The first 17 days
We don't know what the first 100 days of the Reagan presidency will bring. But the first 17 days of the Reagan transition period must be settting some sort of record. The President-elect has swung into action with a tempo, self-confidence, buoyancy, and relaxed efficiency which, if they continue, promise to make the job of governing much easier come January 20.
Perhaps most impressive is the spirit of outreach from the Reagan camp. Mr. Reagan gives early signs he wants to be a part of Washington, D.C., and a leader of all the people. Jimmy Carter, the public will recall, stressed the latter but thought he could achieve his goals better as a Washington outsider. He was defeated in part, perhaps, because he failed to learn how to be comfortable with the "insiders" and to use the levers of political power such closeness could afford him. Mr. Reagan's political instincts are different. He already is courting the Washington establishment -- meeting with leaders of all persuasions on Capitol Hill, dropping in on the Supreme Court (when has a president-elect last done that?), and inviting astonished media, business, and other figures to dinner
The government-in-waiting has yet to be shaped. But the transition team clearly knows its way around as it casts about for recruits, high and low, and prepares budget-cutting and other policies to enable Mr. Reagan to get off to a fast start. WE are most pleased that in the talent hunt the President-elect is broaden ing his ideological and georgraphic base, bringing in, for instance, a non-Californian to be his chief of staff. The names being bruited for Cabinet posts are by and large highly competent men and women across the Republican political spectrum. They even include some Democrats. Without publicly alienating the New Right forces which helped bring him the election victory, Mr. Reagan nonetheless in dicates his administration will not be hidebound philosophically. Approving moderate Republican Howard Baker as Senate majority leader is in line with what is expected to be a pragmatic approach to governing.
This is not to get carried away after just 17 days. Ths interim period necessarily lends itself to a bit of euphoria, when the prospect of a new start, a fresh face or two, a different approach, gives hope all the nation's problems will somehow evaporate after Inauguration Day. Of course every American knows differently. Questions already are raised about the Reagan approach. Can Mr. Reagan succeed in restructuring the Cabinet so that it becomes the main policymaking body, something many other presidents have tried and failed to do? Will be really be able toget a handle on the federal bureaucracies and special-interest groups in Washington, all pulling and pushing against each other? How will he deal with the growing assertiveness of the right-wing coservative forces? How much flexibility will he really have in altering the basic policies of the Carter administration, at home or abroad? Mr. Reagan already has modified his positions as he has learned more.
Nevertheless the President-elect's beginning is noteworthy. Most of all, perhaps, in the sense of outgoing optimism and self-assurance he and his team convey. In contrast with the Carter Privacy and studied informality, Mr. Reagan seems unsel-consciously comfortable in the spotlighted role of a leader. It would be asking the ideal to expect this aura of harmony between Republicans and Democrats in an interregnum period to persist into the new regime. But if Mr. Reagan can continue to cultivate a spirit of bipartisan cooperativeness -- and imbue the American people with the kind of can-do buoyancy we have seen so far -- the next 1,519 days could prove to be ones of large accomplishment.