Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Outwardly there was an atmosphere of calm at the White House. But behind the scenes at Thursday night's state dinner for British Prime Minister James Callaghan, quite the opposite was true.
President Carter, talking to reporters only a few hours before the gunmen surrendered, said he was "keeping in touch" with the tense situation in which 130 hostages were held at three Washington locations. Among his informants, he said, were Attorney General Griffin Bell and White House counsel Robert Lipshutz.
One of the Carter's dinner guests, in fact, had to cancel out at the last minute because of his part in negotiations with the Hanafi Muslim gunmen. The wife of Pittsburgh mayor Pete Flaherty, deputy attorney general-designate, came alone.
After dinner, during coffee in the Blue Room, reporters asked Carter how a man with deep religious beliefs, such as himself, viewed the use of violence for religious beliefs. It had, Carter said, "ominous overtones."
"It's deplorable," Carter went on, "that a deep religious belief would lead to violence. It's not unique. Historically, it has been true, for instance in Spain during the Inquisition."
The siege had only moderately affected the Callaghan visit, Carter said, telling how the traditional 19-gun salute had been omitted. Callaghan had understood, the President said, recalling a "terrorist-kidnapping incident" in Great Britain two years before.
The tense situation was very much on the minds of many of the President's 120 guests as they arrived at the White House.
"I actually was very very scared," said Midge Costanza, a presidential assistant. "It's the first experience I've had like this. It's almost outrageous that the only way people feel that they can get a message across is by doing something like this."
After being prodded by his wife to respond to a question, Rep. Al Ullman (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said, "It's a sad commentary on a number of things."
Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, said, "I'm very sorry that this has happened. I never expected to see this in Washington."
The Carters welcomed Callaghan and his wife, Audrey, to the White House shortly after 7:30 p.m.
"Hello, hello. Welcome again," the President told the guests as they alighted from the limousine. The two first couples disappeared into the mansion to the strains of "Rule Britannia."
Adding yet one more British accent to the evening, dinner was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
During the traditional exchange of toasts, the President related how he always likes to impress foreign leaders, but that with Callaghan he had no chance.
As Carter explained to laughter, the prime minister is a farmer, a Baptist, met his wife in a churchyard, has a sister involved in religion and has unemployment and inflation problems in his country.
In a response, Callaghan told the President, "I assure you we arrive in peace and in Concorde," a reference to the British-French supersonic jet that has had difficulty getting permission for U.S. flights.
The prime minister added that he was shy about talking about the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain, but nothing that Carter had mentioned it earlier, said it "describes with accuracy the ease, the common feelings and similar political systems rooted in the common law."
As a gift for the President, Callaghan brought something a little different, a swath of worsted fabric with an almost imperceptible repeat of the letters J.C. forming a silver pinstripe in silk. Callaghan, who shares the same initials, was wearing the twin of the fabric in a suite made up by his tailor.
The evening's entertainment was provided by tenor Robert White and mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani. Among White's selections was a Welsh folk tune, "All Through the Night." De Gaetani, a professor of voice at Eastman school of Music, chose selections from Stephen Foster, including "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair."
White and De Gaetani drew encores from the crowds and a salute from Carter who called their music "a special kind" that is often not appreciated enough.
Later the Carters took the Callaghans upstairs. While the President and Prime Minister conferred for 20 minutes, Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Callaghan went to see the newest Carter grandchild, James Earl Carter IV.
Meanwhile the other guests were leaving, breaking protocol in effect by doing so before the guests of honor had departed.
Among the Carter's state guests since they moved into the White House, the Callaghans have the distinction of leaving the latest. The Carters escorted them to their waiting limousine at 11:20 p.m.