Reagan invokes 'mandate'
President Reagan, speaking over the heads of reporters at his Tuesday press conference, went directly to the American people in an effort to build pressure on Congress to enact both his spending and tax cuts by August.
Reminding his audience, and no doubt Democrats of the House of Representatives in the larger audience, that he had received an "overwhelming mandate" in November, Mr. Reagan put all of his presidential power behind his program to "rescue the economy from high inflation and high unemployment." Meeting with the press for the first time since the attempt on his life, he assailed congressional "backsliding" as "unconscionable."
In foreign affairs, Reagan appeared to be showing sympathy for Israel's position. He said that "one has to recognize that Israel had reason for concern in view of the past history of Iraq, which has never signed a cease-fire or recognized Israel as a nation."
Thus, the President, still waiting for a review in the State Department of Israel's raid on Iraq, seemed to be leaning toward a position that would not go much beyond condemnation of the action. He said it was possible the "Israel might have sincerely believed it [the bombing] was a defensive move."
In response to a question, Reagan said he felt no need to spell out his foreign policy in a major address. But in commenting on a number of sensitive situations around the world, he seemed to be trying to convey that he does have a coherent foreign policy.
In his first five months, the President said, he has visited with eight heads of government, Secretary of State Alexander Haig is on his second major foreign trip, and he (Reagan) has communicated directly by letter with Soviet President Brezhnev.
On other matters the President:
* Said the US wishes to raise the status of China to that of other nations allowed to buy weapons from this nation, but which are not "necessarily military allies."
* Declared the administration will continue to furnish defensive weapons to Taiwan, as provided for under Taiwan Relations Act, he asserted.
* Refused to say whether Israel would break US law by using American-built aircraft to attack Syrian missiles in Lebanon. Those missiles are offensive weapons, he said.
* Said it is not US policy, in response to Soviet pressure on Poland, to threaten the Soviets with increased American military help to China.
* Declared himself unalterably opposed to the spread of nuclear weapons, but said verification is difficult. The President acknowledge that Israel has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but asked how many countries that have signed it are working on nuclear weapons.
* Said Ambassador Philip Habib has done "miraculous" work in preventing war between Israel and Syria so far, and that the Habib mission continues until Habib himself says, "I give up."
More than anything else, the President was seeking to translate his popularity into a political force -- one that would persuade Democrats, particularly in the House, that they have no alternative to backing the him on his spending and tax programs.
Implicit, of course, in this Presidential message is that voters should tell their representatives in both the House and Senate that they better get behind the President or possibly lose their seats in 1982.
He said he was on his way toward victory: "I am pleased to report that from my conversations with senators and congressmen, I am convinced there is a gathering, bipartisan consensus" for his economic program.
What was unveiled here was evidence of a presidential judgment that he must enlist the help of the voters if he is to get his top-priority domestic program put into law.
And now -- with this Presidential prod -- some observers are already saying that Mr. Reagan is well on his way toward getting precisely what he is asking.