Political effect: a likely plus
As Ronald Reagan gained strength and the prospect became one of quick, full recovery for the President, political observers here began to assess the likely effect of the incident on the new administration. The early verdict -- with one possible exception --
* Washington observers now see Mr. Reagan gaining both public and congressional support from the tragic event.
Their reference point is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. As an aftermath of national grief and sympathy, his programs were rushed through under the guidance of his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson.
One respected political analyst put it this way:
"The parallel is only a relative one, since Kennedy was killed and Reagan seems to be making a rapid recovery.
"But the same coming together of all Americans behind Kennedy has happened now with Reagan. And, in a relative way, Reagan now should benefit politically for some time from this national sympathy and affection."
* Presidential watchers do place one reservation on this optimistic scenario for Reagan's political standing: The President must be truly able to carry on in a fully presidential way, and his vigorous personal involvement in pushing his economic programs must not be delayed for long.
The consensus of observers here is that should there be some, now unanticipated, delay in the President's ability to play an active role in his administration, then he could lose some of the momentum he has built for his legislative proposals.
* The view from Washington sees the President gaining politically from another factor: the poise, aplomb, and good humor he has been able to bring to his personal crisis.
From all over the United States come reports that people are proud -- even exhilerated -- over the way their President is coping with adversity.
Learning of his quips to the doctors that he hoped they were Republicans, and of the note he wrote them after coming out of surgery -- "All in all, I would rather be in Philadelphia" -- the public responded with pride. "What a man!" several people were heard to remark.
So, only a short time in office, the President has responded to his first big crisis. And the public verdict is clear: Well done!
This kind of public reaction, say observers here, is almost certain to mean an extended "honeymoon" for the President.
* The crisis has forced a quick maturing of the men around the President. As they have moved into position to take responsibility, Vice-President George Bush , Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., and the White House inner circle of Edwin Meese, James Baker, Michael Deaver, and others have all been sobered and strengthened by facing this challenge.
Thus, the President will come back to the job with his hold on the office strengthened, and with those around him in positions of high responsibility tempered in the fire of both extreme personal and administrative cr isis.