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Hopes, Frustration For Ann Wexler

Campaign '80

By Esme C. Murphy

Washington--When Ann Wexler, assistant to President Carter, talks about the future, she talks about the Carter administration's priorities for the next four years. Specifically she focuses on economic revitalization, the President's energy programs, and new strategies for ERA ratification.

On the eve of the election, Wexler, who for three years has been the President's troubleshooter dealing with special intrest groups, is facing some more pressing political realities. "I don't know who's going to win," she says.

Still, despite yesterday's polls, which showed Ronald Reagan tenaciously clinging to his hold on electoral votes, Wexler is optimistic. Her hope is that if people think Reagan will win, "it will have a substantial impact on the Anderson vote," she says.

Wexler, sitting on the yellow couch of her elegant White House office, expresses confusion over the lack of support for the President. "It troubles me that people don't acknowledge what Jimmy Carter has done for the nation," she says, adding, "The trouble lies not with Carter but with what the people expect a President can accomplish."

The presidency has changed Wexler explains. "People have unrealistic expectations for leadership, and they are unaware of the very real limitations on the Presidency."

One of the biggest limitations according to Wexler is the Congress. With its large number of sub-committees and thousands of staff members, the Congress has become an "extraordinary bureaucracy," she says. In addition, there are "a lot of old lions on the hill who demand recognition of their position."

Another problem for Carter has been that the nation does not "want to listen" to the President's very real accomplishments, Wexler claims. "President Carter's accomplishments in the field of energy are monumental. Yet people don't give him credit" she says.

Wexler also cites a whole host of other accomplishments for which the President has also not received recognition. These range from major poverty relief programs, which have revamped food stamp and social security assistance, to the President's record of minority and female appointments to high-ranking federal positions.

Wexler admits that partialresponsibility for the public's lack of recognition of Presidential accomplishments lies with the administration "for not successfully focussing on and identifying" his accomplishments.

But Wexler levels most of the blame for over emphasizing the negative aspects of the Carter presidency on the American people, who, she says, focus chiefly on their own problems. She feels that the press too, is responsible for the "bum rap" the Carter campaign administration has taken for running a negative and mud-slinging campaign. Wexler explains that the press never focuses on the positive aspects of Carter's campaign speeches.

In addition the nation's perception of President Carter's accomplishments has been tarnished because Carter has been the victim of difficult circumstances, Wexler says.

"For eighteen months SALT was a major administration effort, Wexler says, adding that she organized hundreds of meetings for interest groups all over the country to brief them on the advantages and the importance of the arms limitations treaty. "The invasion of Afghanistan stalled our efforts. It was very frustrating," she says.

Another frustration in the field of foreign affairs Wexler says, has been the hostage issue, which has overshadowed the important, though less dramatic daily business of the White House.

There have also been sources of domestic political frustration. Although she is not bitter about the lengthy candidacy of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.fl), Wexler says she believes Carter would be ahead in the polls if it were not for the drawn-out Kennedy challenge.

In the fall campaign, interest groups, particularly women's groups, have not rallied behind the President the way Wexler would havehoped. "I was particularlydisappointed about the women's groups," she says, adding that the women's movement proved that it was not as sophisticated as other interest groups in the country.

The women's movement stands to lose a lot under a Reagan presidency, she says, and by not endorsing the President it is only hurting itself.

But women are not the only ones who will lose under a Reagan presidency, Wexler contends. "I guess I'm worried most about the poor," she says.

Citing Carter's suspension of the cash down payment on foodstamps, Wexler claims President Carter has consistently expressed concern for the underprivileged. The Republicans "just don't care," she adds.

"It's not that I think Ronald Reagan is a bad man, I don't think he will destroy the country in six weeks, but a lot of things are going to change," Wexler says.

One serious concern of hers is the possible impact that five Reagan appointees could have on the Supreme Court.

"I don't just worry about the impact on women, I'm also very concerned about the impact on environmentalissues."

The nation can also anticipate that in a Reagan presidency the Moral Majority faction will play a role in high level policy making. "I think he's promised it to them and he owes it to them," she says.

Despite Wexler's obvious concern that Reagan might win this election, she has not begun looking for another job. "That's like talking about a no-hitter in the middle of the game. It just isn't done," she says.

Besides, she says, business in the White House has not slowed down because of the campaign. There is the lame duck session of Congress to prepare for, and of course, those plans for the next four years

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