Conservatives are edgy about George Bush. As the President-elect forges a Cabinet with a largely pragmatic, establishment profile, his right-wing conservative supporters are voicing concern that their interests and views will be relegated to the background in the new administration.
``We have no reason to think he's the `enemy' and will be anti-conservative in his philosophical approach,'' says David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. ``But there is a good deal of nervousness about the central appointments that are not very comforting.''
The cry of the right wing is not being heeded much, however. Mr. Bush is shaping a conspicuously nonideological administration and, as some political observers view it, bringing back in fashion a traditional brand of Republicanism. This puts the right-wing elements in a somewhat desperate position.
``They've spent eight years trying to head Bush off at the pass because they have known since 1980 that they'd be out,'' says Horace Busby, a longtime Democratic analyst. ``And they are out. So this may be their last stand.''
The anxiety among conservatives has grown as Bush has delayed a decision on naming former Texas Sen. John Tower as his secretary of defense, pending an exhaustive Federal Bureau of Investigation check. Conservatives are divided on Mr. Tower's selection. Many view him as someone who would be tough on defense issues and any radical change in the US relationship with the Soviet Union.
But others believe Tower's image has been tarnished by the publicity about his personal life and ties with defense industry contractors. At a recent meeting of the conservative Free Congress Foundation, leading conservatives spoke out against a Tower appointment. Retired Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, a big booster of ``star wars'' missile defenses in space, pushed the choice of Martin Marietta Corporation president Norman Augustine.
``He feels Augustine would make a better secretary because he has a better conception of the importance of strategic defense to our national security,'' says a spokesman for General Graham. ``Second, it's not the wisest idea to appoint someone who would have trouble getting approved because of the implication of improper conduct in the past.''
To date, Bush has placed moderates in substantive policymaking positions. Thus, incoming Secretary of State James Baker III and national security adviser Brent Scowcroft will anchor his foreign policy team. Nicholas Brady, who will stay on as Treasury secretary, new budget director Richard Darman, and Michael Boskin, who will head the Council of Economic Advisers, form the economic team.
The appointment this week of Clayton Yeutter, currently United States special trade representative, to be secretary of agriculture, adds to an overall image of a new administration that will pursue policies that work rather than ideological causes - or a radical turnaround of the government, as President Reagan sought.
``There's not a supply-sider or `evil empire' baiter among them and no `movement' conservatives,'' says William Schneider, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
So far it is only in the political area that Bush has bowed to the conservative right, picking Dan Quayle to be his No. 2 and New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu to be White House chief of staff. These are not policymaking jobs.
``Sununu will be less significant than the chief of staff under Reagan because Bush will be more active and his subordinates will be carrying out policy,'' says Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus.
Bush still has a number of Cabinet posts to fill. Conservatives would be especially pleased by the appointment of former Rep. Jack Kemp to be secretary of housing and urban development. Among other names under consideration are Louis Sullivan, a black and president of the Morehouse College School of Medicine, as secretary of health and human services, and Julius Becton Jr, a black retired Army general, to be head of the new veterans' department.
It is not only appointments that leave conservatives murmuring, however. Bush has yet to spell out an agenda for his administration and many conservatives on the right worry about his future policies, especially in the domestic arena. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, recently issued a 2,000-page blueprint for the Bush administration. Policy recommendations ranged from reforming the world monetary system on the basis of a gold standard to tax deductions for consumers purchasing their own health insurance.
Bush's campaign promises on education, child care, and other social areas have left many question marks. ``Most of us are concerned that he may bow to the desire for new programs and will not go for significant cuts - and then decide that taxes have to be raised,'' Mr. Keene says.
While Bush has a reputation as a tough realist in international affairs, some conservatives also suggest that such favored policies as the Reagan Doctrine of supporting ``freedom fighters'' around the world will be put on the back burner. And they fret that there already is less enthusiasm among incoming Bush officials for the President's ``star wars'' program, or Strategic Defense Initiative.
In contrast to the transition period in 1980, when President-elect Reagan made his agenda clear, few policy ideas have yet surfaced from the Bush transition team. Political observers suggest that it may be more difficult for Bush to strike out on a bold, innovative course, because his election mandate was in effect to keep the economic recovery going, that is, a mandate for continuity.