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AFTERMATH OF THE TOWER REPORT : Commentary in Press Calls for Staff Shake-up : U.S. Policy Feared Crippled in Europe

February 28, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — European press commentators, reacting to the Tower Commission report chastising the White House for the Iran arms scandal, invariably expressed concern that U.S. foreign policy would be crippled for the final two years of the Reagan Administration.

Many papers said that presidential credibility could be restored only by a major shake-up in the White House and, writing in advance of his resignation, called for the removal of Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan.

The critical comment ranged across the political spectrum from the leftist opponents of Washington to right-wing supporters of President Reagan.

Predicted Regan Ouster

In West Germany, the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that Regan is certain to be removed, adding:

"No one can be interested in seeing a weakened President governing, or hardly able to govern, in Washington in the coming months, not even those in America and Europe who have pursued Reagan with a mixture of scorn and hatred over the years."

Hesse Television declared: "The Tower report will further damage the President's image. Consequences in the personnel area are called for, and certainly not just for Chief of Staff Regan."

In Bonn, the newspaper General-Anzeiger said that with three other investigations to come, the President is still under the gun, declaring:

'That Won't Wash'

"The Tower Commission tried to put more of the blame on the White House advisers than on the President, but that won't wash. The President has ultimate responsibility and must, therefore, exercise ultimate control."

In Britain, The Times of London said the report "presents a thorough indictment of the conduct of foreign policy in President Reagan's second term.

"It speaks of a policy divided against itself, of a lack of accountability reaching into the innermost recesses of the Administration and a confusion of means and ends that should shame any constitutional government."

If the President is to benefit from the report, concluded the conservative paper, "he must act promptly on its recommendations, in particular to curb the freedom of action allowed to the National Security Council. He must also ensure that the United States in the future has just one coherent--and legal--foreign policy."

Another British newspaper, The Guardian, said of the report's findings: "The verdict is a novel one. Guilty, but asleep."

"Nobody leaves the pages of Tower in handcuffs (yet)," The Guardian continued. "But every single player in this obsessive, secret world is dangerous or diminished--or simply, painfully, deluded."

'Gravely Weakened'

The Financial Times said sadly: "The governance of the U.S. and the consequent responses of its friends and foes around the world must be conditioned by the reality of a gravely weakened President."

And The Independent observed: "The predicament in which Mr. Reagan now finds himself must be nearly intolerable. Without putting too fine a point on it, most Americans, while still retaining feelings of affection for their President, regard him as either senile or a liar."

In France, the left-wing daily Liberation declared: "A President who presides over nothing, who knows nothing, who does not remember the key decisions that he made or did not make--this is what emerges from the 300 pages. . . .

"Everything is permitted--to lie, cheat, trade arms to buy hostages, circumvent the country's laws, invoking the Fifth Amendment as others use the top-secret stamp--everything, except to fail."

The conservative Le Figaro argued that "Irangate was not a remake of Watergate," but added that "behind the tall walls of the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev must be rubbing his hands."

Post-Reagan Era Seen

And the right-of-center Le Quotidien de Paris said: "The post-Reagan era has already begun."

In Italy, the daily La Stampa of Turin said the President was "morally absolved, politically condemned," and concluded: "It is almost impossible for him to recover his image."

In Rome, the left-of-center La Repubblica said the Tower report presented "a grim picture of an indifferent President, manipulated by his subordinates and a government in which, after the scandal was broken, every actor tried to cover his own back."

On a more hopeful note, Il Giornale of Milan said: "There is still time to readjust the rudder--if Reagan knows how to seize the initiative and leave behind the apparent inertia of the past few weeks. His presidency cannot wait, nor can the rest of the world."

Perhaps the severest reaction came from the Swiss newspaper Le Matin of Lausanne, which said that Reagan could be accused of cowardice for leaving his staff to bear the responsibility, and which concluded that the Reagan era is over.

Replacement by Bush Urged

"The best thing would be for the President to make way for George Bush in order to avoid a hateful end to his reign," the journal said.

In Moscow, the official Soviet news agency Tass said the findings left many questions unanswered, declaring: "The question of anyone's criminal responsibility for violating U.S. law is sidestepped in the report."

And in Tehran, the official Iranian news agency said that Reagan had lied and that the report confirmed the Iranian version of events.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Speaker of Parliament, was reported as saying that the President had become a "laughing stock."

"They laugh at you," said Rafsanjani, the official whom U.S. emissaries had reportedly been trying to contact during arms negotiations. "They say you are showing old age senility and that you do not encounter the issues."

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