President Reagan, asked why his Central America commission includes no women, said last night that perhaps his administration "is doing so much and appointing so many" that it no longer needs to appoint a female "token or something."
Only one other question--among nearly 30 asked at his news conference--did not have to do with his foreign policies. A reporter asked him to explain why he felt it was necessary for the FBI to investigate charges that his 1980 campaign obtained information from President Carter's campaign.
"There you go again," Reagan said, smiling at the question by Lester Kinsolving, a Washington journalist known for asking needling questions of public officials. "I thought we were going to set a record and I was going to be able to go upstairs and say, 'How about that, not a single question on it.' "
Reagan said the reason he asked the FBI to intervene was to get "completely to the bottom of this to see if there was any wrongdoing, to see if there was anything unethical."
After laughing at the reporter's suggestion that the scandal might simply be "Washington Post-National Enquirer-style summer theater," the president suggested that that said: "There could have been a break-in . . . . That was what some of them said . . . . .There could have been an element of were these things actually stolen by someone in the White House? Was there involvement of White House staff in campaign activities who were supposed to be performing other government positions? There are any number of things that should be looked at."
The question about the lack of a woman on the Latin America commission flowed out of Reagan's response to why he had he appointed former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger to head the commission.
Reagan responded that Kissinger has been a victim of a stereotype that a "rereading of history will indicate is not valid." When asked if the absence of women on the commission was not support charges that he is insensitive to women, Reagan said:
"Maybe it's because we're doing so much and appointing so many that, we're no longer seeking a token or something. It just came out that these were the 12 that we selected. We wanted six opponents. We wanted six on our side. But we've appointed over 1,000 women in executive positions here in government, three members of the Cabinet, never before in history, and one member of the Supreme Court . . . . It's just a case of our record isn't known."
Despite Reagan's claims about the number of his female appointees, Republican women have complained that they are not being asked for their ideas.
Reagan made one mistake in listing his administration's record on women's rights by saying that housewives can now have Individual Retirement Accounts.
Housewives are still prohibited from starting the accounts, although working husbands with a non-working wife are allowed to add an extra $250 to the $2,000 limit on annual IRA investment. The White House recently rejected an internal proposal to allow housewives to put the full $2,000 in an IRA.
Kathy Wilson, leader of the National Women's Political Caucus, said Reagan is incorrect in claiming his administration has a better record on appointing women than did President Carter.
According to month-by-month comparisons, Wilson said, Reagan has appointed 77 women to posts requiring Senate confirmation, about 10 percent of all those posts, compared with 96 appointments by Carter, a 15 percent record. And Wilson said Reagan has appointed women to only 8.3 percent of judicial posts, compared with 15 percent for Carter.