Washington — Max Friedersdorf, picked by the Reagan team to keep the communications corridor between White House and Congress open, is more suave than swashbuckling.
Much woe poured through the weak Carter link between White House and Hill, especially early on, contributing much to the impression that the Democratic chief executive was ineffective.
Mr. Friedersdorf, the new "assistant to the president for legislative affairs ," has stood in the power corridor between the executive and legislative branches before -- from 1971 to 1977 under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Those who know him mention first his style, his grooming, which suggest a sensitivity to the social, protocol aspects of Washington power. He is not likely to ruffle unnecessarily the Capitol Hill peacocks of either party, they say.
"He is savvy, a gentleman in appearance and manner," says one expert on White House-congressional affairs. "He is sensitized to congressional amenities. He is white, conservative, and very pro-Republican."
Friedersdorf was not known as an innovator during his legislative oversight years. He largely followed the format inherited from his predecessor, William timmons, which in turn was not much different from the operation Democrat Larry O'Brien laid out from 1963 to 1965 for President Johnson.
Recent trends have made Congress-White House relations more difficult. Congress itself is more decentralized, public expectations for presidential leadership are greater, and the political parties are weaker as prods to induce White House and Congress to act in concert.
Keys to the new Hill liaison's success will be how much access he has to the President, and whether he will have a veto over crucial congressional liaison appointments to the departments.
A congressional liaison chief's success basically reflects his president's views of the importance of Congress. "It was Carter's fault [White House congressional liaison] Frank Moore didn't have his ear," observes one White House expert.
Friedersdorf has the skills and temperament for the job, Democrats and Republicans seem to agree. Before the inauguration he touched all the social bases for the President-elect and helped prep Cabinet nominees for their hearings. Now the test will be Ronald Reagan's in how well he wants Friedersdorf to do his job.