Whispers against John Glenn

By , Godfrey Sperling Jr. is chief of the Monitor's Washington bureau.

Those in the Democratic Party who are not comfortable with John Glenn have started their own campaign to see to it that he doesn't get to be president. This is not an organized effort. But those attuned to the political winds here are getting a whiff of this.

It is among those usually described as ''liberals'' that Glenn is being put down. They are particularly worried about what they regard as the Ohioan's pro-strong-defense position. They see little hope that Glenn would support a nuclear freeze, or even steps in the direction of such a freeze. Instead, they believe Glenn, as president, would spend about as much for defense as Reagan is spending today - and deal with the Soviets with somewhat the same Reagan wariness.

There is also concern that within the Jewish community the Glenn candidacy simply isn't playing today. In 1979 he voted for selling F-15s to Saudi Arabia. Additionally, although he seems to be backing away from this position today, Glenn has appeared to look with favor on a Mideast peace being fashioned by the inclusion of the PLO, along with all the other parties that would have to be involved.

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Among labor leaders, too, Glenn is seen as less than acceptable. Glenn considers himself a friend of labor, but apparently he has not done enough for it.

Mondale, on the other hand, appears willing to take the steps the liberals desire toward achieving a nuclear freeze. And big labor, as shown at the recent AFL-CIO con-vention, loves Mondale and seems ready to give him its endorsement. Still, there is a gnawing anxiety within liberal circles that Mondale may not ''have the staying power.'' And concern that it would be Glenn - not one of their favorites like Gary Hart or Alan Cranston - who would be most likely to take the lead for the Democratic nom-ination if Mondale began to fade out.

Thus it is that an anti-Glenn whispering campaign has begun, doubtless most of it spontaneous. What one hears in the main are not the specific complaints. Instead, those who think that Glenn is ideologically off base criticize him as a politician. They simply say that Glenn cannot make it to the presidency because he is a ''poor communicator,'' that he is much too low-keyed on the podium, that he would be no match for Ronald Reagan on the stump. Then they add the charge: Glenn is dull.

This is a particularly devastating rap. It's like saying that Babe Ruth couldn't hit or Red Grange couldn't run with the ball. A politician who can't communicate simply isn't much of a politician. Communicating, first of all, has to do with getting elected. And Glenn has proved himself a formidable vote getter in Ohio.

Also, the national polls indicate that Glenn, along with Mondale, could give Reagan a good race right now. At least one poll shows both men could beat the President.

No one - even an astronaut hero like Glenn - could get this far politically without being a pretty good communicator. He is expressing his positions. He is compassionate on social issues. He is rather conservative when it comes to spending. Indeed he is a Democratic ''moderate.'' Many Democrats like that kind of a position. So do many independents.

Though he may be far from dynamic, Glenn says a lot when he talks. He shows that a hero can be modest. He indicates a willingness to look at more than one side of a prob-lem. He comes across as a nice, reasonable guy.

Another hero - Eisenhower - also often sounded dull. But he was gangbusters as a vote getter, and as a communicator.

Glenn clearly has the Eisenhower potential. And this is what his opponents fear.

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