Preview of Reagan presidency: pragmatic and nonideological

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The new Reagan administration will be "flexible" and "pragmatic" -- with no intention to try to do more than bend the nation philosophically to the right. This is the message being expressed by Reagan aides and those within the transition team as the President-elect prepares to take over the White house.

Bill Brock, Republican national chairman, says the new President will have a "very pragmatic approach," one that will "have to take into account the divergent base in the House and Senate.

"The nation is so big," he told a group of reporters over breakfast Thursday, "it will be most difficult for Reagan to move it more than a few degrees. Certainly he will not be able to completely turn things around."

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In addition, Reagan sources say, the former California governor will be quite aware of trying to keep together the coalition that elected him -- which included Roman Catholics, blue-collar workers, and many Jewish voters, as well as conservatives -- in order to govern effectively.

The Reagan agenda, then, will not give a high priority to the specific demands of the far right, the "New Right," or the Moral Majority.

In specific terms, that means there will not be a strong Reagan push for anti-abortion or pro-school prayer amendments. Also, there will be no quick Reagan move to abolish the Department of Education.

Instead, Mr. Reagan will concentrate on coming up with a program that will provide more jobs and curb inflation, on the assumption that the Democcrats who supported him on Nov. 4 will drift away if he doesn't deliver on his promises to deal effectively with these problems.

Thus, the basic elements emerging in the Reagan approach to governing are these:

* Systematic effort, in terms of goals and appointments, to try to keep his election coalition together and working as he seeks to push economic measures -- particularly his tax cut -- through congress just as soon as possible.

* The use of a presidential theme that will be addressed to all of the American people -- in everything he says and does -- and away from rhetoric that would even hint that his role is to bring a conservative philosophy back to the American scene.

The goals now seen as realistic by the Reagan administration are these:

* Not a dramatic turn upward in the economy, but the making of enough changes to give the public the feeling at the end of two years that the outlook is better for more productivity, lowering of prices, and more jobs.

* Not a show of US military strength, but a bolstering of the military arm to the place that within two years the public will feel the nation is better able to hold its head up high in dealing with other nations.

Actually, a top Reagan priority now is to try to achieve some kind of nuclear arms limitation pact with the Soviets, and to try to do this the new President will move quickly to try to set up negotiations for a new SALT pact.

How will the far right take this pragmatism on Reagan's part -- his unwillingness to carry on a crusade in trying to impose a conservative philosophical thrust?

"They [Moral Majority and the New Right] will understand," Mr. Brock said. Then he went on to say that already the President-elect had said Moral Majority would have access to him.

But Brock also indicated that the far right was already showing its displeasure at Reagan's more moderate direction, which was surfacing during the campaign.

"A few shots have been fired across our bow," said the GOP chairman.

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