Peace may come in the Middle East before it prevails within the Reagan White House, where the president's foreign policy speech last week provoked a new battle between the communications division and national security officials.
As communications director David R. Gergen and his allies see it, national security adviser William P. Clark and his staff deal with the American people and other White House aides on a need-to-know basis--and don't think that either needs to know very much.
Last week, on the eve of what was supposed to be a major policy address, Gergen & Co. were in the dark about the key idea that Reagan wanted to convey in a speech that was otherwise a laundry list of foreign policy proposals. This was Reagan's spelling out of the four "sound principles" for reaching an agreement with the Soviets on controlling intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Gergen and deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver weren't wild about the draft of the speech, which they thought tame and turgid. They took one look at it, decided it didn't show the president off to good advantage and told network executives they didn't want it televised live.
The national security section also had complaints. The view in the White House basement, where the National Security Council staff is headquartered, was that Gergen's insistence on releasing excerpts of the speech the night before triggered a hunt for news that wasn't there, particularly by the networks.
The nets and some newspapers battened on Reagan's statement that he would "guarantee" the security of the northern borders of Israel, a word he had used to describe the same concept on at least three prior occasions.
The communications staff argues that it was the national security staff that selected the inserts. The complaints go on, unresolved, like two ships passing in the night.
Whether new or not, whether mishandled or not, the national security view is that the speech cast Reagan as a president serious about arms control, continuing the public relations offensive launched by Vice President Bush in Europe and directed at the West German elections next Sunday. And to make sure this happened, foreign governments and press were notified ahead of time even if the White House staff wasn't.
A hint of double standard crept into the defensive explanations by the White House press office last week on the issue of the embattled Environmental Protection Agency. Many reporters, including some usually sympathetic to spokesman Larry Speakes, have come to believe that the White House is playing semantic games, using narrow definitions when it suits the president's purpose while urging that Reagan be given the broadest possible latitude.
Thus when Reagan says "guarantee," as noted above, it is the same as "assurance." But when Speakes uses the words "internal review" to describe the activity of White House counsel Fred Fielding in dealing with the EPA controversy, reporters are upbraided for calling it an "investigation."
The tie that blinds: worn by U.S. Information Agency director Charles Z. Wick as a personal contribution to the "public diplomacy" campaign, it contains the all-purpose slogan, "Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport." Maybe Wick could also be induced to wear the button that says: "George Orwell Was an Optimist."
President Reagan's trip to Klamath Falls, Ore., next Saturday--after a week in California centered around the visit of Queen Elizabeth II--is supposed to demonstrate the recovery of Oregon's recession-depressed lumber mills. It will take a lot of demonstrating.
There were 58,000 people working in the Oregon lumber industry in January, up 3,000 from the previous month. But employment in the same industry in the same state was 69,500 in 1980 when Reagan was campaigning across the country claiming the Carter recession was "a depression." Reagan handily carried Oregon in the election.
Now the president is talking about recovery while Bob Baugh, the Oregon AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, is using the word "depression" to describe the state's lumber industry. He has facts and figures on his side. The overall state unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in 1982, up from 8.9 percent in Carter's last year in office.
Despite a slight recovery, unemployment is still so high in the lumbering industry that the White House advance team scoured the state to find a mill open on Saturdays.
In a recent letter to members of his Cabinet, the president refers to the defense budget as "the No. 1 priority" and urges Cabinet members to talk up defense at every opportunity, something Reagan believes hasn't been done enough by some key members of his administration.
White House chief of staff James A. Baker III was honored Saturday with the Woodrow Wilson Award, presented annually to a Princeton alumnus who exemplifies Wilsonian ideas of public service. Past winners include Adlai E. Stevenson (1963) and Secretary of State George P. Shultz (1971). Reaganism of the Week: "Welcome to the White House," the president told state and local officials gathered in the East Room last Thursday. "I told some people the other day that Nancy and I managed to be very happy here, in spite of having 100 MXs in the basement."