Nixon, Muskie Head Secret Panel on Arms Proposals
Former President Richard M. Nixon and former Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie, with President Reagan’s knowledge, have joined forces to head a secret group trying to formulate a bipartisan arms control proposal for presentation to the Soviet Union.
Nixon aide John Taylor confirmed today that the group has been meeting for almost a year but said he had no details on its progress or when and how its report will be presented to the President.
The Chicago Tribune said the former Republican President and Muskie, a Democrat, are working on an arms plan along with Howard H. Baker Jr., former Senate Republican leader, and Republican Alton Frye, who heads the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Asked about the report, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said that if Nixon and Muskie are meeting “we don’t know it.”
“The President had a meeting with Nixon and Muskie in New York (during the fall) campaign,” Speakes said. “That was to discuss foreign policy.” Reagan “hears from Nixon occasionally,” he added.
Frye confirmed to the newspaper that “there have been meetings among the people you mention concerning the whole area of Soviet-American relations, including arms control.
“But the nature of this effort has been to be helpful to a process which needs some help,” Frye added, “and I don’t think it would be helpful for me to go into detail.”
The newspaper said Frye also confirmed two reports received from Democratic sources: that members of the group briefed Reagan when he campaigned for reelection last year in New York and that the group is continuing its work.
Fear of Revelation
The report said the Nixon-Muskie group had been concerned Reagan would reveal its existence and his cooperation with it in order to blunt criticism from Democrats during the campaign that he was not interested in arms control.
Reagan’s silence about the Nixon-Muskie group was interpreted by its members as a sign of support for their project, the newspaper said.
Muskie was Hubert H. Humphrey’s running mate when Nixon won the presidency in 1968. Muskie, a former senator from Maine, ran for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination to face Nixon, but was defeated.