While Washington reverberated with the aftershocks of the Great Cabinet Earthquake, Jimmy Carter, in the manner of presidents before him, turned his attention to two ritualistic White House ceremonies yesterday.
At midday, there was a presidential thanks in the Rose Garden to the three Apollo 11 austronauts on the 10th anniversary of their moon landing. Two hours later, in the East Room, Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, hosted a reception for the 40-member National Advisory Committee which will spearhead the 1980 White House Conference on Families.
It was a day when Carter's every word, every facial expression, every move was under scrutiny, both by the media and by the people he had invited to share in the normally routine ceremonies over which he presided.
At both events, Carter, who appeared tired but calm, referred to the problems troubling him which he had discussed in his Sunday night address to the nation.
"I am now involved in an intense and serious period of review and evaluation," he told the Rose Garden group, which not only included Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin and Micheal Collins and their families, but also presidential assistant Zbigniew Brzezinski, NASA Administrator Robert Frosch and Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) ("What are you doing here?" Carter joked when spotting Glenn, also a former astronaut.)
"I will make the decisions necessary to insure that my administration, in representing the American people, can provide the leadership this country needs," the president continued.
The Rose Garden was excessively humid, but Carter restrained himself from mopping his brow. Others, less successful, pulled handkercheifs, neatly folded like tiny blotters, from breast pockets.
After his speech and introductions to the astronauts' families, Carter returned to the rostrum for the small, framed American flag the crew had carried to the moon and had presented to him for the anniversary. Looking as if he didn't know what was expected of him next, he stood apart and alone.
"Where's Bo Ginn?" he asked, looking around for the Georgia Democrat who had dropped in with his family for what he called "a purely social visit."
Later, facing more television lights in the East Room, Carter again referred to the problems besetting him and to his recent speech.
"I talked about a crisis of confidence," he told the iced tea-drinking throng, "and families are very much a part of that crisis.
In a voice barely audible at times, Carter described the American family as being in disarray. Some in the crowd not help identifying with his Cabinet and White House "families" as well.
One "family" member, former HEW secretary Joseph A Califano Jr., was to have addressed the National Advisory Committee Thursday at noon. A substitute was found, however, when it was announced that Carter had fired Califano that morning.
The White House Conference on Families was a 1976 campaign promise of Carter's. In June, 1978, a divorced woman, Patsy Fleming, who had been named executive director, was told by Califano she must choose a Catholic male as co-director. She quit in protest, chairman Wilbur J. Cohen became ill and the conference was postponed.
Yesterday, the new chairman, Jim Guy Tucker, and executive director, John Carr, shared the East Room platform with the president and Mrs. Carter.
In the crowd was Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) and Coretta Scott King, whom the president called to his side as someone who had shown True courage . . . there are some families who have suffered a lot of tragedy."
After his talk, Carter went over to Mrs. Carter and kissed her. Then, with Mrs King at his side, he left the room. Mrs Carter remained behind to talk to guests.
Earlier in the day, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins faced the press together at the Smithsonia's Air and Space Museum. Sitting behind a battery of microphones in front of a lifesized Lunar Module, the Apollo 11 cewmen recalled in wistful terms their historic flight and the 10 years since making it.
"I was privileged to be part of it, irrespective of the consequences," Armstrong said. "I'd do it all over again in a minute." Collins agreed, but Aldrin did not.
"I'm not sure I would," said Aldrin, the second man on the moon, who described himself yesterday as "one of the first men" on the moon. "If I had any inkling of what lay ahead . . . but the treadmill was moving, and it was impossible to get off.
"Apollo 11 may have been a small step for Neil," said Aldrin, who wrote a book describing his own fight with alcoholism, "but it was the beginning of a tremendous hudrlde for me. I'm not the same person who participated in the flight. Most of the time I'm quite comfortable. But there are exceptions, like this morning. I'd like you to know this is not my favorite pastime."
Collins was acutely aware that 10 years had passed since Apollo 11.
"I couldn't pass the astronaut physical today, and I need glasses to read," he said with a smile. "but I feel like Cary Grant must have when a writer cabled him and asked: How old Cary Grant? and Grant cabled back: 'Old Cary Grant Fine.' That's how I feel. Old Mike Collins fine."
To Armstrong, the highlight of Apollo 11 was still the landing rather than the walk on the moon.
"When we landed, Buss and I shook hands without saying a word," Armstrong said. "Aviators traditionally like to make smooth landings, they never think too much of climbing down the ladder."
Aldrin was asked what he though of his celebrity status 10 years after winning it.
"I celebrated the 10th anniversary of our liftoff driving along a Californina freeway," he said. "I was in a hurry, and all of a sudden I noticed a red light flashing in my rear-view mirror.
"That chap didn't care who I was I still got a ticket." CAPTION: Picture, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, by Frank Johnston - The Washington Post