A plea to Carter and Reagan
Washington — If Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan are to be the nominees, it is evident there will be voters who feel that neither of them is up to the job of being president of the United States.
I would go even further. I doubt that in today's dangerous world, with the nation laden with the most onerous problems, any single American is qualified to perform the mountainous responsibilities of president. He must be administrator , policy-maker, decision-maker, unifier, problem-solver, inspirer, diplomat, reconciler, and commander in chief.
If it be true that the job is too big for one person -- and there is good reason to believe it is -- then both nominees have a duty to inform the American people, before election, the names and the positions of top men and women who will be running the government whichever one wins.
This kind of information is essential to enable the voters to determine whom they want in the presidency.
This kind of information will enable voters to judge the competence, quality, and experience of the candidate's whole administration.
It seems to me that this would be not only a service to voters -- indispensible for an intelligent choice -- but a boon to the nominees themselves.
Surely Mr. Carter needs to assure the public that he will draw to his administration at the highest level people who are committed to his new courses in both foreign and domestic affairs which he has proclaimed in recent weeks including his new view of Soviet objectives, his determination to balance the budget and to recover military parity with Russia.
New policies require new men to carry them out. I would think that voters would be in a better position to decide whether they wish to retain the President for another four years if they knew who his top advisers will be.
There is no doubt in my mind that Governor Reagan would benefit by doing the same. He has not established himself as a creative thinker and he is without significant experience in the conduct of foreign affairs. Obviously voters would feel reassured if he disclosed the caliber of people on whom he will be relying.
A successful president does not have to be a creative thinker if he has the ability to draw highly qualified advisers to his side. Nobody would call President Truman a creative thinker but he is recognized today as an exceptional President. One reason is that he turned to two of the ablest men in public life to fill the most exacting posts in Washington -- Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall. None stood between them and the President.
Certainly every cabinet position does not have to be settled in advance of the election. But I believe that the voters ought to know who is going to advise the next president in the key positions of State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
The size and the complexity of the federal government in themselves lift the dimension of the presidency beyond the probable qualifications of a single individual. And today's national problems are exacting beyond measure. I know of no informed person who does not recognize that the 1980s will be the most dangerous decade of the 20th century -- a world in turmoil and sliding out of control, as Henry Kissinger remarked, and an economy weakened by inflation at the time when its productivity is crucially needed.
Knowledge of the principal talent which will surround the next president ought to come under the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act. Such disclosure would be a boon to the candidates, but that is not its main purpose. It would be a boon to all voters enabling them better to decide whom to elect.
If one of the two nominees takes the initiative to do this, I doubt if the other will dare hold back. It's good politics; it will be good for our democracy.