As Ronald Reagan campaigns for the presidency, he tells every audience of his plan for a future "North American partnership" in which citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico would move easily across each nation's borders.
The proposal, designed to demonstrate that the 68-year-old ex-governor of California is full of fresh ideas, was the centerpiece of Reagan's announcement speech last Tuesday. But so far it has been greeted mostly by silence from audiences in the East and Mid-west.
Instead the audiences save their cheers for the more familiar Reagan who urges the United States to "shelve the SALT II treaty" and deal sternly with the Soviet Union.
"The Carter administration's principal argument for ratifying SALT II is that no one will like us if we don't." Reagan said today in speeches here and in Milwaukee. "And their principal argument for giving away the Panama Canal is that no one would like us if we didn't. And their principal argument for not changing their ridiculous Rhodesia policy is that no one will like us if we do.
"Isn't it about time that we said to the administration in Washington that we're not so concerned if other countries like us. We would like, once again, to be respected by other countries -- respected to the point where never again will any dictator dare invade an American embassy and hold our people hostage."
This unveiled reference to the situation in Iran is far different in tone from the response Reagan gives at news conferences when he is asked what the United States should do about the invasion of its embassy in Tehran. His response to this direct question has been support for President Carter's actions in freezing Iranian assets and boycotting Iranian oil followed by a refusal to comment further because the situation is so sensitive. f
Reagan's visit here to the hometown of Gerald R. Ford, whom he opposed for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination, was intended to show the wide range of support which Reagan's managers say he now enjoys in the party. However, Gov. William G. Milliken, a staunch Ford supporter and Reagan foe four years ago, did not show up to introduce him as scheduled.
Instead, Milliken was in Washington at a meeting called by Carter and the Reagan campaign had to be content with a letter in which the Michigan governor praised the North American partnership idea as "innovative and forward-looking."
Throughout the week, Reagan has declined to say what his position is on legislation to bail out financially troubled Chrysler Corp. with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. Today, he was pressed on the point by local reporters and said that he is opposed to the bailout bill.
Reagan said, however, that the federal government should help Chrysler in other ways which he did not specify. A high-ranking Reagan aide, Ed Meese, said afterward that what Reagan had in mind was changes in the company leadership under the fiscal reorganization act plus certain tax advantage.
In another comment this morning, at a Milwaukee breakfast, Reagan said that it had been a mistake to form a new Cabinet-level Department of Education.