The President's first team
Washington — Where does power now reside in the new administration? Veteran presidential watchers will tell you it is too early to determine the pecking order, that a shakedown cruise will be necessary before it can be determined. But at the outset the President's first team -- those upon whom he will rely the most -- looks like this:
Mr. Reagan will indeed have a supercabinet, even though it will not be set up formally.The President took the advice of his chief of staff, Jim Baker, along with others, who counseled that such an elite group would offend others in the Cabinet. But it seems clear that Reagan will meet on a frequent, often day-to-day basis with his secretaries of state, defense, and treasury, together with his attorney general and the head of the CIA.
Haig, Weinberger, Regan, Smith, and Casey will be at the President's elbow more often than others at his Cabinet -- and because of this access will wield tremendous influence.
Also definitely on the first team are counselor Ed Meese, Mr. Baker, and deputy chief of staff Mike Deaver. And at this same level one finds Vice-President Bush. Reagan, like Carter, has made it clear that he will rely heavily on his vice-president.
Additionally, Office of Management and Budget director David Stockman probably will be extremely influential. With inflation and other economic problems at the top of the Reagan agenda, Stockman can be expected to move in and out of the Oval Office all day long.
Reagan will also see a great deal of Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and Lyn Nofziger, his political counselor.
Presidents usually have confidants outside the administration to whom they turn for advice. Reagan may well rely on some of his California friends, leaders in the business world, for help. He may try out some of his ideas and programs on them, but it appears that this kind of consultation will be minimal.
Instead, Reagan will likely do a lot of coordinating and sounding out of ideas with three old friends on Capitol hill: Howard Baker, Paul Laxalt, and Jack Kemp.
So Reagan's power structure comprises his "big twelve" within the administration and his "big three" in Congress.
Who will be first among equals? Who will rise to the top and become the President's closest advisers? Who will wield the most clout? Time alone will tell.
When Nixon moved into the White House, it appeared that he would rely most on his old friend, William Rogers, at State and another old friend, Robert Finch, at HEW. Rogers soon lost out to Henry Kissinger, and Finch very early dropped out of the Nixon inner circle.
No one has to be told the names of Nixon's clout-wielders, those who quickly gained the most access to him: Haldeman, who guarded the door; Ehrlichman, who headed the Domestic Council; and Attorney General Mitchell.
In President Ford's White House his longtime cohort and adviser, Robert Hartmann, together with Vice-President Rockefeller, never quite had the influence predicted for them. Instead, Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard Cheney got more access and thereby gained more influence.
Observers expected Jody Powell and Hamilton Jordan to be influential, but no one forecast that these young men would soon hold the top power positions under President Carter.
Some observers now say that Reagan's old buddies from Sacramento days -- Meese, Smith, and Weinberger -- will become the cream of the cream. Others believe the five- member supercabinet will soon possess the most clout. And still others contend that Meese, Bush, and Baker will in the end become the most influential assistants.
All that is certain is that the people the President likes to work with best and whose judgment he respects the most will win out. They, more than any others, will have Reagan's ear -- and the power that goes to those who are so position ed.