Presidential adviser Charles Kirbo said today he expects his close friend. President Carter, to have "a continuing problem" with Congress and said Carter will not hesitate to appeal to the people over the heads of the lawmakers.
"He's going to have to do it that way in some instances," Kirbo said in an interview. "That's the only way he'll get his program passed."
Kirbo, who is flying to Washington Tuesday for his second personal inspection of White House operations since inauguration day, said he thought Carter had had a "pretty good" first month as President.
"But," he added, "it seems from what I've been hearing that we have a little problem with Congress. That will be a continuing problem."
Kirbo said he based that statement on a variety of factors, ranging from the character of the congressional leadership to the lawmakers' resistance to some of Carter's economies, to the President's refusal of job demands from Capitol Hill staff members, representatives and senators.
"You have a lot of congressional aides who want jobs," he said. "Hamilton [Jordan, Carter's top staff assistant] has been catching hell about that. But Jimmy's made it clear that the White House staff is not going to push Cabinet members around [on jobs] and some of those people [in Congress] have been used to getting things done that way."
Kirbo, a prosperous trial lawyer who has been Carter's chief political adviser for many years, said he had talked to Jordan and White House press secretary Jody Powell "regularly by phone and to the President on occasion," since his last lengthy visit at the White House.
But he said the views he was expressing on Carter's "problem" with Congress were his own.
"We've never had a President who didn't have problems with Congress on several occasions," he said. "Eisenhower probably got along better than anybody, but he was not an active President.
"Jimmy will be coming up continuously with programs. He's a bold fellow, and some of his ideas are controversial, and he doesn't mind fighting it out.
"I don't think it will be a bitter thing. I don't think he'll try to knock people off [for reelection]. But when he has something he feels deeply about, he'll go to the people and put pressure on them -- in a very gentle but effective way."
Kirbo said he anticipated that Carter's efforts to balance the federal budget in his first term will "cause problems. A lot of people in those bureaus and agencies and Congress talk about saving money in the abstract, but when it comes to the specific, it's a different horse."
The President has already demonstrated a desire to economize by the cutback on White House limousines and other personal perquisites, Kirbo noted, adding, "if he can continue to demonstrate that, he'll have a world of support from the public."
A further factor in the "problem," Kirbo said, is that "we have a different kind of Congress now, and we don't have the kind of leadership up there you once had. So the President has to get into it himself -- just the way he did in the Georgia legislature."
While scenting trouble for his old friend in congressional relations, Kirbo said he is optimistic that in foreign policy -- which he called "the area where he [Carter] is supposed to be weakest -- he will come up with his greatest accomplishments."
He said Carter's emphasis on morality in foreign policy, his encouragement of Soviet dissidents and his cut-off of CIA payments to King Hussein of Jordan are "exactly what people in this country have longed for -- a President doing something just because it's right."
Asked if he feared an adverse effect on negotiations with Russia over strategic arms limits and other matters, Kirbo replied, "No, not at all. Jimmy told me he was very pleased with his talk with that fellow Dobrynin [Soviet ambassador Anatolly F. Dobrynin]. He was very frank with him and he invited him to be very frank in return. He feels confident that dealing with them on a perfectly frank basis is something they'll respond to."
Kirbo said the recent announcement by Attorney General Griffin B. Bell, his own former law partner, that Kirbo would be subject to conflict-of-interest laws as a "special employeeof the government, even when giving unpaid advice to the President and his aides, was causing no serious problems for him.
"The only things the law tells you you can't do are things you wouldn't do anyway if you were honest," he said. Kirbo added that his only concern was that his law firm's business is "expanding constantly, and it's hard to be sure you know what's going on in the firm" that might pose a conflict with an area on which the White House seeks advice.
"They send me a list of all the new business once or twice a week," he said, to keep him advised of what's happening.
He said that despite a policy set before the election by Bell, when he was a partner in the firm, refusing new clients outside the firm's "traditional line of work . . . we've got more damn business that we can handle effectively."
In addition, he said, "I have been swamped with resumes and people trying to get messages to Jimmy through me."