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The Nation: The Quiet Revolutionaries

3 minute read

Jimmy Carter’s palace guard is now official: it is mainly Georgian, mainly young and mainly unfamiliar with Washington. When the names were announced, some old hands in the nation’s capital wondered—as is customary with every changeover to a new Administration—if the new White House staff really had the talent and the experience to live up to the job. Certainly the transition has not been smooth, despite Carter’s avowals that it would be the best-planned in history. But the incoming President’s men are bright, dedicated and diligent, and even their critics must admit that they have already pulled off one startling surprise: getting their mentor elected in the first place.

Free Access. Carter chose Hamilton Jordan, 32, his shrewd and affable campaign manager, to be his chief political adviser. Jordan has been a loyalist since 1966, when Carter was running his losing race for the Georgia governorship. Another key role will be played by Press Secretary Jody Powell, 33, who began working for Carter as his chauffeur in his 1970 gubernatorial contest.

Issues Coordinator Stuart Eizenstat, 34, a Harvard Law graduate who helped shape the Democratic platform for Carter, will become domestic affairs adviser. Frank Moore, 41, who irritated many politicians during the campaign by failing to return phone calls, will nonetheless handle congressional relations. Jack Watson, 38, a former Marine who graduated from Harvard Law School and later helped Carter as governor, will direct relations between the White House and the Cabinet. Campaign Treasurer Robert Lipshutz will take over as White House counsel. A senior partner in a successful Atlanta law firm, Lipshutz has advised Carter for almost ten years and, at 55, is the grand old man of the staff.

Carter had earlier dropped plans to name Greg Schneiders, 29, as his presidential appointments secretary because of reports that he had improperly collected unemployment benefits while running a Washington restaurant consulting firm. However, Schneiders was cleared last week by U.S. Attorney Earl J. Silbert of any wrongdoing and is expected to get another job. Meantime, Carter named Tim Kraft, 35, to handle his appointments. Kraft impressed his boss by engineering the key victories in the Iowa caucus and the Pennsylvania primary.

Carter’s problems, if any, may be less with his people than the way he proposes to use them. Instead of naming a chief of staff and creating a well-defined pecking order, Carter plans to give his top half-dozen assistants free access to the Oval Office. If that proves to be too inefficient, the betting is that Jordan or Lipshutz will emerge as the head man. In his favor, Lipshutz has his years, his avuncular manner and his legal savvy. He will preside over the morning staff meetings.

New Breed. Carter plans to cut the size of the present White House staff of 485 by about 30%. Jody Powell, for example, will have nine fewer aides than Ford’s press office. Powell already has a reputation for being disorganized; yet with a diminished staff, he will be expected to oversee speechwriting as well as the news operation.

For all the concern about the incoming staff, Jordan insists that the new breed in the White House will conduct a quiet revolution. The emphasis is on the word quiet. “Before we start tearing things apart,” he says, “we’re going to see what really needs to be torn apart.”

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