President Carter, while continuing to express confidence in budget director Bert Lance, said he believes Lance would resign if any charges stemming from an investigation into Lance's financial affairs were upheld.
"I believe that if anything should be proven concerning Bert Lance that is either improper or illegal, that Bert would immediately take the initiative to either resign or step aside, or offer to." Carter said in an ABC News interview conducted Aug. 10 and broadcast yesterday.
Lance's is a longtime friend and confidant of the President. But Carter said in the interview he would "have no qualms" about making a decision adversely affecting Lance if it meant maintaining the public's confidence in his administration.
"I am ultimately responsible and don't hesitate to accept that responsibility." he said. "But I have enough confidence in Bert Lance to know that if any improprieties do exist, that he would take the initiative to step aside. So far, no improprieties have been proven."
Lance has come under the scrutiny of the Treasury Department because of bank loans, he received before joining the administration. The investigation, conducted by Comptroller of the Currency John Heimann, is focusing on the circumstances surrounding bank loans to Lance totalling about $5 million.
Carter repeated his claim that he does not know the details" and does "not want to become involved in the details of what went on in 1975 or prior to that time," when the loans were made.
"But I have confidence that both the comptroller and Bert will make the facts known to the public and let the situation be judged accordingly." the President said.
Carter also used the interview to praise embattled U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, whom he called "a great national treasure."
Young's outspokenness on such topics as racism and American-African relations has incurred the wrath of many career diplomats and some members of Congress, who have called for his resignation.
Carter, however, said Young is "intelligent, courageous, articulate." and that he "accurately represents the position that I and the Secretary of State and others have evolved for our country, and is building up trust in our country among nations who didn't trust us before."
The President added: "He is a great national treasure, in my opinion, and he has my complete confidence and I think I have his complete confidence.
"I might say there has never been any difference of opinion on basic issues among Andrew Young, the Secretary of State, the National Security Council or myself."
On other matters, Carter said:
His administration has "made some good progress already in economic affairs." even though many people remain impatient - "perhaps overly so" - with the pace of that progress.
For example, he said, unemployment has fallen from 8 per cent to 6.9 per cent during his seven months in office, "which is some improvement."
There has been no "major breakthrough" in foreign affairs, but that he is determined to ease tensions in southern Africa and the Middle East, and that he intends to continue strategic arms limitation talks with the Soviet Union.
There is no basic difference between Carter the candidate and Carter the President.
"I think that after a period of two or three years, the difference between what I am and what the people perceived me to be during the campaign and what my programs actually are as they wind their way through Congress - that difference will be narrowed and people will see that there is no difference." Carter said.
His comment was in response to questions about an ABC News-Louis Harris poll of citizens and members of Congress on Carter's first six months in office.
Carter received a 59-to-37 per cent overall favorable rating in the survey, and a 67-to-29 per cent favorable rating on his personal style - "the way he has taken over the leadership of the country."
But on specific issues, the President received a much lower rating. For example, 51 per cent to 44 per cent disapproved of the way he is handling the economy.