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Reagan's Oval Office strategy: focus on priorities; delegate details

The Reagan blueprint for running the government includes this specific: that the new President and his administration will set up a list of only a few priorities and then focus fully on achieving them.

The priorities are these:

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* Seeking to improve the economy across the board, but with special emphasis on curbing inflation.

* Moving to bring about energy independence in the United States as soon as possible.

* Beefing up the nation's defense posture.

The disclosure of this plan comes as no surprise since Mr. Reagan had indicated all along that as president he would not get bogged down in trying to achieve too many things at once.

A Reagan associate said the reassertion of intentions was being made at this time "because he and we are getting so much pressure now for him to act and move on a multitude of problems.So we need to let people know that this President will stick to his priorities and not be diverted."

Counsels one Washington political leader on the same subject: "It's very important that during this interregnum Reagan let the people know that he's going to avoid the mistake Carter made by spreading himself too thin."

President Carter's chief of staff, Jack Watson, admitted at a breakfast with reporters Dec. 2, that Mr. Carter had "made a mistake by putting too much on his plate" in his first years in the White House.

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Mr. Watson said this came in large part because the President was, in a conscientious way, trying hard to fulfill all the campaign promises he had made.

Said Watson: "The tendency is for a presidential candidate to overpromise. This is followed by a period of disappointment when the President is unable to fulfill those promises.

"Every time this happens, the voters become even more disappointed. And when the President doesn't fulfill his promises, he gets savaged."

But the Reagan people feel they have made no long list of promises or commitments that will have to be kept by the President-elect.

"He'll be able to concentrate on just a few priorities," says an aide.

Reagan is making it known that he will not -- as Carter did, particularly during his first two years -- involve himself in all of the intricacies and paper flow of the legislation his administration is working on.

"Mr. Reagan will never be at the hub of the wheel in the White House, as Carter was," says one aide to the President-elect. "Reagan is a delegator -- and a good one. He proved that when he was in Sacramento. And while he is able to devour paper work -- when needed -- he simply won't let himself get involved in details that can be done by others."

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