PARSIPPANY, N.J. — In an emotional plea for confidence in President Reagan's handling of the Iranian arms scandal, White House political director Mitchell E. Daniels promised the nation's Republican governors Monday that the "nightmare" of Watergate will not be repeated.
In the first public effort by a senior White House official to distinguish the Iranian arms fiasco from the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard M. Nixon's resignation in August, 1974, Daniels acknowledged that "many Americans are troubled that we will relive the events of 1974, that somehow this nightmare of the past will be repeated."
But "it's not going to happen," he said in a speech to the annual meeting of GOP governors here. "There will be no cover-up," he said.
Daniels' plea for support came on the same day that Patrick J. Buchanan, the White House communications director, blasted congressional Republicans for deserting President Reagan, saying that with a few exceptions "the whole damn pack has headed for the tall grass" over the Iran- contra scandal.
Buchanan expressed his complaints in a column on the op-ed page of the Washington Post in the aftermath of widespread criticism from GOP leaders over the sale of American weapons to Iran and the diversion of profits to the rebels in Nicaragua.
"Is this how they repay the leader who has done more for the Republican Party than any American since Theodore Roosevelt, who brought us back from Watergate to become the party of vision and opportunity, the party of Middle America and the young?" Buchanan wrote.
Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said the article had not been cleared in advance by the White House. "I don't have any comment on it," he said.
Most of the governors publicly expressed faith that Reagan was dealing with the problem in the right way. California Gov. George Deukmejian said "'I rather doubt" that the affair will hurt Republicans politically, and contended that Reagan was acting to dispose of the matter quickly.
"The President has taken decisive action," said New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, head of the Republican Governors Assn.