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The powers that be.

This Administration has sought to blur completely the question of Presidential responsibility. The White House image makers have transformed Ronald Reagan into a protean symbol rather than an accountable official. He takes credit for actions he had nothing to do with and avoids blame for bad results when he was clearly in charge.

Take President Jose Napoleon Duarte's offer to negotiate with the Salvadoran guerrilas. Reagan embraced the initiative as his own, even though his policies have favored a military solution in the region. In fact, the probability is that Duarte met with the rebels now because he knows that election polities prevent Jeane Kirkpatrick and other Administration hardliners behind the scenes from vetoing the talks.

And as Patrick J. Sloyan reports on page 410, last year the President kept the marines in Beirut in the face of warnings from his top military and intelligence advisers that there was danger. By shrewdly accepting the responsibility--but not the blame--he prevented a trial of the officers responsible for the lax security precautions, thus avoiding revelations of higher culpability. Recently he employed the bureaucratic dodge of denying that a formal recommendation for withdrawal of the troops was put before him.

Thus, the policies of the anti-Soviet hardliners prevailed in Lebanon, with tragic results. The Presidential insulation from reality described by Sloyan represents, in microcosm, what has happened under this Administration--and shows what will happen during the next four years if the President is re-elected. The hardliners will run things while Reagan perches on a safe limb above it all, taking credit, evading blame, covering for them: an incorporeal smile, like the Cheshire cat.

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Title Annotation:no presidential responsibility for Reagan
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Oct 27, 1984
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