"You know," Lyn Nofziger, assistant to the president for political affairs, was saying at a gathering of black Republican appointees last night, "most of these names have come across my desk, and I didn't know some of them were black. I approved them because they were outstanding, and now I'm pleasantly surprised."
And then, in the evening's spirit of bravura, Nofziger was pleasantly pushed through the small crowd that was sensing some political muscle. Traditionally in American politics, black Republicans are a minor footnote, and few ascend into any administration's power. But from the congestion in a room in the Rayburn Building last night, the current black appointees are putting a visible dent in that history.
Pendleton James, President Reagan's personnel director, was also looking over the 25 holders of substantial jobs in the administration who were being honored by one of their own constituency groups, the Council of 100, and was feeling smug. "At the beginning," James said, "we were only putting together one here and one there, but now we've really got momentum on the appointments of minorities and women. And the significance is that the level of appointments is higher than in the Carter administration." It might be argued that the Carter appointments of a Cabinet officer, the secretary of the Army, the United Nations ambassador and solicitor general make a better record than the Reagan appointments so far. But James had a ready example of what he feels is the nontraditional trend of the Reagan appointments. "Lennie Tolliver; she will be the commissioner on the aging and in charge of 270 employes."
When asked about the impact of these appointments, White House domestic adviser Martin Anderson described the role of Dan Smith, a member of the White House Office of Policy Development. "He was our lead guy on the auto importation limitation agreement," said Anderson. The appointees remain optimistic that they will be effective despite some budget cutbacks in their own areas. Wes Plummer, the director of the Transportation Department Office of Civil Rights, said "The secretary has charged our office with bringing on minority candidates into the policy level . . . Of course we have a lot of proving to do, proving to people that we are concerned about people."