National security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane won a battle with White House communications director Patrick Buchanan over the combative tone of a key speech President Reagan will deliver on his European swing, Administration officials said today.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said McFarlane clashed with Buchanan, a staunch conservative who is in charge of speech writing, over the sharp confrontational tone of a draft of an address to be delivered to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on May 8.
The speech has been touted as the “centerpiece” of four major addresses Reagan will deliver on the 10-day journey, which begins tonight when he flies to Bonn.
The officials said McFarlane complained at Monday’s senior staff meeting that speech writers under Buchanan’s direction had prepared an audience-rousing speech “heavy on anti-communism and applause lines” that was more appropriate for a political campaign.
McFarlane argued, they said, for a “presidential-type” policy speech that would take a longer view and be non-confrontational in tone.
The officials said McFarlane rewrote two earlier drafts over the weekend to eliminate some anti-communist rhetoric and produce a more “thoughtful and reflective speech” on U.S.-Soviet relations.
Buchanan has been the subject of growing criticism by McFarlane and other White House aides who have moderated Reagan’s rhetoric in the past.
Under Buchanan, who served in the Nixon White House, Reagan’s speeches have become more hard-hitting, combative and ideological.