Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan appeared July 15 to have eliminated the last possible issue between the conservative wing of the Republican Party and the so-called Eastern establishment that is more liberal.
Before his address to the GOP convention here Tuesday evening, the former Nixon- Ford secretary of state met with Mr. Reagan Tuesday morning and then told a press conference that their views were "compatible."
It is safer for America, he said, to elect Mr. Reagan than to continue a policy of "drift and ever-accelerating crisis" under President Carter.
Mr. Kissinger, the protege of the late Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York, was specifically attacked by Mr. Reagan at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City for years ago.
"Henry Kissinger's recent stewardship of US foreign policy," Mr. Reagan said at that time, "has coincided precisely with the loss of US military supremacy. . . . Under Kissinge and Ford this nation has become No. 2 in military power in a world where it is dangerous -- if not fatal -- to be second best."
Four years later, it is sweetness and light. The most difficult phrase for Kissinger to accept in the hard-line GOP tentative platform apparently is thtat which demands "superiority" in arms over the Soviets. He said he favors an arms buildup, but that this should not become "a numbers game" and that "we must have a military establishment that will deprive any possible opponent of any chance of success."
The Soviets, he added, prefer predictability to vacillation in an American leader. He repeatedly declared that while there must be resistance to Soviet expansionism there must also be a willingness to negotiate "at all times."
Reagan supporters booed Henry Kissinger at the 1976 convention. They had tried and failed to wrest the nomination from President Ford that year, and they manifested their displeasure at Mr. Ford's secretary of state as he slipped into the Cabinet box in the convention hall.
Now, with an ironic switch in roles, former California Governor Reagan is to be the candidate of his party and former President Ford has just delivered a stem-winding denunciation of Jimmy Carter on the convention hall here. It also brought wistful proposals that Mr. Ford consider -- just consider -- the thought of running for vice-president on the Reagan ticket. No, said Mr. Ford, absolutely no.
In spite of the events of this week, there are some here who still wonder if the ideological break between Messrs. Reagan and Ford is healed, as both insist. It comes down to a difference in dogma on a fundamental international issue that surfaces again and again in the drive to unify the party: The anti- Kissinger forces say the Soviet Union cannot be trusted under any immediate circumstances short of absolute US arms superiority; former Secretary Kissinger says, on the other side, that a watchful arrangement on spheres of influence can be worked out with the Communists -- an arrangement of detente like that tentatively engineered by Mr. Kissinger in Richard Nixon's administration.
Who invited Henry Kissinger to speak before the 1980 GOP convention, demanded an angry a far-right weekly circulated among GOP delegates here just before MR. Kissinger's scheduled address.
The feud between so-called Eastern Establishment Republicans and the less internationalist Midwestern and Western delegates has smoldered for years.
When President Ford clinched the nomination four years ago, he allowed Reagan forces, as a kind of consolation prize, to expand the foreign policy plank. An insertion was made saying, "Ours will be a foreign policy which recognizes that in international affairs we must make no undue concessions; that in pursuing detente we must not grant unilateral favors with only the hope of getting future favors in return."
Another change indirectly criticized President Ford, without mentioning him, for not inviting Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the White House, an exclusion recommended by Mr. Kissinger. Also criticized was the so-called Helsinki agreement which accepted Communist domination over Eastern Europe.
Then, as now, Mr. Reagan appears to take a tougher line toward the Soviets than did Presidents Ford and Nixon. The new 1980 party platform demands superiority over Soviet arms, not equality. Messrs. Ford and Kissinger give guarded support to the SALT II treaty; on Monday night Mr. Ford declared:
"I am not against a SALT II treaty, but we better have one negotiated from strength." By contrast, the new GOP platform "rejects the fundamentally flawed SALT II treaty."
What unites all sides in the convention here is the denunciation of the Carter administration for alleged weakness and ineptness and for the relative decline of American military power versus the Soviet Union.