Walter F. Mondale, attempting to raise doubts about President Reagan's competence on war-and-peace issues, charged today that Reagan's arms control efforts are "doomed" because "he has not mastered what he must know to command his own government and to lead" on foreign policy.
In a speech before 2,500 supporters jammed into a movie theater here, Mondale praised Reagan's "good intentions" but attacked Reagan's detached governing style and cited specific examples of the president's factual slip-ups on arms control details.
The Democratic presidential nominee said, "A president must know what he wants, but he must also be in touch and in charge. There's no reason to doubt Mr. Reagan's desire for peace. He dreams the same dreams we do. But a president must also master, command, learn and lead.
"You can dream all you want, but if you believe that nuclear missiles can be recalled after they're launched, as Mr. Reagan did, you won't lead us toward a safer world.
"You can dream to your heart's content, but if you think that submarines and bombers don't have nuclear warheads on them, as Mr. Reagan thought, you won't move us back from the brink.
"You can dream of the lion laying down with the lamb, but if you don't learn that most Soviet missiles are land-based, as Mr. Reagan didn't bother to learn, then your efforts at arms control are doomed.
"When the fate of the Earth is at stake, good intentions are not enough, and good intentions are all that we have today."
Mondale's speech appeared to be a renewed effort on his part to raise questions about Reagan's competence.
He leveled his charges after Reagan's meeting last week with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko at the White House.
Mondale called the meeting a "failure."
"In four years, this administration has not achieved a single, significant foreign policy success," said Mondale, who is struggling to close Reagan's nationwide lead in polls of between 15 and 20 points.
"When a president doesn't know what he must, he can't command," Mondale said. "It guarantees deadlock among his advisers. The forces of inertia inevitably prevail. Those who oppose progress almost always win. When a president is not vigorously involved, things just don't happen, and they're not.
"If a president doesn't know, if he doesn't decide, a president can't lead."
Mondale's charges today echoed those of Reagan's critics who say that hard-liners in his administration, particularly at the Pentagon, successfully blocked nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviets because Reagan was not familiar enough with the material to overrule them.
An aide said Mondale's accusations were in part based on the new book, "Deadly Gambits," by Time magazine diplomatic correspondent Strobe Talbott. It chronicles the infighting among Reagan's subordinates on nuclear arms control.
"In Central America there are no talks, in the Middle East there is no policy, in Lebanon there was no protection and on Earth there is no arms control," Mondale declared to the cheers of an overflow audience in this college town.
On the Sept. 20 Beirut bombing, Mondale said that Reagan has responded with a "parade of alibis" by blaming past presidents and incomplete security. "We all know when you're dealing with bloody terrorists you need a tough president who does what needs to be done to protect our people," Mondale said.
He noted that even former president Gerald R. Ford had called on Reagan to accept responsibility for the suicide bomb attack that killed two Americans.
Mondale was met at the Newark airport by Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), who is running for reelection, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Neither accompanied the Democratic nominee to the rally because, a Mondale aide said, they had to rush back to vote on the civil rights bill in the Senate.