Patrick J. Buchanan, President Reagan's belligerent communications director and self-appointed guardian of conservative policies, is resigning, hoping to play a role in the conservative movement from outside the White House in the 1988 presidential election, it was announced Tuesday.
Buchanan had provided the President with a strong link to staunch conservative supporters, who relied on him to present their views in White House disputes. However, one well-placed White House staff member said, this political benefit was often offset by Buchanan's adamant advocacy of right-wing causes that made him a thorn in the sides of other senior aides.
The communications director, a former newspaper columnist and aide to former President Richard M. Nixon, joined the Reagan White House on Feb. 6, 1985. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, announcing the resignation, said it becomes effective March 1.
Buchanan is the latest of several longtime White House aides to announce their departures recently--leaving the President and his most senior advisers with the difficult task of filling a number of key positions in the final two years of the Administration. Buchanan's position was a particularly strong one, giving him direct and substantial influence because he "had access to the President and frequently sent him things to read," one colleague said.
'Natural Break Point'
"Pat feels this is a natural break point to provide a new director of communications with the time needed to become established within the White House staff and to serve the balance of the President's term," Fitzwater said.
"Pat also feels he can better influence the issues and politics of 1988 and the direction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party by speaking and writing from a vantage point outside the White House," he added.
However, one White House official said, Buchanan disagreed with the direction of the Administration, such as the recent focus on improving American competitiveness. Instead, the official said, Buchanan believes that emphasis should be placed on the need for a balanced budget and opposition to abortion.
Disagreements over these issues began to boil with the approach of the State of the Union address delivered last week, the official said, adding: "Pat was pretty emphatic about what the President should talk about."
Statement From Reagan
In a statement read by Fitzwater, Reagan said: "Pat's communication skills and his commitment to conservative political beliefs have been an important part of my Administration for the last two years. I will miss his leadership and his support, but I count on his voice to remain a beacon for our political agenda."
On Jan. 20, Buchanan announced that he was abandoning consideration of running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, to avoid splitting the conservative movement and harming the chances of New York Rep. Jack Kemp.
If he remained on the White House staff, Buchanan would have found it difficult to support Kemp while working in the same Administration as another expected candidate, Vice President George Bush.