Washington at year's end
At year's end this city is preoccupied with political questions:
Q: Why are there recurrent stories of tension, even friction, among the President's top-level White House advisers?
A: Some members of the news media seem to enjoy writing about this sort of thing. They start off from the premise that differences among presidential aides are bound to develop in any administration. From that assumption they soon ''find'' what they are looking for.
Right now much is being written about the alleged ''fighting'' between presidential counselor Ed Meese on the one hand and chief of staff Jim Baker and deputy chief of staff Mike Deaver on the other. The recent decision by these three not to have daily morning breakfasts together has signaled a new burst of reports of irreconcilable differences among them.
This is sheer nonsense. The reasons for calling off the breakfasts were mutually arrived at. As one of the three explained the other day, ''We saw so much of each other each day, we decided the breakfast session wasn't needed.''
''We knew when we did this,'' he added, ''that the press would immediately interpret it as further signs of our alleged inability to get along with each other. But we did it anyway since we agreed that the important thing is that we do get along - and we know it.''
A senior aide says of the relationship: ''There is a difference in style between Meese and Baker-Deaver. Meese is more deliberative, the others more decisive. This has led to a little tension but nothing serious. It has been vastly overdrawn by some in the press - and there seems to be nothing we can do about it.''
Q: What about the stories that the Vice-President is sinking to a level of near-anonymity as far as his influence on the President is concerned?
A: Again, nonsense. Mr. Bush has consistently kept a low profile, never asserting that he has any influence on Reagan decisions. He believes this subordination of his own role is proper and that the best way for him to lose his particularly close relationship with the President is to billboard this closeness.
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Bush continues to counsel the President on problems and issues across the board, both domestic and foreign. When Mr. Bush is in the city and not out making appearances for the President, he sees Mr. Reagan frequently, sometimes going in and out of the Oval Office several times a day. Further, the two have a regular, weekly, scheduled luncheon session.
Q: What about reports that the President is losing a little steam after two years in office?
A: There is no evidence of this. Mr. Reagan does like - and needs - those breaks away from Washington when he retreats in near-isolation to his ranch in the West. But these vacations are no more frequent than they have been from the outset of his administration.
Most young people would find the Reagan working day quite long. He gets his rest, guards his strength. But, if the test on whether Reagan will run again depends on whether he has sufficient vigor, he'll run again.
Q: What about the rumors that Kennedy supporters are set to rally behind a third-party candidate?
A: There is, indeed, a search going on among Kennedy people for a candidate whom they deem ideologically pure, someone who takes a clear-cut position in favor of a nuclear freeze and of social programs.
The Republican who became an independent, John Anderson, might turn out to be the man these Kennedyites are looking for. Anderson drew support from that Kennedy-related quarter in his presidential bid in 1980. But some liberals question whether Anderson may not have worn himself out as a political force.
Potential Democratic candidates Alan Cranston and Gary Hart would probably satisfy many of these Kennedy people. But the search for a third-party candidate is based on the assumption that the Democratic Party in the end will choose a candidate too hawkish and too conservative for these liberals to take.
Q: After two years, who have emerged as the most influential people in the Reagan administration?
A: George Shultz (advises on both economic and foreign affairs) , George Bush , Caspar Weinberger, Donald Regan, William Clark, Jim Baker, Ed Meese, Mike Deaver, Paul Laxalt, and Nancy Reagan. But not necessarily in that order.