PRESIDENT REAGAN intends to stick with his nomination of Kenneth Adelman as director of the arms control agency, notwithstanding the delay imposed by a closely divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So the consideration of the appointment will go on. We have been reviewing Mr. Adelman's record and going over the new material brought out in the committee, and we remain convinced that he is a reasonable choice.
True, Mr. Adelman is not the experienced arms control figure who might easily have stilled some senators' doubts about his conservative inclinations. Nor does his nomination seem to fill the longing of some senators for someone who can conceivably move the president off what they see as his wrongheaded approach to the arms control talks.
But are these the standards by which a midterm nominee must be judged? Is not a president entitled to a choice who is no novice in the field, has earned a promotion and shares his purposes? Ambassador Adelman is a scholar and policy analyst whose government service includes a year on the inside as aide to a former secretary of defense and two years on the firing line at the United Nations.
Mr. Adelman managed in his second hearing to quell most of the doubts he had raised in his first about his capacity to cope with the material. Still, serious senators, as well as senators with politics plainly on their mind, were left with questions about his views--or, better, about his commitment.
His views are mainstream conservative. He challenged the 1970s SALT process along lines that have since become established Reagan policy--namely, that SALT did not produce real arms reductions, suitable strategic stability or substantial cost savings. Much criticism of his ostensible lack of commitment seems to focus on a report that in a 1981 interview he called arms control a "sham." Mr. Adelman says he recalls no such interview or statement, and he furnishes a range of publications indicating a precisely opposite view.
The heart of the problem, it seems to us, does not lie in Mr. Adelman's commitment. It lies in the widespread public anxiety over Mr. Reagan's commitment. Some senators are plainly playing politics with the nomination. Others have seized on it as one of their few opportunities to send the president a message. There is a certain unhappy tradition of the Senate's using hearings on the arms control directorship for this purpose. In any event, the senators have delivered their message. They should allow Mr. Reagan to get on with his arms control policy, for which, of course, he will be held accountable.