A prospective summit between President Reagan and Soviet President Yuri V. Andropov has been described at high levels within the White House as the 270th victim of the Korean airline shoot-down.
Acting on intelligence reports that the Soviets will use eastern European proxies to launch a propaganda campaign for a summit, national security affairs adviser William P. Clark last week linked this effort to an anticipated fabrication of evidence designed to show that the Boeing 747 passenger jet was a spy plane.
"Already, they the Soviets are stating and will further spread the word that the airline massacre was the result of strained U.S.-Soviet relations," Clark said in one of his rare public speeches. "They will, of course, blame that relationship on our government's actions and suggest that a summit is called for to reach a greater understanding."
Not everyone in the White House shares Clark's view that Andropov is more eager for a summit than Reagan. On the contrary, some of Reagan's political advisers believe that an election-year summit could have been a huge political plus for a president who still suffers among some constituents, particularly women, because of a warlike image.
"In the short run, Reagan's balanced response to the Soviet action bolstered his standing," one official said after viewing White House public opinion surveys. "It was the right response. But in the long run, the summit is more important, and the Soviets shot that down with the same missiles that destroyed Flight 7."
Look for Reagan ultimately to approve a dramatic NASA proposal for a manned orbiting space station. It is backed by White House political strategists who anticipate that the Democrats will nominate former astronaut Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) for president.
"This is a way to knock his socks off," one administration official said. One adviser said the orbiting station will be a public relations triumph "not unlike putting a man on the moon."
The proposal is opposed by an unusual coalition said to include the Office of Management and Budget, the Defense Department and the CIA.
The OMB is worried about what the multibillion-dollar proposal will do to the burgeoning Reagan budget deficit, and the Pentagon is concerned that the defense budget will be trimmed to ease that worry. And high officials at Defense and the CIA argue that the United States can obtain all of the information it needs, at far less cost, with unmanned satellites.
However, political imperatives dominate as election year approaches, and the White House is anxious for a triumph in space.
The manned station is considered so im- portant that White House political strategists and national security officials, often at odds, teamed up to delete a reference to the proposal from a Labor Day speech Reagan was to give at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. They wanted it showcased in a separate address.
As it turns out, the speech was canceled because of the airliner incident. But the manned space station wasn't, and Reagan is expected to approve it with great fanfare.
Chief of staff James A. Baker III will retain firm control of Reagan political operations after the White House political office closes Oct. 15.
That's the date when the Reagan reelection committee is to open for business under Edward J. Rollins, now White House political director. In place of the White House office, Baker has named trusted executive assistant Margaret Tutwiler as liaison to Republican organizations and the reelection committee.
The appointment enables Baker to coordinate White House efforts with the political groups. In and out of the White House, Tutwiler is known to have Baker's confidence and to speak with authority for him.
Some Republican fund-raisers and political organizers are nervous about activities of the new Citizens for America organization, the Reagan-blessed "nonpartisan" group that will seek to promote the administration agenda. The White House concern is that the effort, headed by defeated New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Lewis E. Lehrman and promoted by what remains of Reagan's California "Kitchen Cabinet," will sop up funds and organizational talent that would otherwise go to the reelection effort.
"We'd like to have the $250,000 that Holmes Tuttle just raised for Citizens for America," one official said last week. Tuttle, one of Reagan's first backers, has been a premier fund-raiser in past campaigns.
Republican National Committee members will be advised by RNC attorneys that they cannot hold their posts and join Citizens of America, which could lose its nonpartisan status if coordinated with the White House or the GOP.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, under fire from western journalists on human rights issues, found a sympathetic ear during his White House visit last week. At one point, he told President Reagan that he had been watching television news on the Middle East.
"Be careful about watching the TV news," warned Reagan, who continues to believe that he gets few breaks from television.
Reaganism of the Week: (To the Republican National Hispanic Assembly last Wednesday): "Where but in Washington would they call the department that's in charge of everything outdoors, everything outside, the Department of the Interior?"