White House sorts options in Allen case; Reinstatement may rest with 'judgment' issue
National security adviser Richard Allen's chances of fighting his way back into the President's good graces are less than bright. That is the consensus among experts here. And though Mr. Allen and the Reagan administration have tentatively parted company, the brouhaha lingers.
At a breakfast with reporters Nov. 30, presidential counselor Edwin Meese said Allen had done a good job as national security adviser.
But he also said the decision to keep Allen or let him go would not rest solely on whether the Justice Department cleared him. He said Allen's ''judgment'' would be weighed - by Meese and the President. The national security adviser has admitted to bad judgment in not immediately reporting to the White House counsel his receipt of a $1,000 honorarium from Japanese journalists.
Thus, even if the Justice Department report clears Allen of any illegalities, Meese may decide that there are elements in the report that justify recommending to Reagan that Allen's administrative leave be turned into a permanent departure.
Even if the Justice Department report finds nothing negative in Allen's behavior, Meese left the door open for the President to oust his security adviser on the grounds that his judgment has been bad.
Of the Allen case Mr. Meese said: ''It's an unfortunate thing.'' But he added: ''I see no reason why he shouldn't return.''
The impression left with reporters was that Allen just might make it back - but that he's clambering up a slippery slope.
Several White House aides have for some time been saying, not for attribution , that the Allen case is an embarrassment to the administration. Those around the President now hope that with Allen on the sidelines the story will recede. But with Allen ''going public'' on his side of the event, the headlines continue.
Meese said that one damaging effect of the Allen case has been its diversion of public attention from ''other things being done.''
It may be that Allen's main task now is to describe the facts as he sees them in an effort to put an end to the story - or at least take it off the front pages. It appears that this story must cool down fairly soon if Allen is going to find his way back on the team. There also is a growing feeling among Allen's cohorts that he is too controversial a figure - someone they see as always stirring up headlines that harm the administration by diverting public attention from its accomplishments.
Meanwhile, Allen continued his campaign to sweep away what he terms ''the miasma of rumor and innuendo.'' And he insists that he will be back on the job.
In a phone conversation with the Monitor on Nov. 30, Allen said that when he told Meese of his intentions to take administrative leave he said that he thought it was ''good for the administration'' for him to do so.
By this, he said, he meant that this move would free him to speak out and defend himself openly. It also would help White House people, who were being pushed to answer questions that they really knew nothing about and shouldn't have to answer.
But the story keeps building. At breakfast, Meese mentioned the ''materials'' the Justice Department has received as ''money and other documents.'' Meese would not say what the ''other documents'' were. But this information added new elements to the story - new questions for reporters to probe.