GOP right posts watch on Reagan orthodoxy
Washington — The Reagan White House finds itself beleaguered, but still buoyant and unbowed, as it resists pressures from the Democratic left and Republican right. So far, the Reaganites feel they still have the election mandate and economic imperative to ride out the Democratic counteroffensive building on Capitol Hill over the fairness of the administration's budget cuts.
"They're prepared for it," says one insider of the charge that the President's plan impact hardest on the poor. "They're confident they know what they're doing. They think they have the numbers, the mandate on their side. They're working hard lobbying the Hill."
From their own right, the Reaganites are coping with a broader and more nettlesome set of attempts to influence administration policy by meddling with the top echelons of White House personnel.
The conservatives are enormously pleased with President Reagan himself. They like the thrust of this economic program. They call it "defunding the left."
"Conservatives have the biggest smile on their face," conservative fund-raiser Richard A. Viguerie told the Monitor. "The social agenda's being taken care of quite nicely. It's all over the place - where Planned Parenthood doesn't get $80 million, no federal money for abortion, [Health and Welfare Secretary Richard] Schweiker critical about federal involvement in sex education , no money for the legal services corporation."
"Everybody's really happy with REagan," Mr. Viguerie continues. "It's the area of personnel that bothers us. It's very difficult to have, over time, Reaganism without Reaganites. As the months go by, you'll have people with different view of government making policy."
White House chief of staff James Baker and Vice-President George Bush have emerged as early targets of the right.
Of Mr. Baker's help in finding key jobs for conservatives, Viguerie says, "Sure, that's because conservatives have some clout. That doesn't mean he's conservative."
Baker managed Gerald Ford's 1976 presidential campaign, and last year he ran the Bush campaign for the nomination before moving with Mr. Bush into the REagan fold.
"Jim Baker is a very political, astute, ambitious politician, who's mostly promoting Jim Baker rather than anybody else - Bush included," says Viguerie.
The early right-wing strategy apparently is to drive wedges between Baker, Bush, and the President, observers here say. And the ultraconservatives are more concerned with the long-range Republican presidential succession and social issues than with the President's economic package itself.
"We were worried about the succession the day after Bush was nominated," Viguerie says. "Bush is obviously the front-runner for whenever the succession takes place, whether it's '84 or '88." Viguerie calls North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms "the No. 1 conservative in the country after Reagan," and lists Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt and New York Rep. Jack Kemp high on the list of conservative Republican presidential prospects.
To placate the right wing, President REagan named campaign aide Lyn Nofziger as a kind of ombudsman for conservatives, particularly those seeking jobs. "All the conservatives I know admire Lyn," Viguerie says. "There's cooperation with his department - that's what it's there for, to review people's credentials."
But the right would like more of a veto on appointment than it is getting.
The conservative complaints reflect a "chronic posture," observes one Washington Republican professional with close ties to the White House and the right. "In one sense, they've done very well. In another, there's no such thing as enough for the right."
"Lingering behind all that, now that REagan is the President, is the worry they all have about the succession," this source says. "Most of those people would not be happy just to fall in line behind George Bush. That's partly behind the effort to get at Baker and Bush. The pushing and shoving is going on earlier than it might have with a younger newly elected president."
Some of the ultraconservatives care less about the "supply side" tax cut part of Reagan's economic program than the social program cutting and defense spending increase. They might even stand on the sidelines if Reagan winds up having to fight Congress to get a three-year tax cut through, instead of a one-year cut.
"The issue is these social issues -- busing, drugs, crime, sex on television, getting planned parenthood off the federal trough, defunding the left, and national defense," Viguerie says.
For the present, the ultraconservatives can live with the White House strategy of attacking social issues like abortion funding through the budget-cutting process, and by appointing officials compatible to the right wing.
"It makes some sense -- for right now," explains Viguerie. "But that doesn't mean six months from now [after the economic package battle likely will be over] we would still understand it."
Vigilance toward the people around Reagan appears to be the new right-wing watchword. And Cabinet Secretaries Alexander M. HAig Jr. for State, Caspar W. Weinberger for Defense, will Terrel Bell for Education apparently will be watched the closest.
"Defense and State concern conservatives very much," Viguerie says. "Haig and Weinberger's appointments have not been all that good. Haig's appointments have been really bad, though he's made some appointments that conservatives like after a knockdown, drag-out fight."
Secretary Bell "has a different agenda than REagan's," Viguerie says. "He's definitely not a Reaganite. He'll have to be watched every minute of everyday."
But it is the conservative effort to sow seeds of doubt about White House chief of staff BAker that could cause the most mischief in the budding Reagan administration, experienced White House observers say.
By isolating Baker as "ambitious," they hope to weaken the presiden tial succession link for George Bush.