Resources for the President

HAS the Reagan administration lost its stuff? Have lame-duck status, loss of Republican control of the Senate, the departure of top aides, and serious ineptitudes - two failed Supreme Court nominations on top of the Iran-contra scandal - taken an insurmountable toll? Would jettisoning Attorney General Ed Meese, around whom heavy static has built, enable the White House to better set its compass? First, whatever the agonies of the Reagan administration, the office of the presidency itself offers an undiminished resource for leadership. This is a renewable resource that should not be confused with the performance of the officeholder. It has been the fashion for some years now to talk about a ``diminished'' presidency, after the national trials of the Vietnam war and Watergate, and economic maladies like stagflation that appeared to defy White House analysis. But it is still the most powerful political leadership position in the world.

A second resource is the support of the American people. The public does not want a president to fail. After big mistakes like the Marine massacre in Lebanon, the Bitburg incident in Germany, the Iran-contra scandal, Americans might have discounted their regard for this administration, but they came down more on the side of learning from mistakes than on cleaning house.

A third resource lies in the problems to be solved. The President very much figures in this week's arms control negotiations in Geneva and the Capitol Hill negotiations on the deficit. His administration's pique over House Speaker Jim Wright's prominence in the Central America peace negotiations reflects its failure to seize an opportunity.

Other tensions are involved in the Wright matter, too: Texas vs. California - two regional powers, both with long Mexican borders and large Mexican-American populations, squaring off; the Republican White House vs. the Democratic House of Representatives; and the State Department's battle to control United States foreign policy. The way the Reaganites are hollering about Mr. Wright's role indicates they still have ambition left.

On Ed Meese: Events, including current investigations, will decide whether he should stay. Mr. Meese faithfully reflects his boss's views: For Reagan to disown him would be to gainsay Reagan values.

The US has much to address: education, housing, blighted harbors, arms control, global economic jitters. There is no reason for this presidency to drift into irrelevance.

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