here in Britain, an executive earns
about five times more. So Bill tries to
maintain a managerial life style on a
comparatively modest salary, and he
has money troubles.
He rents an apartment in London,
and he has a vacation place in Wales.
In a few years, he would like to send
his children to a private school, but
that would cost him roughly $2,800
per year. The only way he can make
ends meet, he believes, is to per
suade his wife to return to work.
Roughly half the families
country have an automobile«
phone. About 65 per centk
washing machine, and 75 pet
have refrigerators. Virtually
has a dishwasher, but 93 pe
households have a televisio
Miss Goldsmith being in adi
The few British who go skiing
these days are young singles or older
businessmen. My husband and I met
Patrick Selkirk while skiing in Au
stria. The director of a publishing
house, he is in his mid-50’s and rich.
He leads the good life.
If this appears to be too mats
tic an approach, consider some
indicators. A third of Britisli
spend their vacations at hoi
third of Londoners who worl
an average of 45 minutes pe
commuting. Infant mortalih,
guide to health care, is less hen
it is in either ,the United Stal
West Germany.
Patrick earns the equivalent of
$34,000 per year. His company
provides him with one of the prime
perquisites of top British executives,
a chauffeur-driven car. He also has
an expense account, and he takes his
wife and three daughters on “busi
ness” trips to Italy every year.
Adding it up, I would venl
say that the British enjoyastai
of living that may be somewhatl
than that of their American
parts — but certainly not halfa;
as the statistics suggest.
The Selkirk’s home, a lovely
Victorian house overlooking the rol
ling expanse of Hampstead Heath, is
probably worth $150,000. They
entertain frequently. Patrick esti
mates that his wife and daughters
spend almost $1,000 per year on
In terms of the actual waytheifi
rather than the cash incomet!
ceive, Miss Goldsmith is not';
different from lonely Ameit
grandmothers abandoned i
while Patrick Selkirk s life!
especially the chauffeur-dij
limousine, might be enviei
Madison Avenue.
Now, putting these three indi
viduals aside, consider some naked
figures that may add to our view of
the overall picture.
The typical British family spends
one-quarter of its income on food,
one-eighth on housing, the same on
public transportation or running a
The biggest gap, as I seeit,i|
tween British lawyers, docf
teachers and midd\e-\eve\ ’
gers, and their opposite numbl
the United States. In short, tli|
Williamses on both sides ofth(
lantic. Here they represent i
small fraction of the populatioij
for the rest. Dr. Gallup is prol
correct. They are poor but ha|
Ms. Cairncross writes on
and economic issues for TheGi
ian, the British daily.
Opinions expressed in The Battalion are those of the
editor or of the writer of the article and are not ncces-
sarily those of the University administration or the
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