AUGUST," Robert Browning wrote, "notes and names each blunder."
Ronald Reagan has made some beauties lately, and can't wait to get away from them.
He is feeling misunderstood. In August, people are so suspicious.
Maybe he will use the recess to ponder why. Maybe he will realize that it's because, on war, women and hunger at home, he has run the "Who, me?" approach into the ground.
He is, he keeps telling us, a man of limitless good will.
He wants peace in Central America, he says, and starts hurling thunderbolts.
He meant to frighten the Nicaraguans into democracy by some trifling, routine naval maneuvers involving an armada and some "training exercises" by a mere 4,000 U.S. troops. Why, he whined at his last press conference, are people so suspicious?
The same press conference, and the aftermath, would tell him why. On July 27, he said, "These maneuvers are not going to put Americans in any reasonable proximity to the border."
To give the lie to that reassurance came a dispatch on Aug. 2 by Washington Post reporter Christopher Dickey, who was at the Honduran-Nicaraguan border and reported that troops are going to be within spitting distance of it.
Peace moves? Most Americans don't think so. According to a Washington Post-ABC poll published Thursday, 54 percent believe that Reagan's way is leading us toward war.
The same poll told him that he is not winning the hearts and minds of his countrymen to his view of the basic problem in Central America. He says the Sandinistas are picking on us and plan to take over El Paso with an assist from the "evil empire."
Only 29 percent buy the "subversion" scenario.
Fifty-nine percent believe that poverty is the problem.
In other words, Reagan should be sending the Salvation Army, not the Green Berets.
Maybe it would help if, during the recess, he forewent the company of his two most perfervid counselors, National Security Adviser William P. Clark and U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Clark believes the Soviets are to blame for everything, perhaps even the August humidity. Ms. Kirkpatrick is similarly obsessed.
Perhaps Reagan could ask Clark to conduct his business at the Vietnam Memorial wall. It might focus his thoughts about what happens when big nations start thinking that little ones are after them.
As for Ms. Kirkpatrick, the president could give her Hamlet's advice to Ophelia -- "Get thee to a nunnery" -- and suggest a stay at a Maryknoll retreat house. There she could find out more about "political activists," the term she crushingly applied to the four churchwomen, two of them members of the Maryknoll order, who were murdered in El Salvador in 1980 and whose killers have never been brought to trial by the "moderately repressive" regime of the type she so favors.
And while he is about it, the president could enroll George Shultz to an assertiveness training course. The secretary of state functions as a kind of ambulance chaser. As policies formulated by Clark and Kirkpatrick cause widespread shudders, Shultz is sped to the scene to say that everything is going to be all right, and that he is in charge. Actually, the only area over which he has complete dominion may be the Pacific Trust Territories.
As he chops the brush at his ranch, the president might ponder his trouble with women, none of whom, incidentally, were appointed to his bipartisan commission on Central America. On Wednesday, he went contritely before the Business and Professional Women's Clubs -- they had been turned away at the White House Gates the day before through a staff error. He ended his apologies with what he thought was a tribute to the ladies. "If it wasn't for women, us men would still be walking around in skin suits carrying clubs," he said sincerely.
Well, to the women there, he might as well have been a caveman. They have tried to civilize men -- they still do -- but the results have been so spotty they are asking to take a hand in running the world's affairs themselves. Given the wars and all, they are entitled. They hunger for equality, not a pat on the head.
And speaking of hunger, Reagan has discovered it. He has named a commission to study it. Maybe somebody showed him a picture of the cheese lines around a church not far from the White House.
The commission is a fine idea, and he should attend its sessions. They would cure his professed puzzlement as to how hunger happened.
Surely it was nothing he did.
Why would anyone think, just because he cut some 3 million poor children off the the school lunch programs and slashed food stamp funds, that he is responsible?
Well, it's August, and in August when someone asks, "Who, me?" the answer is, "Yes, you."