Reagan's affability spikes the verbal 'guns' of Democratic opponents
Washington — If President Reagan's political steamroller is flattening many of the liberal Democrats' favorite social programs, there appears to be little rancor surfacing among the remaining advocates of the New Deal and the Great Society.
Even taking into account the highly publicized exchange between the President and House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. (D) of Massachusetts over who better understands the poor, there has been no really bad feeling expressed by congressional Deocrats as their social programs are pared by what is coming to be know as the "Reagan treatment."
Perhaps the primary reason political observers give for this tepid response is the President's friendly way of personally dealing with congressional liberals. This, analysts say, has pretty much disarmed them.
"You can't get mad at someone who won't get mad at you," is the way many of these liberals put it.
"This is not a confrontation President," says Max Friedersdorf, Mr. Reagan's liaison with Congress, who was talking with reporters over breakfast July 2. "He isn't hostile. His personal rapport with everyone is good."
Moreover, liberals find thir constituents are pressing them restrain government spending. So, while they feel Reagan's budget reductions go too far, for the most part they agree in principle with the goal, observers say. This concession puts them in a poor position to argue their own case too hotly.
An example of their dilemma can be seen in the fight over the President's tax cut.
The Democrats are on the defensive. But all they are able to express is frustration.
Observers also note that implementation of Reagan's agenda is being handled with a light hand on Capitol Hill.
House minority leader Robert Michel (R) of Illinois often sounds a bit strident when he makes some utterances intended mainly for public consumption. But he is particularly good at establishing warm relations with his cohorts, Democrats as well as Republicans.
"We owe a great deal to Bob Michel," says Mr. Friedersdorf.
In the Senate, majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R) of Tennessee is known for working his will with sugar, not vinegar.
Friedersdorf himself often talks about "selling" this or that program to Congress. But the Friedersdorf style is low-key.
Finally, the administration has done no crowing over its victories. Observers say this has done much to soothe Democratic feelings after defeat.