• U.S.

Nation: Midge Quits

2 minute read

Carter loses an outspoken aide “People either like me the way I am, or they don’t,” Midge Costanza liked to say. In the White House, as the months wore on, it seemed that more and more members of Jimmy Carter’s all-male Georgia Mafia did not cotton to the brash, opinionated woman who served as his Assistant forPublic Liaison—his emissary to women, ethnics and otherdemanding constituent groups. “A flake and a clown,” some staffers grumbled openly when she made headlines with her impulsive acts—prematurely calling for Bert Lance’s resignation, injudiciously using her office to roundup guests for a fund raiser to pay off her old campaign debts, inviting homosexual activists to the White House. Only two weeks ago, she vehemently denied that her resignation was imminent. “If you reporters would quit bothering me,” she stormed, “I could get back to work.” Four days later, she resigned.

For once, Costanza, 45, was reticent. She sent Carter a letter of resignation, issued a valedictory statement claiming that “no one asked me to go” and then slipped away to a Florida hideaway.

Perhaps no one had asked her to go, but neither had she been encouraged to stay by anyone in the White House. Three months ago, aides close to Carter turned over the bulk of her duties to Anne Wexler, 48, a liberal Democratic Party veteran, and moved Costanza from a spacious office near Carter’s to a cubbyhole in the White House basement.

Costanza’s feminist supporters were indignant at her departure. But Carter aides insisted that her chief problems were inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Said one of her former colleagues: “She lacked the self-confidence to do the job well.” Moreover, Costanza clashed repeatedly with Carter on some policies. “I disagreed with him on three major issues,” she said. “I was for full amnesty [for Vietnam-era deserters and draft evaders]; I was for gay rights; I was for a stronger [pro] abortion position.”

Costanza once called her job “a responsibility, not a title,” and declared: “I’m not afraid to lose it. But when I leave I want to be the same person who walked in. I’m not gonna change.” That obstinate trait was both a virtue and the reason for her downfall. –

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