WASHINGTON — President Reagan has been isolated for a week, but his spokesman said today that anyone who suggests the chief executive is ailing or depressed about his medical or political condition should "bug off."
The President is "following doctors' orders" to limit his work pace for about six weeks after his Jan. 5 operation on an enlarged prostate, Speakes said.
Reagan, who will be 76 Feb. 6, has not been questioned by reporters in detail on the Iran arms scandal or any other subject in nearly two months.
The New York Times reported today that congressional leaders, including many Republican allies, are "openly questioning the President's mastery of the fine points" of Administration policy and "are also wondering if he comprehends some broader issues."
'Ought to Be Ashamed'
Speakes said the newspaper, its reporter and those who spoke with him "ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Calling the story's premise "wrong, absolutely wrong" and "foolish," Speakes said, "I don't think anybody is qualified to comment" on Reagan's condition.
"They don't know what they're talking about, simple as that. Bug off," he said.
The newspaper said congressional leaders became "concerned" and "dismayed" with Reagan's understanding of domestic and foreign policy issues during a pre-Christmas meeting where lawmakers were invited to make suggestions for the President's State of the Union address Jan. 27.
The report recounted a suggestion by House GOP leader Robert H. Michel that Reagan support a plan for catastrophic health insurance, only to have the President respond with a story about a New York City welfare family living in a plush hotel.
It quoted Reagan ally Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) as defending Reagan's performance at the meeting of about 20 GOP lawmakers.
"Everyone was coming at him with different ideas," Hatch said. "He was responding, not necessarily on point."
Speakes said six weeks is the standard recovery period for those undergoing the kind of surgery Reagan had "and the doctors recommended the President gradually ease back into his activities."