President Carter and Vice President Mondale expressed annoyance yesterday at criticism of the administration [WORD ILLEGIBLE] former President Ford, with Mondale calling such behavior "unseemly and unfair."
They said that, by contrast, former President Nixon had been helpful to Carter, calling several times to offer suspect and information.
The matter came up at a White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders and Mondale's words were quoted by House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (Mass.) and Sen. Alan Cranston (Calif.) the Senate majority whip.
Cranston said Carter also made some "rather muted comments" on his immediate predecessor. Others in the meeting said Carter implied that Ford had broken his word by publicly criticizing him.
Without quoting Carter directly, they said the President indicated he was very concerned abut recent comments from Ford critical of the economic and international policies of the Carter administrative, Carter was reported to have said that Ford has assured him personally - presumably at their meeting in the White House last month - that he would forgo such criticisms for a period of time.
According to Cranston, Mondale said such criticism of a newly elected President by his predecessor is "out of keeping with the American political tradition." O'Neill quoted Mondale as saying it was "unseemly and unfair."
There was no immediate comment from Ford. A spokesman said Mondale's comments had been relayed to Ford in Palm Springs, Calif., and he had declined to comment.
While those at the meeting said Carter indicated his own concern that he was being deprived of the support from his predecessor that presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt had enjoyed, the White House remained officially aloof from the criticism.
Asked about the offers of help from Nixon, the White House press office said two came during the trasition period and once since Carter has been in the White House.
Nixon specifically offered to tell Carter of his private conversations with foreign leaders, but deputy press secretary Rex Granum said Carter "has no plans to be briefed" by Nixon.
The main point Mondale made, according to Cranston and O'Neill, was that past presidents had refrained for several months or even years from criticizing their successors.
Ford announced such a "moratorium" when he left the White House, but effectively ended it last month.
On March 26, two days after he had visited with Carter in the Oval Office for the first time since leaving the presidency, Ford told a group of Washington reporters that Carter was mistaken in trying to cut off fanding for 30 water projects and that his fiscal policies "will lend us to losing the battle with inflation."
On April 6, he told University of Michigan students that "over-optimism and possible miscalculation" by the Carter administration contributed to the failure of lst month's Moscow negotiations on a new strategic arm agreement.
Last weekend, in California, Ford ridiculed Carter's anti-inflation program as one which "came in like a lion and is going out like a mouse."
Cranston said Mondale commented critically on the " [WORD ILLEGIBLE] personal [WORD ILLEGIBLE] " at Ford's remarks.
Ford's friends have add that the former President [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] bitterness toward Carter, particularly as he sees Carter adopting policies that Ford believes are similar to those which Carter, during the campaign criticized Ford for following.
But Cranston said he and others at the White House meeting suggested another motive for Ford's behavior - that Ford is contemplating a 1980 race for the presidency.
Ford has said "maybe" to all questions about another White House campaign, adding that he will not make the decision until after the 1980 election.