Impact of Reagan Cabinet switch
Strong direction of foreign policy can be expected from President Reagan for the remainder of his first term in office, administration officials say. The officials say that this is one of the main legacies left by the outgoing national security adviser to the President, William P. Clark: to get Reagan more deeply involved in foreign affairs.Skip to next paragraph
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A series of crises around the world, from Central America all the way to the Philippines, would seem to demand ever greater presidential involvement. So would election-year politics. Polls show that a mishandling of foreign affairs could damage the President's reelection chances should he choose to run again, a prospect which now seems assured.
At the same time, the departure of Judge Clark from the top national security post at the White House would appear to strengthen, at least temporarily, the hand of Secretary of State George P. Shultz. Clark had assumed a leading role in the fields of arms control and Central America and some aspects of Middle East policy. Clark's successor will have to go through a period of settling in, during which time the State Department will be expected to provide continuity on a number of issues.
Experts outside the government are predicting, meanwhile, that Clark's departure will also reinforce a trend toward pragmatism in Reagan's foreign policy, a trend which has not always been evident in the President's rhetoric. A recent example of the pragmatic trend was Reagan's handling of the Soviets' shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 7 on Sept. 1. Reagan spoke harshly of the Soviet Union following the incident, but his actions were measured. The sanctions announced - closing Soviet airline offices in the United States and setting further limits on cultural and other exchanges, for example - were limited.
Pragmatism has also been reflected in the President's approval of a huge new grain agreement with the Soviet Union and in his determination to keep arms reduction talks going with the Soviets. Reagan has overruled subordinates who proposed denying the Soviets new American oil- and gas-drilling equipment. The President has made compromises with moderate Democrats and Republicans in the Congress over arms control proposals. Earlier this month, Reagan overrode objections from the Defense Department and embraced the ''build down'' concept for nuclear arms reductions suggested by two key Senators. He also injected new flexibility into his initially tough proposals for strategic arms reductions.
At this writing, the leading candidate for the post of national security adviser is reported to be Robert C. McFarlane, who is currently serving as deputy assistant to the president for national security and as special envoy to the Middle East. Mr. McFarlane is a low-key professional with long experience in the White House. The former Marine colonel is so self-effacing that until he was appointed to his roving Middle East job a few months ago, few photographs were publicly available.
McFarlane is regarded by many of the Congressmen who have dealt with him as moderate, pragmatic, nonideological and well-informed. A similar view prevails at the State Department. Officials there, who have engaged in many a battle with national security advisers, including Judge Clark, say that they would be happy with the choice of McFarlane for the job.