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Out -- but not down -- in Washington

"I'm going to turn around a negative image," Ron Ziegler said just the other day, and a lot of people thought the former presidential press secretary was still trying to run interference for Richard Nixon.

Nothing could be further from the facts, Mr. Ziegler, as president of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, wants to make it perfectly clear to the public that "the American trucker is an underestimated man."

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In a kind of state-of-the-truck-stop speech, President Ziegler pepped up his NATSO constituents thus: "Together we must tell the private and public sector just what a truck stop is, how important it is to the community and state in which it operates and above all --

Well, as one numbering a truck driver in the family, we were on our feet cheering by the time we got to the first italics. But we found ourselves whooping it up, not just for all the Good Buddies."Jumping diesel prices!" we thought. "Ron's got himself a job!"

More good news on the employment front. Not three days later, while riding a bus, we learned that former President Gerald Ford has been hired by the Charter Company as a "consultant on international relations." The Charter Company, you may remember, is the philanthropic organization (with oil interests) that gave Billy Carter a job in Libya the year the peanut crop failed. And now, even as we were riding our very local bus, the president and chairman of the Charter Company were about to take the former President of the United States on a 26-day four of France, West Germany, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, China, Japan -- you name it" "Call this altruistic conglomerate the Charity Company!" we cried to our astonished seat companion.

What a relief to have your ex-Presidents and their spokesman off the streets and working! But, we asked ourselves, what about the latest federally unemployed? Not to worry. CETA may be in jeopardy, but job retraining among the disenfranchised of the Carter administration is going on nicely, thank you.

Mr. Carter, of course, is writing the obligatory presidential memoir -- obligatory for him to write, not obligatory for us to read.Your average free-lancer makes about minus $1,000 a year what with the rising cost of typing paper, brown envelopes, and stamps. Count on the struggling scribbler from Plains to do a little better. Mr. Carter has secured the services of Marvin Josephson -- why not the best? -- who worked out the multi-million dollar deal for Henry Kissinger's little doorstop, "White House Years."

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Irving "Swifty" Lazar, Mr. Nixon's agent, is representing another golden-garret artist with a song to sing, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Jody Powell, Mr. Carter's press secretary, has hired a talent agent, International Creative Management, and is willing to help the TV news world forget Walter Cronkite.

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Hamilton Jordan, the Carter White House chief of staff, has signed a contract with CBS to write a six-hour television "docudrama" about the Iranian hostages.

We could go on forever with the success stories of the members of the class of '80.As a matter of fact, no prestigious faculty is without one.

We're delighted our former public servants have landed on their Guccis in the private sector. Our point is, not every unemployed government worker can go to "Swifty" Lazar and get the big Hollywood hello when he or she proposes a boffo book on "My Department of Agriculture Years." No out-of-a-job automobile worker need apply to Harvard Business School, offering to teach a course on what it was like on the assembly line. Your laid-off necktie salesman will be most ill-advised to expect the Charter Company to give him even a 13-day tour, though he points out his job-kinship to former President Harry Truman.

It's always a little hard at the top to understand why anybody is on the street, unemployed -- as if being out of work were a peculiarly stubborn act of will. But there are the "truly needy," and those in power have a moral duty to imagine the condition, though from afar. Those out of power -- the glided unemployed -- have at least simulated the condition. And wouldn't it be useful if, in the course of their seven-figure memoirs, they described first-hand the predicament of unemployment, and even suggested, a s leaders, what to do about it?

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