Partisan rumblings grow over Carter foreign policy
Washington — Despite Iran, political partisanship is on the rise again, although still muted. Republican national chairman Bill Brock says, "It's time to take off the gloves" on Iran -- that the Carter approach isn't working, that "it is a policy of weakness."
And Democratic national chairman John White says Mr. Brock is "irresponsible, " that he is "coming unglued."
The Brock charge of appeasement against President Carter, however, isn't receiving much support from the Republican presidential candidates.
Both John Connally and Ronald Reagan sound like they would like to go that far -- but they haven't as yet.
The main criticism now surfacing from some GOP candidates is of Mr. Carter's alleged softness toward the Soviets. They point to Soviet aggression in Afghanistan as proof that the President has misjudged Soviet intentions.
But the President now indicates he has been wrong about the Soviets. One of several sanctions he is considering using against Moscow is putting SALT II ratification on the backburner.
But despite this erosion of bipartisanship, the evidence still points to strong public unity behind the President in his handling of the hostages crisis and a less-than-vigorous attack on that policy from his challengers -- both Democratic and Republican.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has been most careful not to say anything about the President's handling of the Iranian crisis, since his criticism of the Shah backfired.
The approach of Mr. Carter's chief Democratic rival now is to say, in rather general terms, that the President has failed to put together a clear foreign policy -- and indicate that current Carter foreign problems stem from this failing.
The current US political climate surrounding the crisis in Iran includes these factors:
* A new ABC News-Harris poll shows Mr. Carter with a 59-to-36 percent lead over Mr. Reagan. At the same time, Mr. Reagan leads Mr. Kennedy 49-to-46 percent. A day earlier this poll showed Mr. Carter with a commanding 58-to-38 percent lead over Mr. Kennedy.
* Political leaders, both here and around the United States, by and large continue to back the President. There is a slightly increased number of key Republican politicians who say, privately, they are becoming impatient with Mr. Carter. But they are not anxious to say this for publication.
Democratic chairman White, talking to reporters over breakfast Jan. 3, said that only Republican chairman Brock was going so far as to say that time was running out on the President's restrained approach to the hostages problem.
"if Brock or anyone else has a proposal as to what the President should do -- let him come out with it," Mr. White said. "Thus far we have had no suggestions."
Mr. White also was critical of three GOP candidates -- Messrs. Reagan, Connally, and George Bush -- for not accepting the White House briefings on Iran which have been offered them.
"If they don't take the time to have these briefings," he said, "they are in no position to comment on what is going on there or what the President should be doing."