The Rowny memo considerably complicates the Senate confirmation of Kenneth W. Adelman as director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. It also enhances the prospects of a larger-than-expected pro-freeze vote in the House this week.
It is another chapter in the slapstick saga of the administration's frantic efforts to flee from an arms control agreement with the Soviets, although not everybody finds it amusing that our chief negotiator in strategic arms talks is busy carving up his own subordinates when he should be saving the world from nuclear holocaust.
Edward Rowny, a retired general, said he didn't write the Rowny memo; Adelman said he didn't read it.
There certainly was no cause for pride of authorship.
The memo is a spiteful compilation of the names of people on his staff, with several marked for dishing on grounds of insufficient anti-Sovietism.
At best, it indicates a small and vengeful mind at work. At worst, it shows the rampant paranoia that forms the administration's whole approach to arms control. From the fragments so far disclosed, it appears that Rowny disqualifies for arms control service anyone who favors arms control.
For people who fear the Soviets more than nuclear holocaust, it is a splendid document that provides abundant assurance that as long as Rowny is in charge at the so-called START talks there is no danger of progress.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), leader of the nuclear freeze bloc in the House, regards the whole episode as perfect timing for the freeze vote.
"Rowny has listed the 'closet pacifists' in the administration--a closet pacifist being anyone who wants to negotiate with the Soviets."
Paul Warnke, who was director of ACDA under President Carter, said of Rowny: "He has done a favor to the cause of arms control by once again raising questions as to how serious this administration is about it."
The memo with its "has to go" notation beside the name of a career officer who, according to Rowny, wants "progress at any price" is front-page news in Europe, where the chandeliers still are shaking from President Reagan's fiery sermon to the evangelicals in Orlando, Fla.
Preaching to the preachers, Reagan did a marvelous parody of a revivalist minister, flaying those laggards who refuse to join his crusade against the nuclear freeze and the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union.
Rowny's views are well known. In 1977 he opposed Salt II, which he said he thought was a giant Soviet scam, "unequal, unfair and unverifiable." When asked whose fault it was that we got such a bad deal, he told a Senate committee that it was due to "a collective failure of Americans to understand the Russians."
That is, of course, exactly what Reagan has always thought, and it all came pouring out in Orlando.
Rowny's disowning of the memo is not entirely persuasive. He said it was "prepared" for him for "informal talking points."
From preliminary glimpses of the document, so many were subject to his character assassination that it is hard to think who would have been left to do the drafting. And, of course, he thought enough of it at the time to hand it over the lunch table to Adelman.
Adelman got into hot water with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for failing to recollect that he ever had an interview in which he called arms negotiations a "sham." It may be even harder for him to convince skeptics that he was handed a document as interesting as Rowny may have made him feel it was--and failed to so much as glance at it.
At his hearing on Feb. 3, just four days after Rowny gave him the blacklist, Adelman, in answer to a question from Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), said there was not going to be "any purge or housecleaning or anything like that" at ACDA.
To Sen. Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.), who is leading the opposition to Adelman, the incident shows that Adelman cannot control Rowny and that, in fact, he cannot control the arms control agency, a point of view to which many senators now are repairing.
But it doesn't really matter whether Adelman gets the job at ACDA or Rowny loses his in Geneva. The commander-in-chief is running the show.
Reagan knows he has to protest that he is for arms control. He had to dispatch Vice President Bush to Europe to persuade the Old World that he is moderate and flexible.
But he reverted to type in Florida. He really thinks, apparently, as Rowny seems to do, that to make an agreement with the Russians is to shake hands with the devil.