President Carter met with for 10 minutes yesterday with Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, but the White House made no attempt to turn the encounter into a showpiece of the President's campaign for human rights in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Carter sat in for the last 10 minutes of a half-hour meeting between Bukovsky and Vice President Mondale, telling the dissident writer that he will forcefully advocate the cause of human rights.
"Our commitment to the concept of human rights is permanent and I don't intend to be timid in my public statements and positions," the President said.
"I want them to be productive and not counterproductive and also to assure that our own nation and countries other than the Soviet Union are constantly aware that we want to pursue the freedom of individuals and their right to express themselves," he added.
Bukovsky replied: "I understand the high honor that is being shown me by my being received in the White House and I understand in doing so your administration shows its respect for the movement I represent and the ideas we stand for."
The polite exchange of remarks through a State Department interpreter in the Roosevelt Room of the White House was relayed to reporters later by Al Eisele, Mondale's press secretary.
While Carter's meeting a leading Soviet Dissident contrasted with President Ford's refusal to see dissident Soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn last year, the White House made no attempt to highlight the event.
Bukovsky left the White House without speaking to reporters at his own request, according to Eisele. No official photograph of the meeting between the President and Bukovsky, usually a routine matter for presidential meetings, was released. Moreover, the brief time Carter spent with Bukovsky and other circumstances surrounding the meeting highlighted Mondale's participation in it, not the President's.
Although White House officials said not attempt was made deliberately to downplay the significance of the meeting, it appeared that an effort was made not to allow it to inflame further Soviet displeasure with Carter's strong statements on human rights in the Soviet Union.
Eisele said the thrust of the conversation between Mondale and Bukovsky had to do with human rights. He said Bukovsky did not ask the United States to do anything specific in that regard and that he referred several times to the importance of understading the "psychology of the Soviet leaders and the Soviet people" in dealing with the issue.
Asked at one point by the Vice President what sustains the Soviet dissidents through adversity, Bukovsky replied, "First and foremost trust, faith in people, faith in the future and faith in the human values for which we stand."
As the Soviet dissident was being driven away from the White House, an officer of the Executive Protective Service charged across the grounds and became involved in a brief scuffle with a two-man camera crew from CBS. The crew had positioned itself on a patch of lawn that is usually off limits to reporters.