WASHINGTON (Sep. 11)
Marshall Breger, President Reagan’s special assistant for liaison with the Jewish community since December 15, 1983, has been named by Reagan to be chairman of the Administrative Conference of the U.S., a job in which he will be responsible for Administration deregulation efforts.
The White House has indicated that a successor will not be named to Breger because there are plans to reorganize the Office of Liaison, headed by Linda Chavez, from one centered on relations with various groups to issues.
Interviewed at his office in the Old Executive Office Building by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today, Breger said he was “excited” about his new job which will give him the same rank as a Cabinet deputy secretary. He will be one of the highest ranking Jews in the Administration.
The Administrative Conference is the government advisory body on administrative law — the rules, hearings and programs of the federal agencies. The chairman also sits on several Cabinet councils and is head of an informal group called the Council of Independent Regulatory Agencies.
The 39-year-old Breger, an Orthodox Jew and former law professor, will continue as liaison until he is confirmed by the Senate following a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The post he now holds has always been controversial within the Jewish community since on one hand, all Administrations have expected their liaisons to promote their policies in the Jewish community while the Jewish community looked on the liaison to speak for its views within the Administrations.
Breger said the most satisfaction he had in his job was to see the “flowering” of the strategic cooperation agreement between the U.S. and Israel and the establishment of the free trade agreement between the two countries.
Breger noted that he first brought the idea of the free trade agreement to Reagan and his National Security Advisor after it was suggested during a tour of Israel by conservatives which he led when he was a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, six months before he joined the Administration.
But, he said, his “biggest thrill” came when he heard from the Sudan that the rescue of Ethiopian Jews had begun. He said a more personal highlight came in August, 1984, when his daughter, Sarah Gabriella, was born and he had to postpone leaving for the Republican National Convention in Dallas. The President heard of it and invited Breger to go to Dallas with him aboard Air Force One.
MOST DIFFICULT PERIOD
Breger said his most difficult period was last spring during the controversy over the President’s visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg. He said it was hard getting the Administration to understand the “deep feelings” of the Jewish community on this issue.
Breger came under heavy criticism from the Jewish community when it was learned he had tried to prevent Elie Wiesel, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, from criticizing Reagan at a White House ceremony in which the President presented Wiesel with the Congressional Medal of Freedom.
Breger was reluctant to discuss that period except to note that he had just returned from spending Passover in Israel and walked into a “maelstrom.” He noted it was a case of the messenger being blamed for the message.
David Brody, Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, told the JTA that Breger was “good and effective” at his job. A spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said Breger had done an “excellent job.” Calling Breger “intelligent and dedicated,” the AIPAC spokesman said he had “earned the respect of all those with whom he worked.” He added, “he represented the views of American Jews to the Administration and those of the Administration to Jews.”
THIRD PERSON TO HOLD THE POST
Breger was the third person to hold the post of Jewish liaison in the Reagan Administration. When the Administration first came to office in 1981, it indicated that it did not want any liaison to various communities, but then named to the post Jacob Stein, a leading Jewish supporter of Reagan and a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Stein stayed for about a year and then resigned, to be replaced in June, 1982, by Michael Gale who had been congregational liaison for AIPAC.
When Breger was appointed, he was given a higher ranking of special assistant to the President and was also given the additional duties of liaison with the academic community.
Jewish representatives in Washington have indicated that even if a successor to Breger is not appointed, they still will be able to have contacts at the White House. Brody noted that Breger will now be free of the White House hierarchical structure and will now be free to call people there with his views who, in his present job, he might not have been able to call as freely.