It was champagne last night at the White House, with President Carter doing the pouring, for the members of the Democratic National Committee. But earlier in the day it was not wine and roses when the party's executive committee had its own way with several stems of importance to Carter's political plans.
Meeting at the Sheraton-Park Hotel in advance of today's full committee meeting, the executive committee summarily rejected a proposed agenda designed to prevent any divisive issues or resolutions from being brought to a vote at the party's mid-term convention this December.
Its members groused about a White House-backed compromise on 1980 convention delegate selection rules and clearly indicated they will require an even split between men and momen delegates at the national nominating convention, whether the White House likes it or not.
The committee was rambunctious enough in its three-hour session that new Chairman John C. White said afterward, "I guess we hadn't done enough explaining and visiting."
The executive committee made short work of White's effort to rush through, as part of the call to the mid-term convention in Memphis Dec. 8-10, an agenda interpreted as allowing no votes or plenary session debates on issues.
As presented by White, the Memphis agenda would have made time for speeches by Carter, Vice President Mondale and congressional leaders, but would have confined any issues discussions to "workshops" and not the convention floor.
White said the agenda was "just guidance" but the executive committee killed it quickly by voice vote, leaving the question of the Memphis program for later.
White House aides have expressed apprehension that the Memphis meeting, mandated by the 1976 convention, could turn into a "gripe session" about Carter policies.
The White House views also were ignored when the executive committee passed a resolution endorsing, in principle, a requirement that there be as many women as men delegates in 1980.
The White House has expressed concern that such a rule would be interpreted as a "quota system," and White succeeded in delaying a formal vote on the issue. But the committee put itself on record as being prepared to push for such a rule, whether or not the White House endorses it.
Yesterday's meeting also saw the unveiling of the latest effort to draft a "compromise" delegate selection rule satisfactory to competing elements in the party. Earlier versions, backed by the White House, were criticized by some members as making it too difficult for possible 1980 Carter challengers to gain delegates.
The latest version, offered by South Carolina party Chairman Donald Fowler, met the same criticism, but was endorsed by the executive committee for debate at today's session.
As if to clear the air after all the show of independence, the executive committee also passed a resolution of appreciation to the president for arranging a series of White House briefings for state chairmen and for hosting last night's reception.
Evan Dobelle, the former U.S. chief of protocoal who will be formally elected party treasurer today, gave a sober report on the Democrats' financial pinch - a $1.6 million carryover debt, $700,000 in pending bills, $35,000 cash on hand, and a $47,00 payroll due in 10 days. But he said he would feel he has failed if he does not put the party back on its feet financially and clear the debt within the next 12 months.