A SOCIETY often pays a penalty in attributing too much importance to the personal abilities of its leaders - usually in the form of disappointment in learning the leader's feet have about the same proportion of clay as those of the rest of us. A society should recognize too that its government, certainly its executive branch, is not the extension of one person's thinking and wishes. A president's minions may pretend that every trade decision, every letter under his nibs's signature to constituents, is a personal act of the man in charge. But government runs largely in the name of the president, reflecting his policies, his character, and the circumstances of his election.
Thus we find a certain realism in a survey, released last week, indicating the American public expects the White House now to be run in about equal measure (some 25 percent each) by chief of staff Howard Baker, the Cabinet, and President Reagan, with a minority 6 percent input by the First Lady, Nancy Reagan.
If these parties pull their weight equally to expectations, the Reagan administration can conduct itself responsibly in its remaining 22 months.
The President showed in Thursday's press conference, his first in four months, that he can still rise to a public occasion. His new White House team had prepared him capably. His lack of recall remains disconcerting. But he appeared ready to take up other matters.
Who's in charge?
The American people are in charge. Drops in public approval show this administration has been rebuked for its excesses and omissions - Vice-President George Bush for not standing up and quashing the Iran foolishness.
Reappraisal of Reagan-era leadership will continue in the months ahead. If the whole team does well, the appraisal can again take a turn for the better.