Picking up the refrain of his winning presidential campaign, President Carter told Virginia Democrats last night, "I do not intend to lose" the fight with the oil lobbyists over his proposed windfall profits tax plan.
Saying the oil lobbyists do not like the "energy security fund" his proposed tax would create, the president declared:
"They are going to be all over Capitol Hill like a chicken on a June bug. We are already hearing from them that we should just turn all the money over to them and they will wisely spend it for the benefit of the American people. I don't question their sincerity. I certainly don't question their political influence. They blocked our energy program for almost two years."
Carter's speech to the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner was his first public defense of the tax proposal since he delivered his energy message to the nation Thursday night.
The heart of his program is gradual decontrol of prices on oil produced in this country and a tax on half the profits that the higher prices will produce-profits he again characterized as "unearned."
Referring to the decontrol plan, he said ". . . I will not allow this painful but necessary step to become an excuse for a massive ripoff of the American people. That is why I will fight for a windfall profits tax on the unearned, excess profits of the oil companies.
"Some are wringing their hands and saying this windfall profits tax and energy security fund will never pass. They are saying that the oil lobby has more influence on Congress than the American people have. I say, let's prove them wrong. I say, let's prove that the government of the United States still belongs to the American people."
The president's tough talk on behalf of his tax proposal was part of what a White House speech writer said yesterday would be "a concerted effort to make this a hard speech, one that would test out themes we will use" in the 1980 presidential campaign. Carter has not announced whether he will seek reelection.
The president also defended the performance of the nation's economy and his administration's efforts to control inflation through voluntarily wage-price guidelines.
"We are in the midst of the longest economic boom in our history," he said. "We have reduced unemployment by 25 percent in our nation as a whole . . . We have put America back to work."
Carter promised a more intensive government monitoring of prices and said the administration will soon begin publishing monthly reports of companies that have exceeded price guidelines so that consumers can buy their products from others.
Much of Carter's speech to Virginia Democrafts was devoted to assertions that he has delivered on the promises he made during his presidential campaign.
"When I promised this country a government as good as our people, some critics dismissed it as meaningless rhetoric," he said. "They missed what I was really talking about. But I guess a majority of the voters must have understood."
A majority of the Virginia voters did not. Virginia was the only Southern state that Carter failed to carry in his race against former President Gerald R. Ford. In fact, Virginia is the only state in the nation that has not been carried by a Democratic presidential nominee or a Democratic candidate for governor or the U.S. Senate in more than ten years.
"The past decade has been a era of dissension and disappointent for Virginia Democrats," the president said "There have been too many agonizingly close defeats. There have been too many times when Virginia Democrats have used their heaviest ammunition against each other instead of against the Republicans."
But the president predicted a turnaround in state party fortunes and pinned his optimism on the political future of Lt, Gov. Charles S. Robb of McLean, the son in law of President Lyndon Johnson.
Carter was greeted at Byrd International Airport by Robb and arrived at Richmond's John Marshall Hotel where a small crowd of well-wishers greeted him.
Carter immediately went into the hotel for a 15-minute $500-a-couple reception while 1,250 dinner guests waited anxiously in the hotel's dining room.
"I'm so excited I can't stand it said," 75-year-old Mary Gibson, a Democratic party worker from Montgomery County. Gibson, sporting a red, white and blue wrist watch with a picture of a donkey on the face, said she was a "yellow dog democrat".
Her banquet table erupted with laughter. Her companion said "if a yellow dog was running for president, Mary would vote for him."
As the president strode into the banquet hall the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra struck up "Hail to the Chief", a tune that hadn't been played in Richmond the capital of the Confederacy, for years.
Carter's appearance in the packed ballroom was a financial windfall for the state party treasury. Party officials estimated that the dinner and reception would take in $70,000 and yield a net profit of $50,000.
The president ticked off four accomplishments that he wants historians to record for his administration.
"I want them to say that we tackled tough problems such as energy-and that we placed the long term good of the country over petty political considerations.
"I want them to say that we have restored the trust and faith of our people and their government.
"I want them to say that we have made America prosperous again.
"Most important, I want them to say that America has been at peace-and that we have contributed to a world without war."
In one of his rare references to a sometimes ridiculed slogan that he floated for his administration in his last state of the union message, Carter said: "If we can build a New Foundation for peace, trust and prosperity, we will have kept faith with our party and our people."
"Our foreign policy is as good as our people when we speak out for human rights around the world and we will," he said. "Our foreign policy is as good as our people when we work to bring peace to ancient enemies, and we have done so. The peace treaty signed last week by Israel and Egypt was a victory for this kind of foreign policy . . .
"But that treaty was not a personal accomplishment, though I was proud and grateful to be a part of it. That treaty was a tribute to two courageous men and it was a triumph of the moral strength and leadership of our nation. Whatever I am able to do in easing the tensions of our world is based on the strength of the American people and how much support I have from you and the power of the principles on which our nation was founded.
Carter said that the administration's "next major goal is negotiation of a new Strategic Arms Limitation treaty (SALT II).
In his only reference to the nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island, Carter said, "Our nation was shaken in the last few days by a potentially serious accident in Pennsylvania. I hope that one result of that . . . will be to remind our poeple how destructive to hundreds of millions of people a nuclear exchange would be."
Speaking of the prospective SALT treaty, he said, "Any treaty that I sign will be negotiated carefully. It will enhance the safety and security of our nation. And it will be adequately verifiable." I will need your strong support insert in the ratification of this necessary step of peace through strength."