President Carter stepped up his efforts to win Republican support for the new Panama Canal treaties yesterday as he met with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and announced that he will send an emissary to Vail, Colo., to describe the terms of the treaties to former President Ford.
Kissinger, following a luncheon meeting with Carter at the White House, told reporters that based on what he knows now, he is inclined to support ratification of the pacts.
But Kissinger said he would put off a formal statement on the treaties until he is briefed on the details.
White House press secretary Jody Powell said the President yesterday telephoned Ford at his vacation home in Vail and discussed the treaties for about five minutes. Powell said that one of the chief American negotiators in the canal talks, Ambassador Sol Linowitz, and Gen. George Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will fly to Vail today to brief Ford on the details of the agreements.
The Kissinger briefing, also arranged by Carter, will be conducted by Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, the other American negotiator, and the Air force of staff, Gen. David Jones.
The President yesterday also met, for the first time in about two weeks, with his beleaguered budget director, Bert Lance. The subject was government reorganization and, according to participants at the meeting, there was no mention of the comptroller of the currency's investigation of Lance's personal financial dealings.
Lance returned from a vacation over the weekend and, at the President's invitation, teamed with Carter Sunday in a doubles tennis match at the White House against White House political adviser Hamilton Jordan and deputy appointments secretary Tim Smith.
The President and Lance are believed to have won. But details of the match, including the scores, could not be learned. The President's tennis scores, one aide said, "are treated like state secrets" at the White House.
White House officials expect a report on the comptroller's investigation, which is likely to determine Lance's future in the administration, to be released this week, possibly on Wednesday.
Asked if Lance had offered to resign, Powell said, "Absolutely not.'"
The press secretary also confirmed that Carter last year felt he knew Lance well enough that he appointed him director of the Office of Management and Budget before completion of a routine FBI background check made of all high appointees. Asked if the President still feels that way about Lance, Powell replied, "Yes, he still feels that way."
Carter's wooing of Ford and Kissinger was clearly part of the administration's concerted effort to win the support of enough Republicans to gain ratification of the Panama Canal treaties by the Senate.
Ford supported the Panama Canal negotiations and might have concluded a treaty before leaving office were it not for the criticism of his GOP presidential primary opponent, Ronald Reagan. It is unlikely that Ford or Kissinger would oppose the treaties negotiated by the Carter administration. But the extent to which they are willing publicly to support the treaties would be crucial in swaying some of the 38 Republicans in the Senate.
Ratification, expected to be an uphill battle at best, will require approval by two-thirds of the Senate, of 67 votes if many senators vote.
The treaties, according to the White House would turn over control of the canal to Panama in stages, with Panama assuming complete control by the year 2000, and would give the United States an indefinite right to defend the canal's neutrality.
Outside the White House, Kissinger said he wanted to be sure the treaties guarantee the United States' "right to defend free and uninterrupted access to the canal," which he called "essential to American security." If satisfied he said, he would be willing to testify on behalf of ratification before the Senate.
On the subject of the Middle East, Kissinger said "I don't think we are closer to war" despite the difficulties encountered by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance during his just completed trip to that region. He said completed trip to that region. He said the Carter administration remains "very dedicated" to acchieving peace and that all the parties wanted the United States to continue its peace efforts.
At the start of their meeting, the President mentioned to Kissinger his conversation with Ford and said, "I told him we have an absolute continuum of what you and he had started on southern Africa, the Middle East, Panama and China."
Late yesterday afternoon, the President flew by helicopter to Camp David, Md., the presidential retreat, where he is expected to remain until Sunday. He was joined by his wife, Rosalynn, daughter, Amy, daughter-in-law, Caron, and grandson, James Earl Carter IV, and a handful of staff aides.
The White House continued to refuse to comment about the reported marital rift between Caron Carter and the President's son, Chip.