Washington — It seems to me that one ought to come right out and say it: President Carter is dispensing eyewash in claiming that the plight of the hostages has been "alleviated in some degree" so that it is now possible for him to go campaigning.
And that other puzzling statement that the problems confronting the nation have in the past month or in the past six months become "manageable enough" so that, while the President couldn't get away from the White House to campaign earlier, it is now possible to do so.
Name one problem -- Iran, Afghanistan, our defense posture, turmoil in the Middle East, inflation, unemployment -- which is any more "manageable" today than it was months ago when Mr. Carter said they demanded his personal attention every hour of every day by staying in Washington.
We tend to forgive political buncombe but we don't have to make the mistake of believing it.
I am not one to impugn motives and there is no reason to reject the idea that the President persuaded himself that now is a good moment to shift political strategy. The fact is that he refrained from campaigning for wrong reasons and now he is starting to campaign for wrong reasons.
It is a good decision.It is a welcome decision. When one of the principal candidates relies wholly on surrogates to campaign for him, he is robbing the political process of one of its special values.A presidential nomination campaign is an instrument of voter education. It should be used, not neglected.
From all the information I can gather Mr. Carter has a very solid and persuasive reason for abandoning his Rose Garden strategy and it is different from the one publicly given.
All of the President's advisers are agreed that the chance of inducing the Iranians to free the hostages will be improved by taking the issue off the front burner and sheathing all talk about military options until every other measure has been exhausted.
A Carter on the campaign trail can serve to take the focus off the Iranian crisis not by neglecting it but by putting it on hold for a period.
The word in Washington is that the President and Secretary of State Edmund Muskie are convinced that the overriding need is to do nothing that would drive Iran into the arms of the Soviet Union and that taking military action could easily shatter the shaky structure of the Iranian government and invite a Russian takeover based on the treaty of friendship which both signed when such treaties looked innocent.
Our West European and Japanese allies recently reaffirmed their support of the US on diplomatic and economic sanctions, though they are reportedly following through only with limited sanctions and not with the pledged trade cut-off. There is also growing backing for the American boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow.
all of this means that in one sense the Iranian crisis will be more manageable because the President will not be doing so much to manage it. Hence, he is free to do some campaigning other than by White House telephone.
The quick nomination of Senator Muskie as a visibly and outstandingly able successor to Cyrus Vance shows the administration alert and creative enough to turn a liability into an asset. There will be both change and continuity in the transition and it will immeasurably promote a partnership with Congress, now so much needed.
Muskie tends to be a cautious individual like Vance and he sees the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as creating the urgent necessity of closing the military gap with Moscow as rapidly as possible.
Muskie might even emerge as a vice-presidential running mate!