Just days after Ronald Reagan's landslide victory, the president-elect's "kitchen cabinet" of longtime friends and confidants rejected a proposal initiated by former treasury secretary William Simon urging Reagan to make a few quick Cabinet appointments -- including that of Simon.
Instead, the "kitchen cabinet" worked at a slower pace to prepare lists of several recommendations for each Cabinet post, lists that went to Reagan last week. According to authoriatative sources, the president-elect decided on "several" Cabinet selections at his Pacific Palisades home Monday. The sources declined to reveal any names.
The proposal for speedier appointments, according to informed sources, was actually pressed by Simon's stauch friend and admirer Justin Dart, chairman of Dart Industries Inc. and a longtime Reagan intimate. Simon, an active member of the board of directors of Dart Industries and also a member of the Reagan "kitchen cabinet," attended the Nov. 7 meeting where this proposal was considered.
According to these sources, Dart proposed to the group that it quickly give Reagan one name as a recommended secretary of the treasury -- Simon -- one name for attorney general -- William French Smith, Reagan's personal lawyer -- and three names for each of the remaining Cabinet posts.
Dart said Reagan should be encouraged to move quickly on his Cabinet appointments to avoid a lot of political pressures later, and to give the new appointees a running start on their jobs in Washington.
However, according to a source who was present at the meeting, "We slept on it for a while and then common sense prevailed." The "kitchen cabinet" decided not to rush the process, and to give Reagan a range of choices for every Cabinet job, as Reagan himself had originally requested. "What if Reagan didn't want to appoint the one choice we gave him?" this source asked.
According to informed sources, the idea of speedy selection of the Cabinet was also backed by George Shultz and Alan Greenspan, like Simon veterans of the Nixon-Ford administrations and would-be members of the Reagan administration. Questioned about this yesterday, however, Shultz said, "I haven't advocated anything."
Reportedly, Simon feared that if he were not named quickly to the Cabinet, the many people in the Republican Party whom he has alienated over the years would mobilize opposition that could sabotage his appointment. Opposition to Simon has materialized in recent days. According to Monday's Wall Street Journal, former president Ford may have warned Reagan that Simon's abrasive personality makes him a difficult Cabinet colleague.
Simon now works for a Saudi Arabian prince, Suliman Saleh Olayan, helping the Saudi invest petrodollars in the West. He was in Saudi Arabia yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
According to numerous sources close to Reagan, Simon is extremely anxious for a place in the new administration. Though he had expressed interest in running the Pentagon or the State Department, he is willing to go back to the Treasury, which he ran in 1974-77. Dart, who is an avid Simon admirer, has said publicly that as far as he was concerned, Simon was the first, second and third choice for the Treasury post.
Reagan himself does not have a particularly close relationship with Simon, according to knowledgeable sources, but the president-elect is expected to put great weight on the recommendations of the "kitchen cabinet" group, which includes his oldest friends and counselors and some prominent members of the Republican establishment.
At a meeting Monday in Reagan's Pacific Palisades home, the president-elect reviewed the group's recommendations with Vice President-elect George Bush and other advisers, including prospective White House aides James A. Baker III, Edwin Meese III and Michael Deaver; Sen. Paul Laxalt (r-Nev.); campaign manager William Casey; executive talent scout E. Pendleton James, and campaign press secretary Lyn Nofziger.
According to one informed source, Reagan went through the list name by name and listened to "rather straight-forward advice on each candidate" from those present in his living room.Reagan decided on "several" choices for Cabinet posts, the source said, refusing to elaborate.