IT'S quite a shock to find out that President Reagan may have scheduled certain meetings on the basis of astrology. And all this time, we thought he was listening to Michael Deaver. Donald Regan, the President's former right hand man, has apparently blown the whistle on the astrological cult at the White House in a book of memoirs he has coming out later this month.
The White House press corps, bored into even more tedium than usual by the Bush-Dukakis presidential race, scented a day's diversion in the revelations and zeroed in on the story with dogged amusement. They wanted to know the astrological sign of spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.
Mr. Fitzwater, an amiable fellow who makes up lots of funny lines (but not, at least since the Larry Speakes imbroglio, for the President), said the signs were favorable for a press conference at 12:33 and a half.
It turns out that both Ronald and Nancy Reagan are interested in astrology, and Mrs. Reagan's pursuit of horoscopes may have led her to schedule certain events and meetings for the President at certain times.
Mr. Reagan would not be the first head of state to arrange his schedule in accordance with the alignment of the stars, or with the advice of a soothsayer.
President Sukarno of Indonesia used to take account of such portents in making important decisions of state. (It should also be noted that he used to ease off his shoes at important meetings ``to let the electricity flow out of my body.'') The atmosphere at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, however, was a bit more mystic than generally prevails here at the White House.
At any rate, President Reagan has been swift to declare that ``no policy or decision in my mind has ever been influenced by astrology.'' That may prove reassuring to all except those who know how major policy decisions are really made at the topmost levels of our government. On a particularly bad day, seeking a clue from the stars might have served us better.
Take, for instance, the day Reagan approved sending Bud McFarlane on a clandestine mission to frenetic Iran on an Irish passport carrying a cake, a Bible, and a planeload of missiles. How much better off we all might have been if Reagan's horoscope had said: ``Take no impetuous action like sending an aide bearing gifts to a kooky country that will dump on you and bring derision and infamy to your administration.''
How much better it would have been if, on the day Reagan decided to go to Bitburg, he'd followed a horoscope that said: ``Beware the advice of close aides who spent more time buying automobiles in Germany than checking out skeletons in the cemetery.''
A few other horoscopes the President might have heeded:
``Don't call Oliver North a hero. He'll only want to run for the Senate.''
``Exercise a little more discretion about saying you can't remember whether Vice-President Bush was at all those National Security Council meetings you held. ``Try not to say: `And if he was there, I can't remember what he recommended.'''
``Don't tell the press you have full confidence in Edwin Meese as attorney general. Ed believes that kind of stuff and will want to stay on.''
``Be cautious about telling Mikhail Gorbachev funny anti-Soviet stories. In the spirit of glasnost, he's liable to repeat them when he gets back home. Some of his buddies in the Politburo don't think they're funny.''
``After Frank Sinatra and a couple of the other old Hollywood pals have dropped in for lunch, be careful about telling Nancy what the `stars say' about foreign affairs.''
``Be suspicious of any chief of staff (Don Regan) who came to you from Merrill Lynch.''
``Be cautious of any spokesman (Larry Speakes) who's going to Merrill Lynch.''
``Impound the notes of anybody on the White House staff who looks like he's going to write a kiss-and-tell book.''
``Check that your broker isn't writing a book on the side. Especially if he's with Merrill Lynch.''