That J. Stanley Pottinger, an erstwhile John Anderson backer with a yen for Teddy Kennedy, has been given the top rating for a sub-Cabinet appointment in the Reagan administration comes naturally for the president-elect's, headhunters.
Pottinger is an accomplished Washington lawyer with an impressive record of government service. What he lacks is the slightest empathy for Ronald Reagan, what Reagan stands for or Reagan's goals for the nation.
Such subjective considerations were simply excluded by Reagan's headhunters in feeding thousands of names into the computer since Nov. 4. The operation run by E. Pendleton James, a Los Angeles-based professional headhunter who fits corporate managers into proper niches, is non-political and non-ideological.
Stan Pottinger is a classic case. As the Nixon administration's assistant attorney general for civil rights, he fought for steady federal intervention in favor of racial minorities. That clearly is not in harmony with Reagan's intentions.
More starting is Pottinger's political record. For the 1980 presidential campaign, he contributed $1,000 to Sen. Edward Kennedy, gave $250 to George Bush and ran, unsuccessfully, for Maryland delegate to the Republican National Convention pledged to Rep. John Anderson. The one consistency in these eclectic presidential preferences: no support of any kind, any time for Reagan.
None of this is noted on Pottinger's computer punch card in the Reagan transition office, a card that incredibly gives him No. 1 (tops of three) ratings. Still, some Reaganite ideologue might restore reality by eventually throwing away Pottinger's card. The same is not true of David Gergen.
Gergen, a Nixon-Ford administration speech writer who now edits Public Opinion magazine for the American Enterprise Institute, is a conservative Republican but no Reaganite. As a sometime adviser to Bush's presidential campaign, he not only was stridently anti-tax cut but belittled Reagan personally. Even today, Gergen does not embrace Reagan's tax-cutting philosophy.
Yet Gergen is set to join the White House staff as deputy to chief of staff James Baker -- unless he gets something better. The something better is running the International Communications Agency (formerly the USIA.) Gergen, his anti-Reagan past unnoted, is front-runner for this coveted position.
While anti-Reaganites get preference, there is back-of-the-hand treatment for longtime Reaganites such as Ohio state Sen. Donald (Buz) Lukens. In an administration filling up with officials who did not support Reagan for the nomination in 1980 or in 1976, Lukens dates his Reaganite loyalties back to that first try for president in 1968.
Lukens' desire to become chief of congressional liaison may have been reaching too high, but it was rudely and summarily rejected on grounds of inadequate experience. Whatever he may lack, former congressman Lukens would have brought to that highly political post personal and ideological commitment to Reagan. The same cannot be said of the man who got the job: Federal Election Commission Chairman Max Friedersdorf, a professional Washington officeholder and former Nixon aide without ties to Reagan.
Political clearance for Pottinger, imminent appointment of Gergen, summary rejection of Lukens and scores of similar cases reveal the hand of chief headhunter Penn James. Immediately after the election, he told a Reagan campaign operative that past service for Ronald Reagan would not be a criterion for office. Indeed, if it were, James would not be chief headhunter.
There is also evidence that James' agenda goes beyond staffing the administration. The chief executive officer of a California-based corporation told us of receiving a call from one of James' associates, requesting names of businessmen qualified for government service and then suggesting the executive might need James' firm for his own headhunting.
Whether or not such conflict of interest is widespread, Reagan's headhunting is based on what shows up on job resumes. The plea of one veteran Republican that character and ideology be placed above experience went unheeded.
Lists compiled by Penn James contain all too few of what newly appointed national security adviser Richard Allen calls "Reaganauts." Since most Cabinet members were picked for supposed administrative ability rather than for what they think, little help is likely from them. That leaves the new president, and he cannot possibly sift through hundreds of unfamiliar names to weed out those who fail to share his own philosophy and policies but who were nevertheless chosen by his headhunters to carry them out.