San Francisco — In a crisis, Ronald Reagan once was asked, who is the one person you would call for advice? The answer came without hesitation: Ed Meese. If there is one man whom the President-elect has relied upon most heavily over the past 14 years -- to help handle the smaller tasks, as well as the crisis of government and politics -- it is Edwin Meese III. Now, as White House staff head for both domestic policy and national security affairs, as well as the "first among equals" in the Reagan Cabinet, Mr. Meese will, in effect, be "deputy president" of the United States. Next to the President himself, Meese will be the most powerful man in the US executive branch.
Those who have met him find Meese a friendly, self-effacing man, who can still be pleasant to a reporter who pesters him at home after a 20-hour campaign day.
As Reagan's chief of staff in Sacramento and later as campaign director, Meese developed a reputation as an excellent organizer of information and program and program manager for a governor whose style was more relaxed than most chief executives. "He's the kind of guy who makes government work," says a veteran Sacramento observer who is otherwise far from uncritical of the Reagan years there.
Meese likes to say that a man with his job should have a "passion for anonymity," intruding neither into the public limelight nor the loftier and more creative policymaking business of government affairs. His deferential nature reinforces this image.
But Meese is also a man of stronglyled conservtive opinions, one who (for example) had harsh things to say about antiwar demonstrators at Berkeley. He is a firm "law and order" man who was a deputy district attorney in Alameda County (Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., lobbied for district attorneys in Sacramento, and currently is on leave from his post as director of the Center for Criminal Policy and Management at the University of San Diego.
As the White House transition proceeds, it becomes increasingly obvious that Meese will be active in developing and carrying out Reagan administration policies.
a fourth-generation Californian, Meese graduated from Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church, is married, and has three children, the oldest of whom is a cadet at the US Military Adacademy at West Point.