President Reagan is going to be all right
SEVERAL people have expressed anxiety to me about what may happen to Ronald Reagan, and, in consequence, to orderly government in Washington, from all the furor over guns to Iran and to the contras. Let such people be comforted. Nothing terrible is going to happen to Mr. Reagan himself.
For one thing, this is not Watergate, and there is literally no serious talk in Washington about impeachment. No matter what comes out of the various investigations now getting under way, Mr. Reagan himself is going to be protected.
There are three powerful reasons for this. One is that almost everyone in politics in Washington, Democrats included, likes Ronald Reagan personally and wants to spare him personally as much pain as possible.
A second reason is that the motives behind both the sale of guns to Iran and help for the contras of Nicaragua were good.
Everyone sympathizes with the idea of trying to rescue the hostages. Most foreign policy experts approve of the idea of trying to open up a channel of communication to those who will someday take over in Iran from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And almost everyone agrees that trying to keep communism out of the American neighborhood is a ``good thing'' to try to do.
Watergate was different. The motive was to assure the reelection of Richard Nixon. Crimes were committed, not from a generally accepted high national motive, but from the pursuit of the personal political advantage of one man. Add that probably no other President in US history had so few truly loyal personal friends as did Richard Nixon.
Finally, there is the practical political fact that most groups in the political spectrum in Washington today have more to gain from keeping Mr. Reagan in office to the end of his term than from a changeover before then.
Among Republicans there are the circles of supporters of Sen. Robert Dole, ex-Sen. Howard Baker, Congressman Jack Kemp, and half a dozen others whose presidential chances would be largely snuffed out should Mr. Reagan for any reason retire before the end of his term. The only political beneficiary would be George Bush. The majority weight of Republican pressure is on Mr. Reagan to live out his full term of office in the White House.
The best thing that can happen for the Democrats is for the investigation of possible improprieties and policy follies to continue through the next two years. A Reagan resignation would put an end to most of it. George Bush, taking over, would be making a new image of a new administration. The Democrats would lose the target of the mistakes now coming to light.
Their interest is to help those Republicans who want Mr. Reagan to stay in office. Besides, any move from among Democrats to hurt Mr. Reagan personally could boomerang against them. He remains popular even though people under him have done foolish things in the pursuit in his policy purposes.
QED, Ronald Reagan is not going to be pushed out of the White House. On the contrary, the investigations will be managed as much as possible to expose improprieties and follies in the pursuit of well-intentioned Reagan policies, but there will always be notice taken of the goodness of Mr. Reagan's own intentions.
But what then of the business of government in Washington?
Not to worry.
We will be getting a period of ``R and R.'' We can do with some respite from strife and controversy. Government doesn't always have to be ``doing something.'' Most of the things Mr. Reagan wanted to do were done in his first four years. This is the time for tidying up.
Presumably there will be more change in White House organization. The first team was efficient and effective. The troubles came during the second term under a different team. It is being changed. More change is inevitable. There will be no more improprieties in the pursuit of Reagan purposes.
The American Republic is not going to sustain a serious or lasting injury from all this, and Ronald Reagan will be leaving the White House to applause when he leaves. That time will be two years away unless, for purely personal reasons, he should want to go home sooner.