ONE BEGINS TO wonder how the administration can clarify its foreign policy sufficiently to reach the likes of Rep. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), who, upon hearing an exposition by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance the other day, pronounced himself unable to put it together with earlier statements by White House adviser Zbignew Brzezinski. Asked the congressman, "Who's got the president's right ear?"
We found it a dated question. Starting at least with the president's Annapolis speech of June 7, the administration has been trying to remove traces of undue inconsistency, irresolution and internal struggle from its foreign-policy declarations. It has not succeeded entirely - except in the most autocratic circumstances, it will always be possible to find different emphases and tones. But it should have earned some credit for steadying down by now.
Let us go deeper. Behind the talk of a battle for "president's right ear" has been the sense that while Mr. Brzezinski sees, anxiously, the forest of the overall Soviet challenge, Mr. Vance sees, diffidently, the trees. At Annapolis, however, Mr. Carter laid down, if a bit roughly, the basic policy: The Russians can choose between crisis and confrontation on the one hand, and a careful combination of cooperation (in some areas such as SALT) and restrained competition on the other. The United States prefers the latter but can cope with the first. There is every reason to believe Mr. Brzezinski accepts this formulation, though he might not put it quite that way. In any case, that's how the president put it - that's his policy. Mr. Vance elaborated on it this week. Some congressmen, and not they alone, are having trouble taking that in. Frankly, we don't find it that hard to grasp.
Meanwhile, we gather, Mr. Carter has quietly - belatedly - tightened the reins. One result is that the public may not hear so frequently for a while from Mr. Brzezinski. A second result is that the public may hear more, and in what is for him something of a new key, from Mr. Vance. "I welcome this opportunity to meet with you on behalf of the president," the secretary told the House International Relations Committee on Monday. "On behalf of the president" - those are, we think, carefully chosen words.
Mr. Vance's statements on Russia and Africa this week would seem to make the point. He went beyond his usual close lawyerly analysis and gave his remarks a comprehensive or, if you will, a conceptual cast. On Africa, he addressed head-on the Soviet-Cuban factor and made the sensible suggestion that "our best course is to held resolve the problems which create the excuse for external intervention and to help strengthen the ability of Africans to defend themselves.
Cyrus Vance is a laconic fellow. He doesn't sound like Zbigniew Brzezinski or, for that matter, Jimmy Carter. But to suggest that because he uses his own words he does not have "the president's right ear' - and that Mr. Brzezinski does - is, we believe, absurd.