Senior presidential advisers sought to muzzle White House political director Edward J. Rollins and his staff because they worried that Rollins and others were talking too much in public about still-unsettled plans and strategy for the fall campaign, sources said yesterday.
White House chief of staff James A. Baker III told the feisty Rollins to curtail his contacts with the press after a wire service story carried some details of Reagan's fall campaign schedule that have not been made final, the sources added.
The White House is still grappling with how to parcel out Reagan's time and energy in the congressional campaigns and senior aides did not want to get locked in to a heavy schedule this early, they added.
Deputy White House press secretary Larry Speakes said yesterday that Rollins had not been told to "shut-up" or been "muzzled." But Speakes said Rollins decided after talking with Baker to concentrate on "getting congressmen and senators elected."
"I don't know whether he was given a specific order or not," Speakes said. But the controversial political director and Baker "see eye-to-eye" on the decision, he added.
"Ed subscribes to the theory that it's not good politics to talk strategy, numbers or priorities, not to telegraph your strategy. That's rule No. 1 of politics.
"So," Speakes said, "Ed will talk to reporters as he chooses, but he just points out that he's going to be extremely busy."
Speakes said "this is no way diminishes respect for Rollins" whose political office is "the most effective in recent history." But other officials said privately that while Rollins is doing a good job, they worry that he talks about it too much in public.
The Rollins matter came at the same time, but was not related to, complaints last week from some Cabinet members that unidentified White House aides were sniping at them in the press. Speakes said yesterday Reagan had "taken note" of the criticism and tried to reassure the Cabinet members.
"In his last Cabinet meeting last week, Reagan told the Cabinet that he did not like leaks. They did not reflect him or his views or the senior staff's views and that he thought it was a good solid Cabinet," Speakes said.