The White House public relations machine won't be leaving the news to chance when President Reagan heads west next week to host a state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II.
Deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver has tried to head off the usual spate of stories about Reagan's many vacation trips, certain to be accompanied in this case by pictures of pomp and finery at the San Francisco state dinner for the queen, by arranging a full and varied speaking schedule for a president who otherwise might prefer to spend more time at his ranch in the Santa Barbara area.
On March 3, the day of the dinner, Reagan will promote the U.S. Olympic team at a Los Angeles luncheon.
The following day, he will give what some have described as a major speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, a frequent forum for major league government officials and politicians. On March 5, the Saturday he returns to Washington, Reagan will stop off at a yet-to-be-designated site in the Northwest to celebrate the economic revival in the logging industry.
Administration officials see the logging recovery, spurred by an upturn in housing starts, as a genuine indication that economic recovery is on the way. Traditionally, the logging industry is a harbinger both of recessions and of recovery. Reagan, more bullish than any brokerage firm, intends to use every opportunity to give the economy a psychological lift by proclaiming that recovery has arrived.
Dutifully responding to a White House call to hold a briefing on the upcoming economic summit, Secretary of State George P. Shultz last Thursday gave one of the most premature and least useful briefings of his long and distinguished public career.
After Shultz had said he didn't know what would happen at the summit, scheduled for Williamsburg, Va., during the final week of May, and observed that the agenda hadn't been set, one reporter piped up, "Can we ask why you came? "
"It's not a bad question," Shultz said genially, to laughter from correspondents. "I came, I thought, sort of at your request."
Actually, he came at the request of Deaver and others in the White House who would like the administration to be in front on this summit rather than responding to the agenda of the Europeans, Canadians and Japanese.
And while last week's briefing did not accomplish this, White House planners have sold Reagan on one useful idea: deciding that summit participants should say in advance that they may not issue their usual communique.
What happens, inevitably, is that the communiques are precooked months before the summit. More often than not, in the White House view, these communiques are collections of artfully worded platitudes with little relationship to the summit meeting.
"We're not going into the summit anticipating a communique," Deaver said. "The president would like a real exchange of views."
Ever since the economy failed to revive on schedule in 1982, the president has blamed the nation's problems on policies of the past. In a speech Tuesday to the American Legion, Reagan will try another variation on this favorite theme by contending that his foreign policy looks good when compared with the policies of the Carter administration.
In Reagan's view of the world, the United States was seen as an unreliable ally when he took office and is now regarded as having recaptured a sense of mission and purpose. But don't expect much specificity on what this mission and purpose has produced. White House officials say the speech is "an overview" intended as a mid-term review of foreign policy rather than an occasion for new initiatives.
The word among Republican campaign operatives is that the president's "go" or "no go" decision on whether to seek a second term will be made at at a high-level meeting in California in August while Reagan is vacationing at his ranch. But one source said no date has been set and warns that the meeting may never be held.
"The president and Nancy will decide this one themselves," this longtime friend said. "They don't need a meeting."
Reaganism of the Week: (From an explanation at his news conference about Environmental Protection Agency documents): "Over something less than a hundred documents has played some part in what's going on now."