Bush or hedge?

Ronald Reagan apparently is the only person in Washington who doesn't know whether or not he is going to run for president in 1984. Maybe ''doesn't know'' is too strong a term. At least it is the only piece of information which he hasn't given out on his way to the helicopter. If he does run, which he will, according to everyone else in Washington, he says he would like to have George Bush as his vice-presidential running mate all over again.

He may not have wanted him in the first place, but he has grown to appreciate the importance of an unobtrusive Bush in a political hedge.

One reason Mr. Reagan gives for keeping George Bush is that his vice-president is a ''total team player.'' If only he hadn't put that word ''total'' in there it would have been OK. Team players are admired by all Americans. Especially on a basketball team. But a ''total'' team player suggests something else. It sounds more like background material. Someone who is never going to slam-dunk the ball.

In American history this has always been considered a shining virtue in a vice-president.

The only possible ambiguity in all this is that George Bush once wanted to be president himself. Obviously Ronald Reagan sees him more as a straight man. He says, ''You don't break up a combination that is working.'' How long this political combination can keep on working only time can tell. Apparently the way it would work is to have George Bush run for vice-president for as long as Ronald Reagan could legally run for president, then in 1988 you could switch them around. The combination could be endless.

George Bush has replied in traditional style. Like many statements coming out of Washington, the first version had to be clarified.

At first, he indicated that he could either take it or leave it. This has been restated and reexplained to mean, ''If the President runs again, which the vice-president fervently hopes he does, the vice-president would be honored to be on the ticket.''

As a preview of a rerun, written on a trial balloon, that sounds much better. Besides, since Ronald Reagan has recently been made an honorary member of the University of Houston's basketball team, total teamwork has assumed greater importance.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.