A delegation of influential black leaders made a budget pilgrimage to President Carter yesterday hoping for firm financial commitments to the nation's poor. They came away - by their own accounting - with more hope than help.
"We've not been able to come up with any sort of panacea or automatic solution" to the plight of the inner cities, Carter said in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] some of the black leaders later allowed might be an understatement.
But the leaders said the President assured them that he will not sacrifice human goals for a balanced budget, and that is what most of them came to hear.
"There was no commitment in terms of the budget, but there was a commitment to a policy. We're reasonably hopeful, based on that commitment," said Vernon Jordon, executive director of the National Urban League, at the end of the hour-long meeting with the President.
He said the group had exacted from Carter commitments to target jobs programs for those in most need - specifically young urban blacks, whose unemployment rate approaches 40 per cent - and to reorganize federal affirmative action and contract compliance offices into a single civil rights enforcement agency.
"We're pleased with it," Jordan said of the reorganization plan, which he suggested would reduce discrimination in federal employment as well as strengthen civil rights enforcement nationally.
The tone and substance of Jordan's remarks to reporters contrasted noticeably to those he made at an Urban League annual meeting here last July. In a sharp attack on Carter then, Jordan said that the "sad fact is that what the administration has not done . . . far exceeds its list of accomplishments."
A conciliatory tone was also set by Clarence Mitchell, director of the Washington branch of the NAACP, who said, "I don't believe we ought to make the President the sole target of what needs to be done."
While Mitchell cited a need to "keep pressure on Congress," he said he has been "particulary encouraged" by Carter's personal support of Patricia Robert Harris, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Harris has acknowledged that she has had "differences" with some Office Management and Budget budget-makers over her request for fiscal 1979, but several of the black leaders came away from their meeting convinced that Carter would support her policies.
The OMB was the object of much of the criticism of the black leaders who talked with reporters.
"We respectfully relate to the President because of our personal respect for him . . . But that respect is in conflict with the fiscally conservative economic position of his budget administrators," said the Rev. jesse Jackson, head of Operation PUSH in Chicago.
Jackson said he detected a "duality of consciousness" in the Carter administration, which he defined as a conflict between the "high style" of the President and the "hopelessly cautious" attitude of his budget advisers.
For the President's part, Jackson said, "He did not express the sort of commitment to a balanced budget at all costs that we have heard heretofore today," Jackson said that this was encouraging to the black leaders.
White House press secretary Jody Powell later said the black leaders' interpretation of Carter's remarks about a balanced budget was "an accurate reflection of the President's view."