President Reagan accused the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of being "irresponsible" yesterday and said it damaged the United States "in the eyes of our allies and friends" with its unfavorable recommendation of Kenneth L. Adelman, his nominee to head the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
The president said he had the right to choose his own chief arms control negotiator because the idea of seeking an arms reduction agreement with the Soviet Union was his, not the Senate's. He promised to do all he could to get Adelman's nomination confirmed by the full Senate.
"Very frankly," the president told a group of high school students visiting the White House for a question-and-answer period with him, "the Senate is being very irresponsible, and I think that this is pretty much a party-line vote in politics . . . . This is going to the floor, and I'm going to tell you I'm going to do everything I can to urge the Senate to ratify him for this position.
"I think what the committee has done and this whole fuss over him," the president added, "has been injurious to us in the eyes of our allies and friends . . . . We picked this man because the whole idea of arms reductions was mine and I obviously want it, and I wouldn't have picked him if I did not think he was the best man at hand to do the job.
"And frankly," Reagan said, "I'm a little annoyed at the Senate that they don't give me credit for believing that."
On Thursday the Foreign Relations Committee rejected a motion to send Adelman's nomination to the full Senate with a recommendation that he be confirmed to replace veteran arms negotiator Eugene V. Rostow.
Reagan didn't renominate Rostow in January because he reportedly conducted informal negotiations with Soviet negotiators that the president felt undercut his stance at formal arms reductions talks.
Adelman, 36, has been deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and yesterday Reagan said any question that Adelman was too inexperienced to handle the job of chief arms negotiator were dispelled by Adelman's work at the U.N. conference on disarmament.
"We had a chance to see his performance in that," said Reagan, "So, it is not true, as they've been saying, that he does not have experience in arms negotiations. He is a brilliant young man."
Reagan, looking stern as he talked to the high school students, said he was particularly unhappy with senators who have said he is not serious about reducing the number of nuclear weapons.
"A couple of them have actually voiced the thought that they don't believe I'm serious about arms reduction," said Reagan. Then, smiling, he added, "Well, since I've understood from some of the plans that others in the world have, I'd probably be the first target, you can bet I want arms reduction."
In his interview with the students, Reagan was also asked about the recent administration decision to require federally funded birth control clinics to inform parents when a girl under 18 requests a prescription for a birth control device. The rule was to have taken effect yesterday but was blocked by federal court rulings.
"This has to do with the 'squeal law' and I'm not sure that you will be on my side on this but maybe your parents will," Reagan told the students. "It seems to me that where they're all complaining that this is now government interfering with the rights of young people . . . I don't think at a time when we're worried about the family as an institution and wanting to preserve the family as a unit . . . I don't think government has a right to stick its nose into the family and tell parents what they can and cannot know about their children."
The president's interview with the students was broadcast three hours after it took place on C-Span, the Cable TV network, and the president called the students watching the replay to elaborate on some of his comments.
He added that while he was condoning interference in their sex lives with the rule, he was hoping to help them avoid what could be a "tragic mistake" at a young age.