Faltering a bit at first, the crowd soon broke into a cry that had been heard in the White House before.
"Four more years. Four more years," chanted some 500 Carter delegates and supporters as the president began his remarks at a White House reception last night.
As investigations into Billy Carter's ties to the Libyan government continue, Carter told the delegates the Democratic party is "willing to tell the American people the truth."
The president spoke of the "embarrassment and disappointment and the alienation of well-meaning, dedicated and patriotic American citizens" during Watergate and "some other things that have happened in the leadership of the Republican party.
"We should have learned the lesson from it," Carter said, "that the truth has always permeated the Democratic party."
The delegates, in town for a day of administration briefings on the upcoming convention, said they will remain loyal to Carter despite rumblings of support for freeing them from their Carter commitment at the convention.
They cheered wildly after Carter said, "It is almost incomprehensible how a brokered, horse-tracked, smoke-filled-room convention could be labeled open and a decision made by 20 million Democrats in the open primaries and the open caucuses could be called closed."
Following Carter's speech, the delegates rushed out to the South Lawn to wave at the president's helicopter as it left for Camp David.
Wearing a peanut-shaped Carter pin she received on the floor of the 1976 Democratic convention, Bertie Brooks of Amherst, Ohio, bolted off towards the Blue Room to watch the takeoff.
"He's got a lot going against him right now," she said, staring ominously out over her glasses. "But he's a marvelous president and he needs the American people to help him."
Outside the White House, delegate Stephen Lukach from Mahanoy City, Pa., said he has heard of no defections from the Carter camp as a result of the Billy Carter controversy.
"You choose your friends, but not your relatives. If Billy Carter were my brother I'd be embarrassed," said Lukach who then pointed to the White House and said, "But until they show me the link right inside that house I'm not getting off this horse."
Like many of the other delegates Audrey Dawida, a delegate from Pittsburgh, said she had been courted at the White House once before, when she attended the City of Champions celebration.
She also complained about the badgering reporters and researchers who have been monitoring her with endless phone calls and surveys since the advent of the Billy Carter affair and the "open convention" push.
"Wednesday night, it was after 10:30, I was drawing water for a bath and I got another phone call," she said. "I don't even remember if it was a reporter or a survey or what, but I talked to them."
On their first visit to Washington, not to mention the White House, Heidi, Betsi and Christi Chapman, daughters of Boise, Idaho, delegate John Chapman, were wearing frilly new dresses and snapping away with Instamatics on the North Portico.
Chapman told of how 8-year-old Betsi, overcome with shyness, had tried to dodge Carter in the receiving line.
"He went right after her and shook her hand," said Chapman. "He doesn't let anyone get away."
John DiDonado of Manchester, Conn., guest of delegate Dominic Squatrito, was clutching three Carter booklets stuffed with White House napkins as he left his first White House reception. He also had had his picture taken with the president's maitre d'.
According to Squatrito, DiDonado is "the guy when the Carter people say, 'Call everybody in Enfield, or New Britain or East Windsor,' he does it." '
Looking out toward Lafayette Park from behind the White House fence, DiDonado remarked, "We're flying back to Connecticut tonight and we're flying on Cloud Nine."