The Reagan cabinet-selection process has evoked two views here. One is that the President-elect's slow, thorough screening of candidates speaks well of the kind of administrator he is likely to be.
The other is that Ronald Reagan has been so detached from the process, or apparently so, that he has raised questions as to whether he may be a president who delegates too much authority to those close around him.
On Monday the Reagan transition office announced the nominations of former South Carolina Gov. James Edwards as energy secretary, Colorado lawyer James Watt as secretary of the interior, black lawyer Samuel Pierce of New York as secretary of housing and urban development (HUD), and Prof. Jeane Kirkpatrick of Georgetown University as US ambassador to the United Nations. Nomination of Illinois director of agriculture John Block as US secretary of agriculture was expected, but was temporarily delayed pending completion of a routine security check.
Besides agriculture, Reagan still must appoint a secretary of education and a special trade representative, also a cabinet-level post.
Those who have been insiders in the selection process contend that Reagan has only been "detached" in the sense of insisting on keeping a low profile during the transition.
They insist that after preliminary screening by others he, and he alone, has made the final assessments and choices.
The Reagan criteria in his selections, which his aides say he has monitored carefully, follow:
1. All appointees have had to make it clear thay they are in agreement with the basic Reagan philosophy and goals. This means they must satisfy Mr. Reagan that they are committed to less government spending and a diminished governmental role.
2. Each appointee has to indicate to Reagan's satisfaction that he or she believes in being a team player -- "not a superstar," as one aide describes this requirement.
"The key word that Reagan uses again and again in making these appointments," the aide says, is "team.'"* He is insisting that he has no one on board who is likely to try to steal the limelight.
3. Finally, the President-elect makes "high intelligence" and "proven competence" requirements for all appointments. "You take a look at Reagan's new cabinet," the aide says, "and you will find they are all exceptionally bright, topflight people."
Critics of the Reagan administration-to-be have been suprisingly mild in their comments about the Cabinet-level choices.
From the liberal side comes almost a sigh of relief as those who earlier expressed anxiety over Mr. Reagan's possible choices now seem to feel that the appointees are not conservative zealots.
And the choice of Mr. Pierce as HUD secretary and Dr. Kirkpatrick to be UN ambassador blunts some of the criticism that Reagan was failing to appoint women or members of minority groups.
Dr. Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who became a Reagan supporter in the election campaign, has been criticized as willing to subordinate human-rights concerns if they conflict with friendly relations with certain national regimes. However, this is not expected to delay Senate ratification of her appointment.
Mr. Watt's appointment to head the Interior Department may be another matter. As director of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, he initiated a number of suits seeking to block or set aside environmental-protection moves. Environmental spokesmen almost unanimously have condemned this Reagan selection from the time its possibility was first mentioned.
Said Trent Orr, attorney for the National Resources Defense Council: "He's really in the camp of the speediest route to development. It's incumbent upon the environmental community to oppose his nomination."