• U.S.

Nation: Broadcasting Status

2 minute read

Every presidency develops its own trappings of status. Under Richard Nixon, the favored few who travel on Air Force One cherish their blue, Air Force special issue flight jackets emblazoned with the presidential seal and personal silver-and-black name tags. All the President’s top aides—Henry Kissinger, John Ehrlichman, H.R. Haldeman—wear them aboard. Even Nixon’s personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, suits up.

Lately there is a new symbol of status. Free of charge, Washington’s C & P Telephone Co. has installed ten of its still experimental “picturephones” in the offices of the highest presidential advisers. The gadgets, small TV sets attached to the telephone, allow the presidential elite to dial-in one another’s images as well as voices—not that any one of them is likely to forget what the others look like.

Apart from broadcasting status, the picturephones contribute little to the smoother workings of Government. To Egghead Kissinger, they are a technological mystery. He will not call on the device, but does take calls, with a bit of fuming and fussing as he tries to work the thing. “Technology gone mad,” he has been heard to mutter. One day when a picturephone call came in, Ehrlichman’s large, balding head materialized on Kissinger’s screen and his deep voice intoned: “Push the center button, Henry.”

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