`Honest broker' Scowcroft to head NSC. In tapping Brent Scowcroft to be his national security adviser, George Bush has selected a respected man with vast experience - including a previous tour of duty in the post. He is not expected to take a lead in formulating policy, however, and analysts say the appointment assures Secretary of State-designate James Baker's primacy in foreign affairs policymaking.
George Bush's selection of retired Air Force general Brent Scowcroft to be his national security adviser Wednesday met with widespread praise from policy analysts, members of Congress, and others here. Defense analysts refer to General Scowcroft as a ``model'' for the position. He listens without taking sides, they say. He will try to facilitate national security policy, not make it, those who know him add.
Mr. Bush called the former three-star general a ``trusted friend'' who has earned great respect from Republicans, Democrats, and ``world leaders around the globe.''
General Scowcroft, who is considered a moderate on defense issues, served in the same position under President Gerald Ford.
Scowcroft receives virtually universal praise from members of Congress and top Capitol Hill aides who have worked with him in the past.
``It's an outstanding pick,'' says Congressman Norman Dicks (D) of Washington, who expressed nothing but praise for the retired general. ``Bush couldn't have done better.''
Representative Dicks says the President-elect is off to a strong start in his transition. In his appointments of James Baker III as secretary of state and now Scowcroft, Bush has selected two people whom Congress is ready to work with, the lawmaker adds.
Despite the praise, however, Bush is expected to take some flak from the right wing of his party over the appointment, because of Scowcroft's reputation as a moderate who may be too willing to work with the Democrats.
One of the reasons Scowcroft is so highly regarded is his previous performance as President Ford's national security adviser. Having served in the position when Henry Kissinger ran the State Department, Scowcroft knows how to work with a powerful secretary.
``Scowcroft is the consummate skillful, intelligent, knowledgeable staff man, not a visionary policy infighter,'' says Richard K. Betts, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Mr. Betts praises the pick and says it cements Mr. Baker's role as the real power in foreign affairs.
``He [Scowcroft] probably will not try to interpose himself between the Cabinet-level officials and the President,'' Betts says. At the same time, however, ``he's not going to pretend he doesn't know anything,'' the scholar says.
These qualities seemed to rank very highly with Bush. ``He will be an honest broker,'' the President-elect said at the press conference Wednesday. ``He will convey to me exactly the feelings of the Cabinet members ... [and] bring those together.''
Recognizing Scowcroft's vast experience in military matters, Bush said he also expects the general to convey, ``unvarnished, his own view on policy matters.'' Bush said Scowcroft will have direct ``day and night'' access to the Oval Office.
``The most amazing thing about this [appointment],'' says Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense under Reagan, ``is that you have for the first time in a new administration someone who has had the job. He is going to walk in there and know how it is done.''
The big advantage for the Bush administration is that they will be able to move very quickly on national security issues and opportunities as they arise.
``You won't have the situation like previous administrations, where it takes a year to get your act together,'' Mr. Korb says.
Bush said he plans to put together ``a strong national security team. Now, with Brent Scowcroft at my side in the White House, we've taken a large step in that direction.''
The President-elect said he plans to review the Reagan administration's national security objectives and then come out with a set of his own. He said his policy initiatives will ``strengthen our alliances [and our ability] to help those around the world who need our help, to enhance our quest for human rights, and to deal realistically with the Soviet Union.''
``Baker at the State Department will be numero uno,'' says Brett, ``and the staff operation at the White House will be an efficient, skillful operation but not one taking the lead in defining policy the way it did under Nixon and to some extent under Carter.''
Scowcroft has been largely supportive of the Reagan administration's foreign policy initiatives, but he had misgivings over with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union. Even thought he opposed the treaty, however, once President Reagan signed it, Scowcroft said he believed it would be a mistake for the Senate not to ratify it. He asserted that, after the United States persuading its Europeans allies to agree to the treaty's terms, it would ``traumatize'' them to then turn around and kill the pact in the Senate.
Scowcroft also had problems with Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, which he thought would seriously hamper the efforts of arms negotiators dealing with the Soviet Union. SDI added the need to discuss defensive as well as strategic weapons in arms negotiations, a fact Scowcroft thought would complicate any potential agreement.
General Scowcroft's reputation as a skilled political operative was enhanced, congressional sources say, when he was named in 1982 to head a Reagan task force looking into options for deploying the MX missile. The general is said to have impressed both sides of the aisle with his ability to listen and effectively mold a consensus. He is credited with moving the commission beyond the MX deployment question to considerations of the entire range of US nuclear forces.
Scowcroft also served on the Tower commission that investigated the Iran-contra scandal, and in 1985 he was appointed to a special commission on defense management that studied Pentagon procurement practices.
As one congressional aide said, ``This man is warmed up and ready to go.''