Concerned about a stream of speculative reports anticipating Ronald Reagan's policies toward various parts of the world, the president-elect's chief foreign policy adviser has warned about 200 transition officials and policy planners to curtail their comments on international affairs.
In a memo sent Saturday to all 120 members of Reagan's Foreign Policy Advisory Board and to transition team workers in the national security field, Reagan aide Richard V. Allen noted that those working for Reagan now "have to anticipate the distortions that might result from your conversation . . . the usual disclaimer of not speaking for the president-elect may not be enough."
James Brady, press secretary at the transition office here, said Allen sent the memo after "a whole raft of [press] stories . . . about advisers who supposedly were sending signals to foreign governments." The stories suggested that Reagan people were traipsing all over the world setting policy, Brady said. "The traipsing can create misleading impressions but . . . the traipsers are not doing it in our behalf," he added.
Reagan spent yesterday in Los Angeles reviewing potential appointments to his administration. A senior member of his staff said the president-elect had reached decisions on eight of the 11 Cabinet jobs he has to fill.
Reagan also sent a message to the National League of Cities conference in Atlanta, promising to "use the moral authority of the presidency to speak out against the racial animosity and imbalance that now afflicts some of our cities." He said he also will work for legislation that would provide incentives for industry to open new facilities in "enterprise zones" in depressed cities.
Allen's memorandum to foreign policy advisers was sent out after the Reagan transition office had to respond to recent stories in which policy planners' comments had been reported as official writ from the president-elect. p
One story concerned a meeting among transition foreign policy advisers and a group of businessmen from El Salvador. The New York Times reported that the Salvadorans present said they had been assured the president-elect would increase military aid to government forces fighting leftists there.
Another grew out of a trip to Taiwan by Ray Cline, a Reagan adviser who heads the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University. Cline was reported to have urged that China stop emphasizing its claimed sovereignty over Taiwan. Peking immediately blasted Cline and complained again that Americans were "crudely interfering" in Chinese affairs.
The Reagan foreign policy team was also upset by a Washington Star story in which an unidentified aide was quoted as suggesting that Reagan would expand the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.
Allen said he was ordered by Edwin Meese III, Reagan's closest aide and the director of the transition, to set up a special office to keep tabs on contacts between Reagan advisers and foreign governments.
In his memo to the various advisers, Allen warned that foreign officials and journalists "are often under intense pressure to produce a report on the likely policy that the Reagan administration will pursue . . . . For journalists, in fact, stories on future 'Reagan policies' may be the only game in town.
"Given these pressures . . . in some cases, a meeting 'postponed' may be trouble avoided."
Jeane Kirkpatrick, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who is a member of Reagan's Interim Foreign Policy Advisory Council, agreed that the risk of misunderstanding is great. "Almost all the people I have talked to, people from other countries, misunderstand the relationship between the sitting president and the candidate who won the election," she said.
"They think there is a Reagan administration operating right now," Kirkpatrick said. "At the least, they think this a matter of shared power between Reagan and Carter."
Kirkpatrick was one of those who spoke with the delegation from El Salvador, and she says the reports about Reagan's policies on arms shipments to the government resulted from such a misunderstanding. "I'm sure that somebody [among the Reagan advisers present] said 'I think we should increase military aid,' and the [Salvadorans] did not understand that this was somebody's personal view and nothing more."
The Reagan transition is a complex bureacracy of transition teams, "issues clusters," and advisory committees; there are at least 85 advisory groups of one sort or another and the total number of people connected in some way to the transition is probably close to 1,000. The highest-ranking transition officials have complained almost daily about various "policies" emanating from one source or another.
The Reagan people say the problem is more serious in the international policy area. Reagan's chief domestic adviser, Martin Anderson, said yesterday he has no plans to issue a memo like Allen's to domestic policy planners.
"There are so many people," Anderson said. "If you tell them not to talk, they'll probably just say more."