A former Reagan political adviser says the President should let all the facts come out on the covert US plan to send arms to Iran. He also hints that a change of White House personnel would help repair the damage to the President caused by the secret Iranian mission. Edward J. Rollins, Mr. Reagan's campaign manager in 1984 and former White House political director, warns that when a large number of Americans start to question the President's integrity, ``you have a very serious crisis.''
White House efforts to dispel the firestorm of criticism are not effective unless people are being convinced Reagan is telling the truth, Mr. Rollins told reporters yesterday. The President has scheduled a press conference tonight. He is sure to face questions about Iran.
``There are some very serious doubts in the minds of the Congress and ... the minds of the American public, and the quicker the administration responds ... the better off they'll all be,'' he said. There's a ``much bigger story here.''
Asked whether there should be some resignations at the White House, Rollins said that President Reagan ``is the only one who ultimately should serve out the two years.'' ``If anybody else can take some of the blame or ... diffuse some of the criticism ... that's a great way to serve the President,'' he said. Rollins, who left the White House as political adviser soon after Donald Regan became chief of staff, said there is now a ``siege mentality'' at the White House and it is not functioning as well as it did in the first term. He described the Iranian mission as the ``most serious'' crisis of the Reagan presidency because it affected the President's basic strength - Americans' trust in his integrity.
Rollins conspicuously threw his support to US Secretary of State George Shultz as having ``a great deal of credibility.'' If Mr. Shultz resigned, said the GOP consultant, this would add to Reagan's difficulties.
``The mere fact that the secretary of state has been excluded or his advice dismissed certainly creates a very serious question in the eyes of the American public and ... our allies,'' he said.
Chief of Staff Regan is in an ``unparalleled position'' of strength, Rollins stated. ``He's not just a just strong chief of staff; he today is the principal adviser and in many instances maybe the only adviser to the President.'' As a result, he said, the President was ``isolated'' from the kinds of advice and wide-ranging dialogue he must have to make decisions.
``There may be a sacrificial lamb - I don't see how [national-security adviser John Poindexter] can emerge without accountability,'' said one US official. ``You have a very negative record at the NSC and the CIA - the mining of harbors, a disinformation campaign, now this.''
Rollins said the Iranian affair was part of a second-term pattern of limiting who sees Reagan. During the first four years, he told reporters, three or four people always had access to the President. Rollins said he doubted the President would fire people because ``that's not his style.'' But he suggested that the way Mr. Regan has structured the White House ought to be reevaluated.