Reagan and Ike
A lot of people in Washington think the economy is going to disintegrate. They see increased joblessness, higher interest rates, zooming inflation, and, most of all, a President who will be discredited by his inability to cope with these problems.
In short, they think that Ronald Reagan is heading for a downfall, one that will cause him to leave the administration four years hence with his tail between his legs.
This is strange country, this Maryland suburban section of Washington, where, for the most part, Walter Mondale looked like the strong winner in the election results. How out of step it is with the rest of the United States - where post-election polls now show that most of the people think Mr. Reagan is going to have a very successful four years, both in dealing with the budget, particularly the deficit, and in working for peace.
The so-called Washington view, expressed freely at almost any social circle you happen to enter, is that the President is empty headed.
It's very much the same kind of talk one heard when Eisenhower was President. Ike, his critics chortled, was a bumbler.
Now they say that Reagan only has the most superficial idea of what is going on. He was lucky the first four years. But now they assert Reagan is going down the tube.
The Washington press, for the most part, looked upon Eisenhower with near-contempt. Members of the media had been charmed by Franklin Roosevelt, who jovially sparred with them at press conferences. And most of them had liked his social programs.
But Eisenhower didn't court the press. He was, by nature and by training, quite aloof. So while the public at large ''liked Ike'' and his warm smile, he was regarded with less than affection and respect by most of those who wrote about him.
Soon after Eisenhower left the presidency historians consigned him to a rank among presidents in the middle, mediocre range. Now revisionist historians, with a more open point of view, are upgrading Eisenhower, hailing him for his court appointments, his keeping of the peace, his maintenance of prosperity, and for his ability to bring unity and harmony to the American people.
Since FDR and the beginning of the enlarged federal government, the ever-increasing numbers of civil service workers have been of a liberal persuasion. They liked social programs or they wouldn't have gotten into that kind of work. And those who are in such positions today are still, for the most part, much more sympathetic with a Democratic than a Republican president.
It's these liberal Democrats, strong of voice and very active politically, who populate this area in such large numbers that they have become its dominant voice. They are also, quite obviously, Washington's dominant audience. That's why a conservative paper like the Washington Star could not find enough readers to stay alive. That's why, too, there is only one major, highly successful daily newspaper originating in this city today, the Washington Post, whose point of view delights its liberal readers.
All this is relevant since Reagan associates are telling reporters privately that while the President talked a lot about FDR during the campaign, it is Eisenhower he has in mind as he moves into his second term.
They say that Reagan, too, would like to be remembered for advancing peace and for keeping the nation prosperous. As one White House assistant put it: ''He's only thinking of history now - and how history will look at his performance.''
Already, of course, there are signals from Moscow that sound very much like an opening to Reagan-Chernenko get-togethers. And the President is soon to look at proposals from his advisers that are aimed at halving the deficit by 1988.
Reagan just might end up as a President who has done pretty well in furthering both peace and prosperity. While the nation as a whole will be rooting for him, most of those who are sitting close by, here in Washington, sound as though they would get much more satisfaction out of a Reagan failure than a Reagan sucess.