Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Reagan's pot of political gold abroad

That highly regarded pollster and political analyst, Peter Hart, told some Democratic congressmen the other day that if the President could bring about a nuclear arms agreement with the Soviets it would just about nail down his reelection.

As reported by Democratic Congressman Les Aspin, Mr. Hart assessed such an agreement as being more advantageous to President Reagan than achieving 5 percent unemployment. Hart, whose clients are usually Democrats, is not looking for facts that might bolster the President's position.

About these ads

But the President's advisers are telling him the same thing. They are saying, of course, that above all the arms race must be stopped and that a further escalation of it could indeed lead to a nuclear confrontation. And they are stressing that the only way the President can deal realistically with the massive budget deficit is to strike a deal with the Soviets enabling both sides to reduce defense expendi-tures.

But the political side of what is roughly referred to as ''getting along better with the Russians'' is also being argued very strongly by presidential advisers. They see an arms control pact with the Soviets as just about ensuring the President four more years.

So it is not surprising that the President is showing more flexibility in seeking an agreement with Moscow to limit deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe. And that preparations are under way to hold a summit meeting with Yuri Andropov early next year that could open the door to an even broader nuclear arms control or reduction agreement.

A Reagan-shaped nuclear arms pact would indeed take the wind right out of the Democrats' sails. The Democratic presidential candidates, for the most part, are running on the nuclear arms issue, arguing that they are better able to achieve a pact with the Soviets than the President. And they picture Mr. Reagan as a bellicose leader whose tough position is getting him nowhere with Andropov and at the same time is causing excessive defense spending that is running the government into bankruptcy.

A year or so ago the principal Democratic spokesmen were talking mainly about the faltering economy and how a Democratic president could turn things around. But now the economy is improved sufficiently so as to make it less of an issue for the President's challengers.

There is, of course, ''Debategate'' - the flap over acceptance by the Reagan campaign of Carter briefing documents and other papers. The Democrats are still hoping to make a lot out of that issue.

If, for example, either the congressional committee looking into the matter or the FBI finds out that the Reagan campaign was actively involved in penetrating the Carter campaign - in some kind of conspiracy perhaps - then the Democrats might still have a possible winning issue. A sullied Reagan image is all they would need to put new life in an effort to oust a president whose popularity rests principally on public trust in his integrity.

About these ads

But if this potential scandal simply simmers along the way it is now, it isn't going to help the Democrats very much. A new Democratic-disseminated poll indicates the public is well aware of the flap. But, as Mr. Aspin told reporters , among his own constituents in Wisconsin there was little evidence that Reagan was being hurt politically by ''Debategate.''

But the President's quest for global peace will also tend to take the public's thought away from domestic problems. Presidential trips abroad have often been conducted to do precisely that. And certainly this President isn't unmindful that a summit meeting with Andropov would overshadow domestic concerns and issues.

The President's trip this fall to the Far East, also billed as a part of his quest for world peace, will also tend to take the media play away from the Democratic candidates.

So the President, doubtless looking at his place in history, is now resolutely seeking to head off the nuclear arms race before it gets completely out of control. Looking ahead to 1984, he sees political gold in them thar hills across the sea.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.