What the people want of Reagan
Washington — Ronald Reagan must have the American people on his mind as he takes over his awesome tasks. He doubtless is wondering what they are thinking, what their mood may be, what they expect of him.
Here, from a reporter's vantage point, is what Americans want of their new President:
* The state of the economy. People want to be told whether they can move along in a business-as-usual way or whether the time has come for the President to declare a national emergency and impose emergency measures.
Obviously we are not in the midst of a depression like the one of the '30s, but stagflation continues and everyone recognizes that the economy is so unstable that really dark days could lie ahead. Americans want to be told if it is time to buckle up for a rough flight and to make some real sacrifices to assure that the US moves toward energy independence and restores a sound economy.
* Presidential communication. The people want to "hear it straight." They know Mr. Reagan is genial, even gentle, but they don't want a lot of smiles or sweet persuasion.
If Mr. Reagan has something serious on his mind, they not only want to hear it but to hear it again and again -- until it becomes clear that something is being done about the problem. They want a President who clarifies the chief priority on which he wants Americans to focus and help him address -- and who sticks with this priority until it receives the attention it needs.
* Presidential vision. The people have heard bits and pieces of what's on the Reagan agenda, but they're waiting to see the full fabric of what the Reagan years could bring.
Americans would welcome an early fireside chat from their new President, one in which he tells them where he is going and what kind of an America this will lead to -- five years from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now. What are this President's national goals? He says he intends to steer the ship in such a way as to restore other nations' respect for the US. He says he intends to swing more governmental power toward the states and localities and away from Washington. But what kind of an America will this all add up to?
Does this mean, as some people fear, less compassion for fellow Americans who are disadvantaged -- the elderly, the poor?
Or does Mr. Reagan, who admires and often invokes the wisdom of FDR, intend to preside over his own brand of social revolution for a better, more prosperours world for everyone? Is this his dream? If so, people would like to hear it stated so -- and with details on how it will come about.
* Presidential style. Americans laugh at too much pomp and ceremony, but they don't want too much humility in the presidency either. No sweater, please, Mr. President, as you sit by the fireside and confide your plans.
* The presidential pace. Mr. Reagan is being told that he must take steps to shore up the economy and show some progress very fast -- or lose the support of Americans. Yet Mr. Reagan should not underestimate the intelligence of the people. They realize that these economic/energy problems are immense and terribly complicated. They will be patient as long as they feel their new President is bringing a persistent, intelligent approach to their solution.
* Presidential demeanor. The people liked candidate Reagan, enough to give him a resounding victory. They liked his wall-to-wall genial humor, his turning of the cheek to jabs from politicians and reporters. They liked his good cheer. And they hope he will be able to keep it up in the face of the many adversities he now faces.