THE PRESIDENCY by HUGH SIDEY: Consoling Promise of Change

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It is doubtful that in the next four weeks a grand array of heretofore undetected leadership talents in Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan will be revealed and illuminated by the campaign. But the promise that keeps America going matter this disappointing political exercise is that no matter how the election insignificant out, the U.S. will get a new Government. That is not an insignificant consolation or benefit.

Vast sections of Carter's Administration are sleepwalking, drifting through time until the decision. Hundreds of people right up to Cabinet level are expecting to be swept out of power no matter what the outcome. Even Carter Campaign Manager Robert Strauss jokes (sort of) that come Nov. 4, his influence will be nil with or without victory. What also is quietly acknowledged is that Carter's Government is in terrible disarray in important areas.

Doubts permeate the Justice Department. Can Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti survive having dissembled in the Billy Carter affair? Politicizing the Pentagon has diminished the standing of Secretary of Defense Harold Brown. In the State Department Edmund Muskie seems worn out after only a few months on the job. Carter's White House crew, led by Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell, who did so much to disparage his own Cabinet officers, seems to be ineffective in everything but politics. If Carter were to win and not rebuild his machinery to inject new spirit into his Administration, his second term could fail before it even started.

It also is a fact of Carter's life that the priorities he initially set, such as overcoming unemployment and reducing armaments at home and abroad, have been overtaken by events. There are serious doubts whether the same men and women recruited to carry out Carter's original ideas can or should be the ones to plan and execute policy that has turned 180°. Carter has fragmented almost nothing about what he will do to reconstitute his fragmented Government in a second term. He may be afraid to discuss the matter, thus admitting his troubles. Or it could be "the October surprise" that all the Republicans the believe Carter will spring in a dramatic late tactic to claim the electoral lead.

Reagan, too, has been remarkably quiet about how he would put together a Government to carry out his promises. At this point, one of the best hopes he has for to deep doubts about his own knowledge and skill would be to cite a lustrous pool of talent from which he would draw the people for his Administration. It has not really worked out that way. Task forces are quietly shaping ideas for the transition and the programs that will follow should Reagan win. But the assault force that, in a change in Government, would descend on Washington and take command remains largely unknown. The Reagan people have nearly 250 persons on their key advisory committees, the nucleus of a talent bank that the Governor has promised will be in place and running a few days of his Jan. 20 Inauguration if he wins the election. Chief of Staff Edwin Meese, who probably would get a top job in a Reagan Administration, has deliberately kept the formation of this shadow force low-key in order not to detract from the election effort.

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