President Carter told his fellow Democrats last night that the future of their party depends on the administration's and the Congress' ability to elimate wasteful government spending in the fight against inflation.
Striking unusual themes for an address to a Democratic Party fund-raiser, the president warned mor than 1,000 party officials and contributors that Democrats cannot afford to be perceived as wasteful.
Now is the time to put all of our efforts into solving the most complicated and intractable and corrosive problem of all - that is the problem of inflation," he said.
"I would liek to caution all you Democrats - those in my administration and in the Congress - that we here in Washington must set an example. We cannot pass legislation that is identifiably wasteful. If we do, it will sap away the strength we have to inspire the American people to solve this very difficult problem on their own."
Carter added: "If we fall here it will be almost imposible to succeed elsewhere. This is the most pressing of the hundreds of large and small restraints that are necessary to win this battle. This is the future of the Democratic Party - the future in which we maintain our vision."
The president, still basking in the glow of his success at the Camp David summit conference, was warmly received by the audience at the Washington Hilton Hotel. However, his warning on the threat of inflation an the need to hold down government spending was greeted with silence.
Carter coupled his warning about the need to battle inflation with a renewal of his call for government efficiency, arguing that Democrats will not betray their heritage in insisting on the elimination of waste.
"It is not callous or hard-hearted for governments to deliver food to a hungry person without waste," he said.
Carter has struck such fiscally conservative themes before but seldom has expressed them so bluntly, nor tied the future of the Democratic Party with the theme that has generally been associated with the Republicans.
Democratic Party officials said the fund-raising dinner was expected to generate more than $1 million in gross revenues. It was the fifth such dinner sponsored by the Democratic National Committee since Carter took office, and was expected to be the most successful.
Except for his warning on inflationand government spending, the main theme of the president's speech was a recitation of the number of 1976 campaign promises that he said he and Congress together had fulfilled.
The strongest ovation of the night, bringing the black tie crowd to its feet, cheering, came when Carter announced that the Israeli Knesset had approved the Camp David accodds and had agreed to withdraw Israeli settlements from th Sinai Peninsula.
"We've made a great step forward," the president said adding that the vote was a demonstration of the "tremendous courage" of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the Knesset (parliament).
At the end of the dinner, Carter, whose 54th birthday is Sunday, was presented with a birthday cake by entertainer Diana Ross and serenaded with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" by the audience.