Political musings

NOW seems a good moment for looking around and asking ourselves a few questions: Is there a genuine Republican presidential dark-horse possibility out there somewhere -- someone who could come out of nowhere and beat out any of the current favorites, such as George Bush, Jack Kemp, and Robert and Elizabeth Dole?

There is. He is Peter Ueberroth, the businessman -- and current baseball commissioner -- who was credited with being chiefly responsible for guiding the Los Angeles Olympics to such a signal success.

Actually, although it isn't likely, both parties could field prominent businessmen as presidential candidates in 1988: Ueberroth for the Republicans and Lee Iacocca for the Democrats.

What effect will President Reagan's operation and the medical prognosis have on his political status?

The public has already rallied to his side during and after the hostage crisis. Now, sparked by their admiration and sympathy for their spunky President, the American people are getting behind him in ways that should send his popularity polls sky high.

Thus, in the short run, even as the President rests and recuperates, he should now have the lift in public support which should help him immensely in getting tax reform -- his No. 1 domestic objective through Congress.

Thus, the summit with Mikhail Gorbachev and other longer-term events are very much on track.

Why did Gorbachev finally come around to agreeing to go to a summit with Reagan?

Gorbachev has quickly consolidated Soviet power -- to the place where he can negotiate freely at a summit without having to cast fearful glances at the Soviet military or a challenger in the wings.

Further, it seems that he has been able to quickly make the moves he feels necessary to shore up the economy, his first priority, and now has the decks cleared to give time to foreign affairs.

But wasn't there something more involved in this Gorbachev decision -- the element that may well have persuaded the Soviet leader to go to Geneva?

Yes. The Gorbachev reasoning is said to run along these lines: that Reagan, in hopes of forging an arms settlement as one of his legacies, is eager for a pact.

And it is out of this anticipated Reagan eagerness -- this Gorbachev perception of a Reagan with an intense desire to make a record for history as a global peacemaker -- that the Soviet leader is believed to feel he can move profitably to a summit at this time.

Is Reagan aware of Gorbachev's expectations?

He is. He is fully committed to giving absolutely no ground on his plans to carry forward with his nuclear missile defense (known as ``star wars'') research.

Further, the President himself thinks the climate is right for real progress on arms control and, perhaps, some arms reductions.

But will that summit really get into substantive talks on arms control?

Behind the scenes the United States is drawing up an agenda for such meaningful conversations. And nothing being said by the Soviets is ruling out such a meeting. Further, at least one informed source says a summit of possible historic proportions is now very likely.

On an entirely different subject: Were Republican senators justified at being miffed at the President for pulling away from his agreement with them to include social security benefits in making spending cuts in the budget?

The President is understood not to think so. His feeling is that he was talked into the cost-of-living reductions simply because he became convinced this was the only way he could get a budget package.

But he did not like to do this. He believed that the agreement ran counter to his commitment during the presidential campaign not to touch social security benefits in dealing with the deficit.

Now, House Republicans, led by Jack Kemp, have convinced Reagan that penalizing social security recipients in any way will not get through Congress. And the President gladly -- and he feels justifiably -- moved back to his old hands-off position on social security.

Godfrey Sperling Jr. is the Monitor's senior Washington columnist.

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