President Carter told the National Urban League yesterday he has "no apologies" for his administration's record on dealing with blacks and the urban poor, even though that record has come under attack by national black leaders - including the league's executive director.
"We haven't done everything that we'd like to do, nor have we done everything that we're going to do. But I have no apologies," Carter told delegates to the 67th annual league convention.
The President was accused Sunday by Vernon E. Jordan, the league's executive director, of "not living up to his campaign promises to help blacks, poor people and the cities. Carter acknowledged those widely publicized criticism yesterday, but attempted to defuse them with humor and a recitation of steps he has taken so far to aid the poor and to give blacks visibility in his administration.
Carter said his wife had seen Jordan's television interview, read his accusations in the press and concluded: "Jimmy, Vernon doesn't think you're doing as well as I thing you're doing."
The audience laughed, and applauded later when Carter said, "I hope to work closely with Vernon Jordan."
When he finished speaking, Carter talked privately with Jordan and agreed to meet with him at an unspecified date after the league convention ends Wednesday.
Carter told Jordan that he and the Cabinet and the Democratic Congress "all have a genuine interest in poor people and that statements that argue to the contrary are damaging to the hopes and aspirations of those poor people." White House spokesman Rex Granum said afterward.
Granum said jordan's criticism of the President, the sharpest so far by a black national leader, "was something of a surprise." Carter does not plan to follow Jordan's advice that he tour the sections of New York City devastated by looting and arson during the July 13-14 blackout.
In hi speech the President noted that many of the speakers addressing the league convention at the Washington Hilton are blacks he has appointed to his administration. They include Patricia Roberts Harris, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and United Nations Ambassdor Andrew J. Young, both of whom spoke yesterday, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who is scheduled to speak today.
Carter, who said he was "not bragging," listed actions his administration has taken and proposes to take to help the cities and the poor. They include:
Providing "an additional 1 million job opportunities in the welfare proposal he will submit to Congress next month. "Our goal is to make sure that every single family has a member of it with a guaranteed job by government, if necessary," he said.
Increasing the summer youth employment program to over 1 million jobs, "more than ever in history," Carter said.
Doubling the size of the Job Corps and more than doubling the numbers of public service jobs for the unemployed - from 310,000 to 725,000.
A proposal for an $18.9 million program to immunize 5 1/2 million poor children against preventable diseases over the next 30 months.
Proposals to make the federal income tax system more equitale.
Proposing a $350 million increase in Title I assistance to help poor children receive better elementary school education.
A $4 billion public works bill, recently signed into law, which provides that 10 per cent of every federal contract must go to a minority subcontractor or supplier. Carter said this provision is expected to generate $400 million "directly to minority businesses."
The President said throughout his speech that his administration is doing the best it can. But it takes time to change the trends of history and to reverse the bureaucraric mechanism to one of support and compassion and enthusiasm," he said. He concluded by pledging "to respond well to caution, advice and criticism."
Carter's address was well-received, but several convention participants said afterward that his comments were not very encouraging and were no more than expected.
Newark N.J., Major Kenneth A. Gibson responded in an afternoon speech by saying. "We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into total approval of the administrations's program just because some progress is being made."
Jordan, for his part, called Carter's comments "positive" and said. "I'm looking forward to that partnership he's talking about."