Responsibility for coordinating President Reagan's preparations for next week's seven-nation summit confeence in Ottawa has been shifed from Vice President Bush to White House deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, according to senior administration officials.
And there are some concerns within the administration's highest echelon that Bush's rather short tenure as a summit coordinator, while it may have brought a ceasefire to the intramural warfare on the Reagan team, may also have failed to resolve problems over how the president can best be briefed.
"There is no dissatisfaction with Vice President Bush," said a highlevel White House official, in confirming the recent shift of duties, which was made without announcement. He said that since Deaver had been designated to coordinate all foreign trips, it had always been assumed that at some point "the baton would pass to Mike."
But some top-ranking officials, both within the White House staff and outside it, say this was not the case. There was, they say, some concern among the president's advisers that, with the summit now just a week away, the final briefing papers and preparations were not yet in adequate shape and that this was why the task was shifted to Deaver.
"There was some talk in the White House that it was not in shape," said one senior presidential assistant. And a senior State Department official, in assessing the coordination of the Ottawa summit plans through Bush's office said: "There is some question as to whether it has worked out. Deaver has come to the rescue once again." He said that some of the president's advisers had been concerned about a "lack of detail and lack of specificity" in the two large briefing books that have been prepared.
Bush's entry into the field of summit coordination came last March as somewhat of an emergency, stop-gap measure. He was drafted into the job after the president ans his senior White House advisers were dissatisfied with the way materials had been prepared for Reagan's first trip to Ottawa to confer with prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The State Department had led the way for those preparations, under the guidance of Secretary Alexander M. Haig Jr. Other Cabinet officials, including Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige and Trade Representative William E. Brock, had complained that they had not been adequately consulted.
The president and his advisers also were dissatisfied with what they considered to be the late delivery and unwieldy form of the final briefing books for that trip; the material had been sent over by the State Department and delivered to the president by his national security advisier, Richard V. Allen.
Because of that dissatisfaction, Reagan asked Bush -- according to a plan worked out by Reagan's chief aides James A. Baker III, Edwin Meese III and Deaver -- to take over preparations for the Ottawa summit to make sure that no one Cabinet member dominated the process, that all parties were consulted and all deadlines met. When Deaver was designated to be in charge of all presidential trips, White House officials always stressed that this meant all trips except the big Ottawa summit. Responsibility for that, it was always said, remained Bush's.
A special Ottawa summit task force was created with Bush as chairman. But the task force never met, according to administration officials chairman. But the task force never met, according to administration officials. An aide to the vice president explained that the task force was created to be used only in cases of internal conflict over policy or purpose, and this conflict never materialized. "Nobody has told us . . . that they felt they haven't been consulted," said one Bush policy aide.
The vice president's personal role in coordinating the Ottawa summit preparations was minimal, according to officials on his staff and elsewhere in the administration. Nevertheless, under the aegis of his office, the coordination seems to have been accomplished with no complaints about lack of consultation and none of the intramural friction that characterized Reagan's first trip out of the country.
Bush conferred with top administration officials just after he was designated to coordinate the summit and, according to his aides, he set the initial tone and scope for the effort.
But then the task of coordinating the effort was mostly assigned to Bush's national security adviser, Nancy Bearg Dyke, who is well respected in the administration's circle of international affairs experts but who has a relatively junior ranking.
The Lead work and implementation was once again handled mainly by two top-level State Department officials: Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Myer Rashish, and assistant secretary of state for economic affairs Robert D. Hormats, who chaired the interdepartmental group that worked out most of the actual policy coordination for the summit.
"All along the vice president really viewed himself as a coordinator rather than the one who is really in charge," said an aide to Bush. "The vice president saw his role as making sure things are done thoroughly and in time -- and if there were conflicts to try to resolve them. But he didn't have to play that role."
This aide also confirmed that Deaver, not Bush, was "in charge" of the summit coordination as of last week. "We have passed the baton to the White House staff," the aide said relying upon the same metaphorical twirl that was used by a Reagan aide. "It's appropriate. The schedule has been followed. The books are . . . [assembled]. Now they have to be put in shape for the president. What is left is to put it in the preferred form for the president. And Mike Deaver knows better than [Bush's aides] . . . what the president wants."
Left without a major role in all this baton-passing seems to be the president's national security adviser, Richard V. Allen. State Department officials Rashish and Hormats had done most of the primary implementation, coordinating through the vice president's office, and now the whole matter is being run by Deaver. The president also decided last week to eliminate his daily briefing by his national security adviser, opting to receive only a written report from now on.
That decision came in the wake of continued reports of dissension between Haig and Allen and continued uncertainty within the highest councils of Reagan's national security team.
Haig had recently drawn the anger of the president and his senior aides after two of his State Department deputies criticized U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick. Then, Allen had incurred the displeasure of some senior White House and State Department officials after he was reported as having been bluntly critical of Haig in conversations with reporters. Allen subsequently met with presidential aides Meese and Baker to deny that he had spoken critically of Haig, according to an informed source.
With this unrest at the top, there has been speculation in some quarters in Washington that Reagan may be looking to give Bush, who is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former ambassador to the United Nations, a broader role as a foreign policy adviser. But a senior White House official said he does not expect that to occur, even though Bush recently returned from consultations in Paris with President Francois Mitterrand with some warm words of praise from the new French leader.
More likely, according to another high level Reagan official outside the White House, is that the president will begin having longer and more frequent private meetings with Haig, who, despite the continuing controversies, is viewed as best able to convey to the president the details and nuances of diplomatic affairs.