Reagan Campaign
Jude Wanniski
September 8, 1980

 

The chances of a restructuring of the Reagan campaign the emergence of a strategist with authority to replace William Casey have dwindled to the vanishing point at this moment.  The Reagan inner-circle (Meese, Wirthlin, Alien, Spencer, Timmons, Baker, Nofziger, Deaver, etc.) almost certainly knows Casey is incompetent and should be submerged, but at a critical moment they decided to draw the wagons around him and pretend all is well.  The reason:  If Casey is replaced, it has to be someone who would dominate all others; in order for everyone to keep a piece of the turf, they now prop him up.  A September 5 dinner at the Reagan rented home in Virginia amounted to a testimonial to Casey.  The inner circle justifies this by suggesting the mistakes of the last several weeks are normal shakedown problems, or the problem is Reagan's inability to be programmed, which means it wouldn't matter who is campaign mgr. or not.  (See Hedrick Smith article in the Sunday Times, which indicates two of last three "gaffes" were staff inspired; also Wash Post of Sept. 5, indicating the problem is RR's "jitters.")  All this is ominous.  If the real problem is not identified solutions to false problems will be advanced, making matters worse.  What I fear is the increasing tendency of the Reaganites to allay their own "jitters" by adding on Ford people - Reagan's populism will be submerged in the process.  Note, Henry Kissinger brought in to shore up RR's image.  David Rockefeller, Walter Wriston (who ran the Nixon-Ford Treasury Department) are the latest eminentoes.  (I suggested to one Reaganite that I would no longer be surprised if it were announced that Reagan had joined the Trilateral Commission.)

In my book, Alan Greenspan continues to play a disastrous role, and somehow survives.  But then, he tried to put together the Ford "co-Presidency" in Detroit, and has been succeeding de facto ever since.  It was Greenspan who turned the RR remark about the "Carter Depression" into a gaffe, by announcing to the world that he did not agree with Reagan He should have been fired on the spot.  He continues to make pronouncements as if he were still Ford's Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.  In Denver, Sept. 6, he practically endorsed the Carter economic program, while reserving his fire for the "Supply siders."  Of course, nothing is done because no dominant strategist is in control.  Greenspan exists because Marty Anderson props him up, as he does Arthur Burns.  The problem, as the Times headline indicates, is that Greenspan/Burns economics is no different than Carter economics, and if there is no difference, there is less reason to turn out Carter for Reagan.  Reagan himself remains solid, but the campaign is communicating diluted Reagan through the media spots, campaign literature and Greenspan/Shultz/Burns.  Jack Kemp is almost totally without influence in the campaign at this point, and has still not been able to view the TV spots produced for Reagan.  His meeting last week with Reagan, to discuss tax policy, along with Greenspan, Shultz and Charls Walker, was his first substantive meeting with Reagan in six months since Kemp briefed Reagan for the Nashua debate with Bush.  I fear that Kemp will not be involved in briefing Reagan for his debates with Carter, and Reagan who is getting rusty on supply-side arguments will be fed numbers and statistics by the "Co-President's" team.  There are reports, at least that the first batch of TV spots produced for Reagan were so bad that it was obvious they had to be reproduced.  Reagan supposedly cut some new spots on Saturday, although nobody from Kemp's group (which produced RR's primary TV spots) were present for this filming.

All in all, very, discouraging.  The Kemp group is cornered, isolated from the candidate, whose lieutenants are increasingly transforming the campaign into a replica of Ford's, as the Ford team swamps Reagan headquarters in Virginia.

None of this means Reagan can't win.  He remains the best hope because his instincts are sound.  He should dominate Carter in the debates, even if poorly briefed.  And we keep fingers crossed about the new TV spots.  But the campaign structure is an albatross.  The decision-making process is a mystery.  There is no Action Desk to respond to Carter/Anderson blows, and reaction time is measured in days.  My natural optimism about somehow slogging through this is fading.