Vice-President's portfolio grows
Vice-President Bush is assuming more than just the strong advisory role that Walter F. Mondale had under President Jimmy Carter. President Reagan also is giving Mr. Bush important line responsibilities.
* It appears that the Vice-President will head a new structure for national security crisis management. One White House aide says, "We'll be leaning on Bush's expertise in foreign policy [as former US ambassador to the UN and US liaison to the People's Republic of China] and in the intelligence area [as a former CIA director]."
* Bush is in charge of the President's regulatory reform task force, a major component of Reagan's economic program.
* The Vice-President also heads the President's Atlanta committee, which is directed to help that city solve the killings of children there.
* Additionally, Bush has been given the leadership responsibility in preparing the President for the three-way meeting of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in Ottawa this summer. He soon will set up a committee to propose an agenda for the meeting and to produce the issues papers the President will use for preparation.
Referring to the Vice-President's newest assignment, one administration aide cautioned, "The presidential directive putting Bush in charge of crisis management has not come out yet -- but I'm confident that it will."
In undertaking this task, Bush will assume the important job of chairing meetings in the Situation Room in time of crisis, a job once held by National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski under Mr. Carter.
The President long has made it clear that National Security Adviser Richard V. Allen would keep a low profile in this administration.
Secretary of State alexander Haig, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, or CIA Director William Casey might have been deemed logical choices by the President to head his crisis-management team.
Bush was suggested by presidential associates as being someone whose credentials were so impressive and his position so lofty that he would be a most acceptable compromise selection.
How important has the Vice-Presidential become?
A presidential aide says, "He is almost a co-president. He attends almost all the meetings the President attends. The President values him because he knows the right questions to ask and where to look for the answers."
A another source, close to the Vice-President, said Bush's place in this administration should not be overstated. He said that "the President is building on the Carter-Mondale relationship where Mondale clearly played a major advisory role. I understand that basic to that relationship was a tie of real friendship. That's what binds Reagan and Bush, too. They really like each other."
"I would say," the source continued, "that Bush is playing a fairly prominent role. and he's holding down line jobs across the board -- domestic, foreign, even defense."
The Vice-President and his aides are trying to play down his activities.
"You will notice," one Bush assistant points out, "how supportive Mr. Bush is of the President. Much of his many public utterances are in support of this or that Reagan program."
In a recent Monitor interview, Bush said he had a great opportunity under President Reagan to play a valuable, substantive role. But then he said that he might "blow it" by forgetting that his ability to function meaningfully depends entirely on the President.
Bush said that if he began to hold press conferences and talk about all the things he was doing as Vice-President, this of itself would give the President justification for cutting him down.