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Another opening, another showcase for the right.

There they go again. On December 7, the Heritage Foundation, a major New Right think tank, released its latest report, Mandate for Leadership II: Continuing the Conservative Revolution. The first Mandate for Leadership was touted as a "blueprint for conservative government" when it appeared just days after the 1980 election. Filled with recommendations for trimming down government bureaucracy and beefing up defense, Mandate was the most detailed transition plan ever prepared by a group not officially associated with an incoming President. Transition team director Edwin Meese 3d, who had worked behin the scenes with Heritage president Edwin J. Feulner Jr. for a year, accepted a copy on the evening news, and a 1,093-page paperback edition of the twenty-volume report made The Washington Post's best-seller list for three weeks in early 1981.

A comforting bit of liberal wisdom holds that the influence of the right in the Reagan Administration is less than meets the eye. Reagan makes gestures in its direction--supporting constitutional amendments that have no chance of passage, sending a right-to-lifer to a world population conference--but pragmatic Republican bureaucrats and members of Congress, as well as the White House staff, hold the reins. Yet in March 1982 Feulner claimed that the Reagan Administration had adopted 61 percent of Mandate's recommendations. For all the talk about the Rev. Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation is probably the single most important outside influence on this Administration--and given the constant flow of its personnel into government, a most important inside one as well.

There are those who insist that Heritage has inflated its clout by taking credit for legislative achievements that would have happened anyway. After all, the Administration and the foundation share many assumptions and goals. Surely social service programs would have been cut without the foundation's urging.

While that is true, the relationship between the Administration and the foundation has been so incestuous that it is hard to tell whose policy is whose. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the intelligence section of the first Mandate. As Jay Peterzell of the Center for National Security Studies observed, "Every one of its major proposals is a restatement of policy papers and legislation produced by Reagan supporters over the last year and a half" [see Peterzell, "Unleashing the Dogs of McCarthyism," The Nation, January 17, 1981].

Among the recommendations in that section that have found their way into current law and policy, either wholly or in part, whether by executive order or legislative enactment, are the exemption of certain Central Intelligence Agency files from the Freedom of Information Act, revision of Justice Department guidelines to permit surveillance of radical groups that have committed no overt criminal acts, stepped-up domestic bugging and wiretapping, increased funding for C.I.A. covert action and "the restoration of some Congressional body with similar functions" to the old House Un-American Activities Committee, a role the Senate's Security and Terrorism Subcommittee has been playing in a desultory way.

To be sure, the Heritage Foundation preserves its conservative purity by criticizing Administration short-comings--sort of. Its report The First Year, published in 1982, blamed "the Administration's failure to accomplish more" on "personnel." Mandate II also has some harsh words for the Reagan team. "Those charged with transportation policy had no vision of a defederalized, market-oriented transportation policy," it says. "The Reagan Administration failed to develop a comprehensive plan for what it wanted to accomplish in agricultural policy and food assistance reform."

The Administration relies so heavily on the Mandates partly because of their clarity and thoroughness. The latest one is just under 600 pages long and contains approximately 1,300 specific proposals for the short and the long term. It examines the functioning of each of the Cabinet departments, as well as Social Security, the budget process, the intelligence community and a number of defense and foreign policy issues. Underlying it all is a firm belief in free markets and an obsession with the Communist threat. That focus doesn't blur for an instant.

The recommendations in Mandate II should come as no surprise. The two most significant ones--support for the use of paramilitary forces against anti-American governments in Kampuchea, Laos, Vietnam, Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Iran and Libya; and the eventual substitution of private "Super-I.R.A." accounts for Social Security and Medicare--have been widely reported. Suggestions in other areas include more weapons for the military, more deregulation in transportation and agriculture, less civil rights enforcement in education and lower Mediaid grants to states with "excessive" health costs. They represent a continuation of both the Heritage Foundation vision and the policies of the Reagan Administration's first term.

The extent to whcih this blueprint becomes reality will depend on politics, on those branches of the government over which the Reagan Administration has less than complete control. Congress and the judiciary will prevent some of the suggestions from being carried out; Administration debts to various constituencies will impede others.

Nevertheless, it is an imposing document, and will repay study by anyone who wants to know what the country will be up against. And it makes the reader wonder if anyone on the left is analyzing the programs and functions of the government with such painstaking care, asking probing questions about which programs deserve support and which do not, and coming up with so complete a plan of action. Someone somewhere ought to get started right now on a similar report for the left--a Mandate for Democracy.

Postscript. Mandate II was not Heritage's only project this fall. It continued to marshal support for the Administration's call for a U.S. withdrawal by January 1 from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In a letter to Heritage Foundation contributors on October 8, Feulner described President Reagan's call for a walkout as "one of the Heritage Foundation's most significant achievements." He urged them to donate to a $75,000 fund to pay for an Emergency Unesco Project, which would "do the line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph analysis our Congressional friends need to make their case effectively." Their case opposes a report by the U.S. National Commission for Unesco, which advocates that the United States work for change within the organization.

Heritage has waged the battle against Unesco in a series of articles in its newsletter, "Backgrounder." These have charged the agency and its director general, Amadou Mathar-M'Bow, with anti-Western and anti-free-market bias, straying from Unesco's constitution, politicizing cultural issues and overspending. The compaign has been effective. Owen Harries, Australian ambassador to Unesco in 1982-83 and currently a John M. Olin Fellow at the foundation, has been widely quoted in the American press on the failings of the United Nations. The State Department's campaign to build support for America's withdrawal from Unesco--outlined a year ago in a confidential memorandum from Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Gregory Newell to Secretary of State George Shultz--calls for "articles of support" by "private sector individuals" to be sent to maje newspapers and for a letters-to-the-editor campaign.

The success of the Heritage Foundation's attack on Unesco is due to a combination of factors. Its multifarious ties with government officials and journalists account for some of it. So does the energy with which it prepares and distributes its publications and campaigns for its goals. Finally, the laziness of bureaucrats and reporters who accept the Heritage Foundation's definitions of issues and facts rather than doing their own research is a contributing factor. The U.N. Department of Public Information has prepared detailed refutations of various Heritage studies of the United Nations and its agencies, citing numerous inaccuracies and oversimplifications. But many of the "facts" in those studies have made their way into the public debate. If the United States leaves Unesco next year, it will be due in no small part to the Heritage Foundation's efforts.
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Title Annotation:the Heritage report
Author:Dixler, Elsa
Publication:The Nation
Date:Dec 22, 1984
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