Midterm assessments - Reagan's own, the scholars'; President says US is on the right course
The President looks ahead to a season of hope, heralded by a mending economy and the possibility of progress on arms control and Mideast peace. Taking a long-term perspective, presidential scholars compare this administration with past ones and see a President who has yet to be put to a crucial test of resiliency and creativity. The arms control issue, they say, may well furnish that test.
Saying his administration had averted an economic ''calamity in the making,'' President Reagan gave his own midterm review to the Washington press.
''A country that was skidding dangerously in the wrong direction - losing the respect of friends and foes alike in the world, and even worse losing faith in its own future - has been set on the right course,'' Mr. Reagan said.
''We've begun to undo the damage that the overtaxing, overspending, overregulating binge of the '60s and '70s, inflicted on the American way of life. And we've made America respected in the world again.''
Looking ahead, Reagan said he saw ''a season of hope'' for 1983 - the economy is on the mend, and with arms control and middle east peace gains.
Reagan laid the blame for disappointing economic results so far - high unemployment and high deficits - on concessions he was compelled to grant Congress.
''Some of the disappointments have been that, in the give and take and compromise that have to take place in the legislative process, we never did get intact what we thought was a well-thought-out economic plan,'' Reagan said. He did not get the spending cuts, full tax cut program he had wanted from Congress.
''This recession did not begin in July of '81,'' he said. ''This recession had been coming on for several years.''
On his new 1984 budget, and negotiations with Congress in the coming session, Reagan said he was considering a revision of tax policies that might include a so-called flat tax, but would not yield on the next installment of his three-stage tax rate cut.
Reagan also sought to clarify his view of the Soviets' global intentions - an issue that has dogged him since his first press conference as President on Jan. 30, 1981 - and to regain some ground in the transatlantic ''public relations'' maneuvering over arms negotiations.
''I did not render as an opinion of mine the things that I said about them,'' he said of his earlier remarks. ''This is what they said of themselves - that they reserve these rights to break a promise . . . to be dishonest, and so forth , if it furthered the cause of communism.''
Reagan said the current arms negotiations with the Soviets would go on, however. ''It would be in their interests as well as ours,'' he said. ''That's why we're so hopeful and optimistic . . . that they cannot go on down the road they're going in a perpetual arms race.''
Asked, given his view of Soviet trustworthiness, whether the Soviets could be trusted at the negotiating table, Reagan emphasized the need for verification of any agreement.
As the second anniversary press appearance indicated, the Reagan White House has begun to put the President himself more and more forward as chief spokesman.
The White House has been stung, since early December, by news magazine and press reports characterizing Reagan as detached from policymaking. Top aides have been depicted as growing weary at what they describe as a decision process often remote from the urgency and reality of the issues.
More frequent, briefer press conferences have become one device to get the President ''out front'' more frequently. The President next Tuesday night, Jan. 25, will deliver his annual State of the Union address. Aides hope that address - likely to contain new initiatives on crime and tax breaks for college tuition saving - will dispell the wintry, downbeat view of the White House lately emanting from Washington.
At the end of next week, the administration will release its 1984 budget proposals, officially launching the 1983 round of negotiations with Capitol Hill and Reagan's third year.
After talking to the capital's press, Reagan gave a midafternoon pep talk to administration executives at Constitution Hall. He stressed the ideological goals that brought him into office. ''Let us always remember - ideas do matter, '' he said. ''We did not come to Washington to be mere caretakers of power.''
''Don't believe for one second the drum-beaters of gloom, who see only storm clouds on the horizon,'' Reagan told his administration team. ''There is a new confidence building across America and it's well justified.''
And in case official Washington didn't get the point that the official White House word is ''optimism,'' the White House yesterday released an 180-page review of the Reagan presidency's first two years - pointedly observing: ''This is not intended to be a comprehensive look 'warts and all.' ''