Former President Ford said yesterday "the odds are overwhelming" that President Carter will fail to achieve his objective of balancing the federal budget within the next four years.
While conceding that Carter has moved closer to his own economic policies in the past few months, the former President still criticized the spending policies of the Carter administration and warned of recurring inflation.
Ford lunched with a group of reporters and answered their questions just before a one-hour meeting with his successor at the White House. He made no further comments after leaving Carter.
In his lunch-time discussion, Ford credited the man who beat him last November with having "done a superb public relations job" as President. "I just hope," he said "that when we get down to the nitty-gritty of substance, his leadership will be as competent."
In the relaxed exchange, Ford also ruled out a race for a Michigan Senate seat, repudiated former President Nixon's concept of presidential prerogatives and came out against "any old-timer" taking control of the Republican Party.
He said he was "delighted" at signs of a more conservative course by the President, noting that their differences on economic policy seem "narrower now than they were in the campaign."
But he criticized the Carter energy and budget policies and blamed them for a "lack of business confidence."
"I'm concerned about the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of this administration [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] withdrawal [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] take actions which sound otherwise constitute crimes. Ford said sternly that his "administration never carried out that doctrine indicated by Mr. Nixon. We had no Huston pain," he said, referring to a blueprint for illegal surveillance approved by Nixon. "We had no 'plumbers' organization" to spy on those suspected of "leaking" White house secrets.
Ford reiterated his belief that he was right to have pardoned Nixon, adding that the public controversy over the former President's television interviews confirmed that opinion. But when reporters sought to press him for further reactions. Ford said, "Mr. Nixon's words speak for themselves."