Donald Regan, the President's chief of staff, gave the only sensible answer to the question of economic sanctions against South Africa.
When asked by reporters about using tough measures against Pretoria, Regan replied, "Are the women of America prepared to give up all their jewelry?"
Though not the key question about South Africa, it certainly ranks up there with the important one. I hadn't realized this until Regan raised the issue as to how American women felt about their jewelry.
As soon as the news article appeared, I took it down to the beach and read it to some very attractive women. Then I asked, "Who among you is prepared to give up your jewelry to stop apartheid?"
"Are we talking about the jewelry we already have, or the jewelry we're going to get?"
"It doesn't say," I replied. "But I would assume Regan was talking about jewelry futures. My understanding is that if we lay sanctions on the South Africans, it means that we will not be able to buy diamonds and gold for a very long time. Women in this country will suffer like they have never suffered before."
You could smell the fear on the beach.
"Why is the White House picking on us?" the lady asked.
"They're not picking on you, but Regan is trying to say that you can't make an omelet without cracking some eggs."
"I don't care about omelets. I worry about my gold bracelets. My arms will be naked without them. Why can't we go along with sanctions for South Africa except for diamonds, gold and platinum."
"It's all or nothing. This is not my decision but Donald Regan's. It's one that the women of America must decide."
A man who wasn't in our party said, "Does it include men's gold chains as well?"
"Regan said nothing about them as far as I could see. But I would suspect eventually it would include men's jewelry as well. How do you feel about South African sanctions?"
The man put his head in the sand and said, "I don't want to talk about it."
One of the women asked, "Would the embargo include emeralds and rubies and sapphires?"
"No, but what good are emeralds, rubies and sapphires without diamonds to make them look good? I know this is a very hard choice for every woman in America to make. At the same time, who else is going to decide it? Politically, the Administration can't afford to cut off women's jewels just to show South Africa how tough we can be."
One of the women had a question: "Would there be a safety net for those of us who don't have too many jewels to start with?"
I referred to the newspaper story. "There is nothing about a safety net in Regan's statement. If you want the truth, I think the Administration is against sanctions and Regan wants to use the American woman to get the White House off the hook. When the Administration starts feeling all the pressure in Congress to do something about South Africa, Regan will say I wanted to but the American woman wouldn't let me. She was afraid that with sanctions she'd have nothing to put on her neck."
"Go away," one of the women said.
"There's more," I told her. "If we have sanctions against South Africa, we won't get any chrome for our bathroom fixtures."
For the first time, everyone looked up in horror. "That does it," the lady said. "Tell Regan we'll support Ronnie's South Africa no-sanction policy all the way."