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February 11, 1983 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-02-11

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OPINION

Page 4

Friday, February 11, 1983

The Michigan Daily

Can the

president

survive the

media?

By Norman Sandler
WASHINGTON - Relations between the
White House and the news media have been on
a roller coaster for years. But at midterm,
President Reagan has raised new questions
about their symbiotic and sometimes com-
bative co-existence.
Such questions always are vexing for two in-
stitutions that so depend - and use - one
another.
BUT DEPUTY White house press secretary
Larry Speakes himself raised the level of
debate last week by accusing the media of a
"steady denigration of the president."
"My question to you," Speakes said in a
speech, "is can the modern presidency survive
the modern media?"
Reagan enjoyed a much-talked-about
"honeymoon" for much of his first term - not
because reporters went easy on him, but
because he appeared to be making progress
toward the goals of his presidency.
WELL INTO his second year, Reagan battled
Congress on issues ranging from spending cuts
to tax hikes to the sale of AWACS radar planes
- and won.
But all good things must come to an end. Af-
ter 20 months, impatience with policies that
failed to end the longest recession since World
War II and the worst unemployment since the
Depression weakened Reagan's "political
muscle.

plained he was up to his "keister" with public
airings of what he and his advisers were doing
in private.
Even after issuing new guidelines for contac-
ts with reporters and embarking on a public
relations offensive to show Reagan as com-
passionate, concerned and in control, some in
the White House still complain of a lack of
direction.
ONE AIDE says decisions about where
Reagan should go and what he should say are
made too hastily. Print reporters complain,
with merit, that the White House caters to
television images in planning Reagan's
outings.
Dart of the problem is that Reagan is at times
his own worst enemy. The "Great Com-
municator" in fact has been spotty in his recent
speech deliveries, even when aided by
teleprompter.
The other part of the problem is how the
White House handles his gaffes.
THE MOST recent example was his trip to
Boston.
Until minutes before his departure, Reagan
was home free. The network news would show
just what his image-shapers wanted: Reagan
with black job trainees and hoisting a beer in a
bar in a working-class neighborhood.
But as he rambled on in response to a final
question from high-tech business executives,
Reagan raised the idea of abolishing the cor-
porate income tax.

THE PRESIDENT of the United States, w
had just sought to demonstrate his concern
blacks in Roxbury and working stiffs in Dor-
chester was suggesting a massive tax relief for
corporate America.
The off-the-cuff remark altered the com-
plexion of the Boston visit. The White House,
sensing political trouble, first hedged in ex-
plaining the remark, then made the mistake of
pretending it did not exist. M
Then Speakes made another all-too-comnnon
mistake: He tried to deflect attention from
Reagan's own blunder by attacking the media
Speakes said reporters, knowing Regga
made the statement off-the-cuff, should have
soft-peddled the story, "rather than licking
your chops and clapping your hands and doing
back flips."
Speakes has the unenviable task of having to
face reporters seeking clarification ;of
Reagan's impromptu and sometimes confusing
remarks. But refusing to address them
needlessly raises tensions.
Perhaps overly protective presidential
assistants should rely more on Reagan himse
to straighten out the tangles he sometime
creates.
Sandler wrote this article for United Pres
International.

AP Photo
Reagan and the media: Coexistence or combat?

His defeats at the end of the 97th Congress
were untimely and compounded by Republican
losses in the November elections.
AS REAGAN neared midterm, the budget
process - normally completed by early
January - labored on, beset by indecision and

indications that political realities would force
him to "stray the course" rather than "stay the
course."
Coupled with an approval rating lower-
than his predecessors, this produced a rash of
critical midterm assessments. Reagan com-

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
Vol. XCIII, No. 109 420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Inaction on human rights
N OT SINCE THE Carter admini- To its credit, the Reagan ad-
stration has the United States ministration has recognized the
firmly vowed to actively promote arrogance of trying to impose rigid
human rights around the world among American conceptions of government
both its allies and enemies. In issuing and social policy on other nations. But
its annual report on human rights, the in its soft-pedalling of human rights, it
Reagan administration has said it has abandoned the very people who
would seek an active human rights look to the United States as a symbol of
policy. One hopes the statement con- hope.
tains more substance than rhetoric. The United States needs an active
Not surprisingly, the 1,300-page policy using economic aid and
report to Congress detailed brutal diplomatic influence as leverage to
violations in dozens of nations around gain reform. This policy would work
the world. As usual, the report concen- best in such nations as Guatemala and
trated heavily on nations generally an- El Salvador where U.S. aid carries a
tagonistic to U.S. interests. But com- lot of weight and where past abuses
pared to past Reagan administration have been rampant.
reports, which cursorily discussed As the report states, torture and
violations in El Salvador, Brazil, and brutality continue to be common forms
South Africa - with whom Reagan is of political control practiced by nations
trying to improve relations - this around the world. In no way can the
year's report gave more serious atten- United States have a very large effect
tion to problems in friendly nations. in reducing that violence. But so far,
Could this represent a change in among the nations with which the
policy? Probably not, but it does United States can have the most in-
represent a change in tone and perhaps fluence, it has preferred not to make
a willingness by the administration to waves instead of pursuing a more for-
see that the United States can pursue ceful human rights policy. Unless that
an active policy without alienating im- policy changes, next year's report will
portant friends. be even more discouraging.
"IT'S THE WOST<ASE SCENARIO -
OUR JPE IS IJP"TER ATTACK"

Stewart

0

ji
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rA

STAY THE
COURSE, FELLAS51

(Cj40M&MPSyJEb OPNVM) u

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Ca

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Daily guilty of 'bald overstatement

To the Daily:
Your headline on Michigan
athletics certainly caught my
eye. ("'M athletics: Out of con-
trol/Ex-Big Ten rep. assails
Canham," Daily, Feb. 8). "Out
of control" and "assails" are
powerful words. Unfortunately,
they do not fit the article. Are

University athletics actually out
of control? Who says so-Anton?
Canham? All or some of the
members of the Board in Control
of Intercollegiate Athletics?
Your headline is a bald over-
statement.
I certainly do not get the im-
pression from reading the article

that Prof. Anton is "assailing"
Canham. Is he really "beating
down resistance by repeated
blows, shots, thrusts, etc.,"
(Webster) or is he merely
voicing some personal concerns?
Your headline is inflammatory.

The more you tolerate
misleading and/or inaccurate
headlines, the more the
credibility of the Daily is
diminished.
-Eugene Nissen
February 8

1'~'ec OF Th
r-

... and misquotation_6

.. . and poor taste

To the Daily:
I am sad to see the Daily join
the trend of blaming the
Japanese for the poor U.S.
economy. The Sinclair cartoon
(Daily, Feb. 3) suggesting that
Congress "Nakasone" was not
only in poor taste, it was simply
inaccurate.
Over half of the Sony
televisions sold in the United
States are manufactured in
California and Connecticut. Most
of the American brands, in-

cluding Sears and J.C. Penny,
are made overseas.
Sony was one of the first
Japanese manufacturers to build
in the U.S. for the U.S. market. If
you really have such a hangup
about foreign imports, don't buy
them.
Perhaps the Daily can tell me
what non-Japanese 35 mm
cameras you use. I won't hold
my breath waiting.
-Kenneth Latta
February 3

To the Daily:
Your misquotations are har-
mful. You have twice obtained
interviews with me and other
members of the humanities
department of the College of
Engineering during its current
review. After the first interview I
found myself cited as slanting my
courses "to Freud and Marx...the
area engineers are interested
(in)" (Daily, Oct. 19). This ab-
surd misquotation stood all by it-
self and represented a 20 minute
telephone interview.
The second time you came

around in person and intervieW ed
me for another 20 minutes. The
result? Your article "Where
should engineers study
English?" (Daily, Feb. 6) Has
me say, "Engineers have little
interest in literature." I never
said that nonsense either. I d
say, of course, that engineers ap-
proach the literary classics with
a healthy skepticism and that's
why it is a real challenge to teach
engineers.
-Prof. David Hughes
February 9

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