Washington — How a president sees his own performance in office is always of public interest -- even though his judgment is bound to be slanted. President Reagan, after a month in office, is convinced that he has hit the ground running and in just those relatively few days begun to build on an election mandate.
Mr. Reagan's total focus is on the economy and his program for improving it. An interviewer finds it difficult to move him to other subjects. He is absorbed in "supply- side" economics and in various ways emphasizes his conviction that his economic program, if enacted, will make the biggest impact on the economy since FDR's New Deal.
He says quickly, however, that he has no illusions about how hard it will be to persuade Congress to go along with him. Yet he is confident -- "almost certain" might be a better description of his optimism -- that public support will be so vocal and demanding that Congress will have no alternative but to adopt a substantial part of his proposals.
The President hears from all parts of the United States that he still is on the right track. In Miami people are imploring him to trim expenditures. In Peoria they are saying he must persist in his efforts to make spending cuts. In Buffalo the demand is for budget balancing and slashes. Thus the message from everywhere, it seems -- from the West, East, North, and South -- is the same: onward and upward, Mr. President.
So it is an ebullient President who is viewed by Visitors to the Oval Office these days. He laughs at his 70 years. He seems fortified by public assurances that his efforts to rebuild government and communicate with the people have been as successful as he could have expected.
Mr. Reagan concedes that everything hasn't gone quite as well as he would have liked. His chief complaint is that he doesn't get outdoors and away from people often enough. He says he doesn't want to get bogged down in details. And his way of gaining the perspective he needs for making decisions, he says, is to get off by himself.
Thus he eargerly looked forward to the weekend at his California ranch where he could ride by himself, or with Nancy, and simply think. Mr. Reagan appears at times to be a totally social person who always wants people around him. Yet there is the private Ronald Reagan who tells friends that he is somewhat of a loner.
The President is less than happy, too, over his inability to get new appointees in place at the sub-cabinet level. He has been both irked and frustrated by the red tape involved in changing personnel in hundreds of positions. But he is basically pleased with those he chose to fill cabinet posts even though in several instances he had to ask two or three persons before receiving an acceptance.
Mr. Reagan's anxieties? Back of his mind are the global trouble spots: Poland, El Salvador, the Mideast. When he can be pulled away from talking about his economic program, the "bedrock Reagan" views bubble to the surface: tough talk about the Soviets, the desire to beef up defense, the resolve to continue SALT only if there can be meaningful, mutual cutbacks in nuclear arms.
Mr. Reagan thinks he has made progress in bringing about a more civil relationship with the press. He will continue to ask that reporters raise their hands if they want to be called on at press conferences. And he definitely will not recognize those journalists who wait in a half crouch and then leap to their feet with a demand to ask a question.
Mr. Reagan says he feels very comfortable in his new job, that he was able to settle in quite easily. He thinks he is going to be able to institute government by cabinet -- even though his critics say he'll soon abandon the idea in favor of turning for advice mainly to a few cabinet members plus several White House aides and a few old friends in Congress and on the West Coast.
Obviously Mr. Reagan believes his first month has been a glowing one. P ollsters are finding that most Americans agree.