Former President Ford ended his self-imposed political honeymoon with President Carter today by ridiculing the Carter anti-inflation package.
"Mr. Carter's anti-inflation program came in like a lion," Ford said. "It's going out like a mouse."
The three-point package announced Friday by the President features largely voluntary measures that administration spokesmen said would restrain excessive wage or price increases.
Carter reportedly scrapped at the last moment a plan to start industry-by-industry discussions over pending wage and price increases, after business and labor leaders objected.
Ford made no specific reference to this abandoned feature or to any of the various Carter proposals to reduce inflation by overhauling government regulations which affect industry and agriculture. But the former President said that Carter's program was "just talk."
Ford said a renewal of runaway inflation now faces the United States and could not be halted except by tough restrictions on government spending. He suggested using the budget which he submitted to Congress before he left office as the basis for a reduction in federal spending.
The former President, looking tanned and relaxed, voiced his criticism of Carter in a brief interview following a speech to a Republican group here.
Until now Ford had persistently refused to criticize the new administration, saying that Carter deserved some time on the job before he was subject to any partisan evaluation. Today, however, Ford observed that Carter's political honeymoon with the press is "beginning to fade a bit," and said he now thinks it is proper to speak out in opposition when he feels the need.
Earlier, during a question-and-answer session with Republican state legislative leaders from around the country, Ford opposed two elements of Carter's plan to change presidential election procedures. He said allowing registration on voting day would encourage fraud, and he also opposed eliminating restrictions on political participation by federal employees.
But Ford still found himself in agreement with Carter on several issues. For instance, he said he favors the President's support of a constitutional amendment that would elect the President by direct popular vote.
In the interview Ford also approved Carter's cancellation of the proposed $50 tax rebate, although he thinks it was canceled for "political as well as economic reasons," meaning that he doubted the Senate would have approved it.
Ford discounted polls showing that Carter had a 75 per cent approval rating, pointing out that most other Presidents also have ranked very high with the American people at this stage of their administration.
"He's done a superb PR job," Ford said. "Whether it's sustainable or not remains to be determined."