House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) tried yesterday to patch up his differences with the White House, but could not conceal a deep resentment of the White House staff.
Acknowledging his anger over the recent dismissal of his friend, Robert T. Griffin. as the No. 2 man in the General Services Administration, O'Neill said he had told President Carter's congressional liaison man Frank Moore "to stay the hell out of this office."
But in giving assurances he was "friends again" with Moore, he revealed his antipathy toward Carter's top aides, Jody Powell, Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon.
"I'm not mad at Frank. Out of all that damned crowd down there, he's the only one who's ever been very friendly to me . . . I don't know, maybe they don't understand my style. Maybe they don't want to," O'Neill said.
O'Neill said he had met Carter's top aides Hamilton Jordan and press secretary Powell and sees them at the White House, but "I don't have anything to say to them and they don't say anything to me." Asked if O'Neill was laying the blame for Griffin's removal and the way it was done on Jordan, Powell and Rafshoon, a top O'Neill aide said, "Probably. He's never established any relationship with them."
The aide added, "That flows from his earlier experiences." Before Carter was sworn in, Jordan angered O'Neill by refusing his request for seats at an inaugural gala. O'Neill began calling Jordan "Hannibal Jerkin." "We've never had a problem with Carter himself or Frank Moore," the aide said.
O'Neill said his relationship with the president was "the same as it's ever been." He denied reports that he was not pushing forthe administration's legislative proposals.
"Hey, I'm a Democrat. I work for the programs of my president. No way am I going to be an obstructionist. I am a loyal party man."
The speaker denied reports he was dragging his feet on administration proposals on taxes and on civil service overhaul.
He said he was hesitant about the administration's latest tax proposal because it came so late, after the Ways and Means Committee had already reported a bill. He said he told Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal he should have had that proposal "months ago." However, O'Neill would up backing the administration proposal, and, at Carter's request, tried to talk a key congressman, John Murtha (D-P.), into backing it. Murtha turned O'Neill down.
O'Neill also omitted civil service revision, a top Carter priority, from a list of must legislation the other day, leading to rumors that O'Neill was not pushing it because he was mad at the White House over the Griffin affair.
But, at the administration's request, the civil service revision bill will be brought up today. O'Neill, however, wouldn't predict that it would get through Congress this year. "I can't make any judgment on what the Senate, with all its filibusters, will do."
O'Neill said the problem was that the Congress, with only the month on September to finish legislation, was running out of time.
"We've got a load of legislation. I don't blame that on the president. I blame that on ourselves," O'Neill said. O'Neill said there were so many subcommittee chairmen churning out bills and pushing to get them considered, "we got more legislation than ever in the history of congress."
He said that stories that relations between the White House and O'Neill were now strained and that O'Neill was ignoring Carter priorities "were in the minds of people trying to build up a story."
But he admitted he was mad at the removal of Griffin. Griffin was removed at the request of GSA administrator Jay Solomon, who thought Griffin was competing with him for the loyalty of the agency and that Griffin's presence was preventing a full scale investigation of scandals and abuses in the GSA. Moore was dispatched to tell O'Neill of the removal plans, but apparently thought the firing was a few days off. The next morning O'Neill read in the paper Griffin was being dismissed. He reacted agnrily.
"No question I was made at the way it was done," O'Neill said yesterday "I wasn't informed. I wasn't given a chance to sit down and talk with him. I wasn't given any personal consideration." O'Neill strongly denied he ever asked Carter to give Griffin another job, as Carter did, making Griffin a $50,000-a-year assistant to trade specialist Robert Strauss.
O'Neill said the "sad part" about the Griffin situation was that Griffin was 18 months away from a $6,000-a-year pension. "That's lost. I don't blame Griffin."
O'Neill said when Moore came up to make peace, Moore told him he didn't know the firing was imminent. "I told Frank, 'Let's not discuss it' and we didn't. We've shaken hands and we're friends again."
"You're bound to have arguments happen to people in political life, O'Neill said. "I personally like Carter as a man. You have the family spats and then you forget about it," O'Neill said.