Former president Gerald R. Ford and most of his cabinet officers reunited last night at a plush catering house in suburban Baltimore to raise money for the Republican Party of Maryland and criticize what has happened in national and world affairs since they left Washington.
In a speech he has delivered several times in recent months, Ford, who may run for President again in 1980, said the Carter administration's economic program is in "shambles" and the nation's foreign policy does not reflect the sentiments of the American people.
Most of the 800 Republican at the banquet seemed more concerned with the internal problems of their state party, however, particularly the trouble they have had finding a suitable gubernatorial candidate this year.
After a private discussion with Ford this evening, former U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall said he had decided to seriously consider running for governor.
"It's an excellent opportunity for a Republican to win," said Beall, who lost his seat to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D) in 1976. "There are no Republican canddates and the void has to be filled."
There are three announced Republican candidates - Carlton Beall, John Hardwicke and Donald Devine - but the Republican leadership's first choice. Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Pascal, annoiunced two weeks ago that he would not enter the contest.
As several of his former economic advisers looked on Ford criticized Carter's economic program. "When wel eft the White House, inflation was down to 4.6 percent. In the short period of 17 months it shout up to 8 percent . . . This administration has blown it."
The former president characterized the message of California's proposition 13 to limit property taxes as voter disillusionment with "higher and higher spending." He suggested that if a similar referendum was held on Carter's foreign policies it would reveal similar disillusinment.
The unusual gathering of Ford and eight members of his cabinet was billed as "a tribute to Gerald R. Ford."
The former president, who moved to California following his 1976 defeat, has spent much of the last year crisscrossing the country to campaign for Republican gubernatorial and congressional candidates.
Last night's dinner at Martin's West was the first major fund-raiser of the year for the Maryland Republican Party.
Ford said he believes Maryland Republicans this year have a good opportunity to end nine years of Democratic control of the state government. "I believe you're had some problems in this state that ought to be helpful." Ford said, on an apparent reference to the recent conviction political corruption charges of suspended Gov. Marvin Mandel.
State and national Republican leaders seemed at once surprised and heartened by the unprecedented regrouping of the Ford administration around a roast beef dinner in Baltimore County.
"I really don't think we've had a gathering like this before," Peter Teeley, press officer for the Republican National Comittee, said. "I don't know why everyone agreed to come. Probably, it's because of the locatiion, the proximity to Washington. You wouldn't expect them to go to a state function in Oregon."
The planning for the event began six months ago when Dr. Aris Allen, the state Republican chairman, sat down with his finance committee in Annapolis. "We were searching for the best way to generate excitement in the party and to express our unity." Allen said. "A lot of names were tossed around - John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor from Virginia, Ronal Reagan, Delaware Gov. Pierre DuPont - but there was a general feeling that President Ford would be the best.
From that point, the business of organizing and promoting the affair was handled with all the detail of a national political convention. With the blessing of the state Republicans many of the responsibilities were assumed by the men who used to do such things when Ford ran the country.
Ron Nessen, the former press secretary, was brought in to publicize the dinner and coordinate the press facilities. Dough Bennett, the former director of Ford's personnel office, was named chairman. In turn, Bennett recruited three other former presidential advisers - John Shales, William Timmons and Peter McPherson - to help with the logistics.
Bennett, a Washington lawyer who lives in Bethesda, spent hours on the telephone attempting to line up Ford and the former cabinet officials. "From the president on down, they were all very excited about it," Bennett said. "They saw it as an opportunity to reunite and talk about what has happened in the country and the world since they left Washington."
Bennett said the June 13 date was set by Ford, who now lives in California and spends much of his time speaking around the country. "We were afraid for a time that Dr. Kissinger would be in the Middle East this week," Bennett said. "But it's worked out. He seemed as delighted as any of them to come.