The Reagan-Carter rift
Washington — If there is any warming up of the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, it is not being confirmed by Mr. Carter.
In an interview with editors of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the former President indicated that his personal dealings with Mr. Reagan remain cool and distant.
Moreover, he did little to improve this tie when he alleged that Israeli officials had told him they were given ''the green light'' by the Reagan administration to attack Lebanon. Secretary of State George Shultz responded by saying this charge was ''incorrect.''
Reports from the administration had indicated that the President was relying quite strongly on Mr. Carter's counsel on the Mideast developments. Indeed one report said that National Security Adviser William Clark had personally made a secret trip to Plains to brief Mr. Carter. However, it now has been learned that this visit took place before the Israeli incursion into Lebanon.
Mr. Carter, in the Atlanta newspaper interview, said he was only briefed about the circumstances of the invasion in June by aides to Mr. Clark after he phoned to express his concern about the Israeli action. So, while the Reagan administration gives the impression it is leaning fairly heavily on Mr. Carter for his Mideast expertise, the Georgian says otherwise.
Further, Mr. Carter now is lashing out at the President in all directions, including his handling of the economy and his environmental policy. As a result of this, the Reagan-Carter rift is likely to grow, perhaps irreparably so.
In what has been described as an angry speech by some of those in attendance at a gathering of environmental experts in Atlanta recently, Mr. Carter accused President Reagan of systematically dismantling environmental laws ''designed to protect the quality of the air, water, and land'' and of thereby ''subverting the public will.''
Mr. Carter also is making it clear that he believes Mr. Reagan is completely wrong in imposing Reaganomics on the nation. He approved the recent tax-increase measure - but mainly as a corrective to previous Reagan economic initiatives and to reduce the huge federal deficit.
Asked whether he knew for certain that the President had encouraged the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Mr. Carter replied: ''I don't have any way to know.''
The reaction within the Reagan camp to Mr. Carter's ''green-light-to-Israel'' charge was outwardly muted, as evidenced by Mr. Shultz's quiet response. But behind the scenes in the Reagan White House the Carter accusation was being termed malicious.
Mr. Carter obviously still doesn't believe he is being given the courtesies and briefings from the President that he extended to Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. Further, it is clear that he thinks the briefing concessions coming from the President have been given grudgingly and only after his prodding. So he not only is indignant; he is going public with his unhappiness.
Thus, after a long period in which he intentionally remained quiet on the Mideast - in order not to hamper the President's effort to deal with the Lebanon crisis - Mr. Carter is purposely injecting himself into the policymaking discussion.
He is saying that Menachem Begin will continue to make it very difficult for any resolution of the Palestinian autonomy problem. And he is accusing the Reagan administration of ''substantially ignoring'' the Camp David accords.
Other presidents have had their differences with former presidents; Eisenhower and Truman would hardly speak. Mr. Carter, while in office, was never on friendly terms with former President Ford. And now a serious and perhaps permanent break in Reagan-Carter relations has occurred - although recently William Clark sent two NSC staff men down to Plains to brief Mr. Carter again and, perhaps, to try to mend fences.
No one need be reminded of what a waste it is if the experience and knowledge of former presidents are not tapped by those currently running the country.