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State of Union Speech to Stress Conservatism

January 24, 1988|JACK NELSON | Times Washington Bureau Chief

"In the past it's been a battleground between pragmatists and true believers," Bauer acknowledged, "but this year it was more like: 'What kind of speech does the President want and let's give it to him.' It touches a lot of his longtime themes so his political base will be pleased."

In previous years, the White House has sought the assistance of outside advisers, such as former Reagan speech writer Ken Khachigian, a San Clemente-based lawyer, in drafting major addresses for the President. But Howard H. Baker Jr., the moderate White House chief of staff, sought no outside help on this one, and aides described it as strictly an "in-house" product.

'True Believers'

Since joining the White House staff, Baker has sometimes sought to placate "true believers" who accuse him of undermining the President's more conservative principles. And White House sources say that in this case he also apparently decided that a fight over the State of the Union address was not worth the effort.

Griscom, a longtime Baker confidant who served as his top aide when he was Senate Republican leader, acknowledged that the speech contains no new initiatives. But he said: "It clearly lays out the road map of what this President has been able to do and is a clear recognition that while we're entering a national election year, the President can still challenge Congress and the American people to do things."

Reagan frequently has cited American "heroes" in his speeches to Congress, and the first draft of his State of the Union address contained a salute to U.S. Atty. Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, a high-profile prosecutor who has led a fight on organized crime, Wall Street insider trading and political corruption, including recent criminal indictments of two associates of Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III in the Wedtech case.

That Part Quickly Excised

But that section was quickly excised. Aides said they did not know whether Giuliani's role in the Wedtech case was a factor in the deletion. Another possibility is that the passage might have seemed too blatantly political since U.S. attorneys in New York have traditionally been fiercely independent and Giuliani is considered a strong potential Republican candidate for the Senate seat now held by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).

In the proposed salute, Reagan would have praised Giuliani's "unrivaled record for prosecuting major gangsters and hoodlums," but would not have mentioned his war on political and Wall Street corruption.

The President, in his speech, is expected to denounce protectionism as "destructionism" and to declare that America's economic future depends on free, open and fair trade.

He will urge the nation to seize the opportunity to lead the world into a new era of global trade and will cite the free-trade agreement negotiated between the United States and Canada as an example of cooperation to all nations now wrestling with the temptation of protectionism.

Reagan, who plans to submit to Congress a request for about $50 million in new Contra aid, will stress that the Nicaragua rebels--or "freedom fighters," as he prefers to call them--are crucial to the hopes of democracy in that country and he will urge Congress to pass the aid bill quickly.

If the United States will remain firm and aid those resisting communist tyranny in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Angola, Reagan maintains, then the Soviet Union may turn its foreign policy in a new, less aggressive direction.

In his Saturday radio talk, Reagan loosed a salvo at congressional critics who contend he is seeking a military solution in Nicaragua rather than a negotiated settlement.

"Some say if you're for aid to the freedom fighters in Nicaragua, you're against the peace process. Phooey," he said. He argued that pressure from the resistance has brought the Sandinistas to the bargaining table and has forced democratic concessions.

Reagan called the vote on continued aid to the Contras "one of the most important this Congress casts," contending that "at stake here is whether Nicaragua becomes a Soviet base camp on the mainland of this hemisphere."

The original draft of his State of the Union speech has Reagan saying that at the Moscow summit he expects to attend with Gorbachev this summer, "arms reduction will not dominate the agenda" and he will "continue to press the Soviets on human rights; we will not fail to engage the Soviets on regional issues."

He plans to urge the Senate to ratify the treaty banning intermediate-range missiles that he and Gorbachev signed at the Washington summit last month and will emphasize that the treaty establishes new, more stringent regulations for verifying compliance through short-notice and on-site inspections.

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