The honeymoon is over, but the luck lingers on. That is the short judgment on the Reagan administration in this corner as the first half of the political year closes with the congressional recess for July 4. As for the future, since the Reagan luck comes partly by design, the outlook remains fair.
Congressional Democrats flash one sign that Reagan is no longer immune from telling attack. They caved in completely after a brief fight on the budget resolution six weeks ago. They have been using guerrilla tactics to fight a war of attrition on particular spending cuts in the president's tax program. No one can even be certain that there will be a tax cut this year.
The attitude of the news media is even more revealing. It can hardly come as a surprise that Reagan is not exactly on a first-name basis with the Non-proliferation Treaty. Nor that he is less than Clausewitz when it comes to distinguishing between offensive and defensive weapons. But the ignorance shown by the president at his news conference on June 16 on those matters and some other foreign business drew down on his head a Niagara of editorial scorn. Not that Reagan had changed. What has changed is the tone of the press and television.
Luck asserts itself principally in economic matters. The dollar is up, oil prices are down and food prices are holding relatively steady. So the Consumer Price Index has dipped below 10 percent.
Nobody can seriously claim the Reagan administration made any of these things happen. But the president has focused political attention in the right way. He has set the stage to highlight events that turned to his advantage.
Thus from the very beginning of his presidency, he concentrated on the domestic economy as his primary concern. Since then he has relentlessly pushed his program for cutting down government spending and making tax cuts. The president, in other words, has selected winning issues. He has been in the right place when the sun started to shine.
Simultaneously, he has shown high skill in moving when clouds started to gather. He slithered away from two dates -- first Jan. 1 and then July 1 -- originally designated as the start-up time for the tax cut. The result is a healthy cut in the deficit projected for 1982, with some attendant benefits on inflationary expectations.
A lsuggestion for cutting Social Security looked bad when the White House originally surfaced it. But the proposal was quickly withdrawn. Now, in order to save the Social Security system, the Democrats are stuck with having to take steps that are bound to be unpopular.
Foreign policy provides abundant instances of artful dodging. As soon as the emphasis on Communist subversion in El Salvador proved exaggerated, the White House toned down the rhetoric. It abandoned Ernest Lefever immediately after a Senate committee vote made it plain he could be confirmed as assistant secretary of state for human rights only through a long, bruising fight. It backed away from the new government of Francois Mitterrand hours after the French president included Communist ministers in the cabinet.
To a degree, at least, Reagan has ducked foreign policy entirely. He has been able to charm his way through meetings with other heads of state. Expectations abroad are so low that it is enough for the president to show that -- as Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once exclaimed -- "he is not a cowboy."
Crucial decisions on such matters as arms control and the Mideast have been subordinated to the overwhelming importance of domestic economics. The White House, as an aide to Secretary of State Haig put it, was "under the table" when it came to condemning at the United Nations the recent Israeli raid on Iraq.
It would take a catastrophe -- something like a Soviet invasion of Poland, or a new breakout of war in the Middle East -- for the Reagan administration to begin hurting on foreign policy. Even then, the president might scuttle away by dumping blame on subordinates.
For unlike some of his recent predecessors, Reagan does not fall in love with losing causes. He has too much common sense, too much humor, too much concern for his standing with the voters. He will not, like Gerry Ford, make a big deal about an Angola. He will not, like Jimmy Carter, do battle for the likes of a Bert Lance.
If real trouble did come, Heaven would have to help the United States. For only true believers can entertain great expectations of the Reagan administration. Still, it should be able to reduce federal spending slightly and to revive confidence in the country as a whole. That is, if the luck holds.