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Mr. Reagan and the press

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It was really rather rude. There was the President, evidently impatient to get away, and there was a roomful of bellowing reporters. From long experience I sensed the problem. Mr. Reagan hadn't had a formal press conference since July 26, when he had his 19th. A kind of hysteria builds up. This meeting now, theoretically, was just a cursory occasion, called to introduce the new national-security adviser, Robert McFar

lane. But under the American scheme of things an interval of three months with no regular presidential give-and-take is a long time. Evidently Mr. Reagan sensed this himself. He met the press here formally Wednesday night, while this earlier affair was what the White House calls a ''quickie.''

The modest, oblong White House briefing room has about 48 seats like a motion picture theater. The color is blue. The President stands at the end on a little platform: He is ruddy and smiling.

Mr. Reagan now introduces ''Bud'' McFarlane, a man likely to be one of the most important influences in Washington and, for that matter, the world. He is a kind of alternate secretary of state. ''I wanted someone of strong principle and keen judgment,'' the President says. He emphasizes ''leadership,'' ''teamwork.''

Mr. McFarlane now speaks. He has a controlled, deliberate, confident manner. He is careful, slow, authoritative. He is attractive. He makes a favorable impression on the tense crowd. It is a little hard to explain the excitement of the moment. The departure of Interior Secretary James G. Watt was a shocker. His replacement by national-security adviser William Clark has also been extraordinary.

The President stands on the little platform with Mr. McFarlane, grinning as the press shouts. ''May I say that there was a lot of speculation and declarations that were based, again, on those faceless and nameless sources,'' he tells one reporter.

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