Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Jimmy Carter joined 2,000 women at a National Women's Political Caucus rally Wednesday night at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and talked to them about matters some of his predecessors rarely bothered to:
Specifically, the President discussed his strategic arms proposals which Wednesday the Russian rejected as unacceptable. It brought Carter his first dramatic diplomatic test in his two months in office.
But Wednesday night he did not appear to be discourage by the apparent failure of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's mission to the Soviet Union. In fact, he talked optimistically about what his aims in weapons control are and how he hopes his stand on human rights will prevail.
"We are trying to do all these things - we need your help," he said, emphasizing the necessity of identifying abuses and correcting them as well as "setting new standards of human rights."
With his wife, Rosalynn, standing beside him on the platform in the gallery's main hall, Carter said, "Your forceful voices in constantly espousing human rights will help a great deal. We want to establish a pool of moral commitment and make the United States a rallying point for human rights around the world, a position we have not enjoyed in recent years, we want to be a beacon light."
One way, he said, would be to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, a suggestion that brought loud cheers from his audience.
He recalled that the first time he met Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatolily Dobrynin, "He brought up the subject of human rights. I said my position would not change and he said the United States is not without fault."
Carter said he knew that, but what did Dobrynin mean? Carter said the ambassador replied, "The United States still hasn't passed the Equal Rights if you (Dobrynin) will do what you can for human rights in the Soviet Union."
Besides human rights and ERA, Carter named other issues he said needed support from the women's coalition: his forthcoming proposals on energy, welfare reform and tax reform.
"I don't claim to know all the answers but I need you to help me with your support, advice, criticism. And I pledge to you continued, unswerving and never-diminishing commitment to these goals," he concluded, noting that a majority of Americans are women.
He left the platform to tumultuous applause and a few hugs and kisses from a phalanx of successful women waiting on the sidelines. Because no one could see what was happening beyond the front row, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) took over the microphine to announce that "I'm going to be Thelma Coselli," adopting a ringside manner not unlike TV sportscaster Howard Cosell's.
"Carter just kissed Koryne Horbal," she screamed, setting a kind of running play-by-play as the President greeted Horbal, head of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Caucus. "Now Mrs. Carter is kissing Koryne." Mikulski didn't let up, announcing next that Carter was kissing Sharon Percy Rockefeller - "Maybe we ought to kiss one another, but wait, the President is now listening to Bella Abzug."
Indeed he was, as he was also listening to Rep. Gladys Spellman (D-Md.), feminist spokeswoman and writer Gloria Steihem, Eleanor Holmes Norton, nominated to head the Equal Employement Opportunity Commission, and Assistant Secretary of State Patsy Mink.
"We were all ready to shout for you," Steinem told Rosalynn Carter, who said it was nice not having to speak since her husband was so forceful on the issues himself.
The Carters had walked-arm in arm to the Concoran from the White House, waving to a small band of bystanders gathering in ther wake. And they were ready to return to the White House the same way when Corcoran director Roy Slade waylaid them to express the hope they might return sometime to see the collection. Apparently the Carters felt there was no time like the present, because Slade said later that Carter asked: "Do you think that would be possible now?"
It was, of course, and Slade soon discovered that the President's knowledge of American art was anything but superficial. Carter turned to an aide once and said, "I'm taking the director on a tour of his collection."
For half and hour, the Carter's toured the American collection, instantly recognizing several 19th-century painting styles by name. "We had two sets of Roesens in the Governor's Mansion in Georgia," Carter told Slade as they studied Severin Roesen's "Still Life, Flower and Fruit". They were superb, just superb."
Both Carter's paused beside Hiram Power's sculpture, "The Greek Slave," which depicted a life-size female nude with wrists bound in chains, "It's hard to keep your hands off that chain," said Carter of the work which had shocked pre-Civil War Americans when it first toured the country a century ago.
Carter spotted the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington ("He painted so many of them," noted Slade) and with Mrs. Carter, walked closer for a better look. Both seemed more than casually interested in Samuel F. Morse's "The Old Hose of Representatives 1822."
Slade's tour ended in the modern Bicentennial exhibit where abstract works of contemporary artists soared dramatically both in size and color. One Secret Service agent, however, was unimpressed, whispering to a companion that the paintings reminded him of "my house after I painted it."
As the Carters returned home the way they came - on foot - his forthright approach on issues, was cheered by Mary Anne Krupsak, the lieutenant governor of New York. "If any proof is needed about the power of women, look at this room filled to capacity, a room where the President of the United States came and talked serious issues."
Around the room, Carter's record on the appointment of women in his administration was qreeted cautiously, following the general theme of "It's good what he's done so far but he has a long way to go." "His record is certainly an improvement on the past. He has the sensitivity but on commitment and follow through I'm still holding," said Frances (Sissy) Farenthold, the Texas politican who is now the president of Wells College in New York.
Arabella Martinez, who was appointed by Carter to an assistent secretary post at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, said, "Who's ever satisfied? But I think he's done an admirable job."
Presidential appointees and bipartisan activists abounded. From the White House were Margaret (Midge) Costanza and Martha (Bunny) Mitchell; from Capitol Hill, Reps. Yvonne Burke (D-Calif.) Margaret Heckler (R-Mass.), Millicent Fenwick (R.N.J.), Lindy Boggs (D-La.) and Patricia Sch Schroeder (D-Colo.); and some men, Steward Mott, the philanthropost, and William Coleman, Gerald Ford's Transportation Secretary.
An early arrival was Joan Mondale who was introduced as "not only the wife of the Vice President." During the campaign, she said, the impact of groups like the NWPC was felt, because "I was asked about issues, no recipes."
Wednesday night's fund-raiser was held to honor the increasing number of women in government, and the two women in the Carter Cabinet, Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps and HUD Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris, were very visible.
Kreps had one of the last word in the evening. "I would like to dispel a myth going around town. It's not true that since I became Secretary of Commerce we have not hired any men," she said, as the audience laughed. "Indeed we are making every effort to find qualified white males."