For two days running, the Jody and Leonid Show played the Palace to a standing-room only audience of reporters, offering little in entertainment but plenty of polemic and debate that occasionally was more combative than what went on at the summit table.
President Carter's press secretary, Jody Powell, and President Brezhnev's information chief Leonid Zamyatin, held forth side by side this weekend in the Hofburg Palace's Redoutensaal, where Haydn, Beethoven, Liszi and Strauss once conducted and performed. But this weekend's featured performers were rarely in concert, as they conducted nightly news briefings that were heavy on policy discord and spare of harmony.
Zamyatin is a veteran of these diplo-theatrics, having performed opposite Ronald Ziegler in the Nixon years. Powell was appearing in his first featured summit role. Zamyatin delivered his replies in a somewhat more restrained manner than at previous summits, where he seemed frequently hostile to questioning Americans; perhaps his restraint this time was due to the fact that very few American reporters bothered to ask him questions, leaving the floor open to European and Soviet journalists.
Powell seemed to relish his role as a defender of the American way, delivering his lines with more attention to substance and diplomatic nuance than did his predecessor of summits past, Ron Ziegler.
The subjects covered at the briefings ranged from the mobile missile to the Middle East, from military forces in Europe to refugees in Southeast Asia.
A question at tonight's briefing about troop reductions in Europe led to a typical exchange. It began with the man from Prvada who asked the man from the White House about proposals by socialist countries for troop cuts.
"There are at times some . . . proposals which may or may not conform to the reality of the situation," Powell replied. ". . . The concern of the United States and NATO allies about the very substantial buildup of nuclear and conventional forces by the Warsaw Pact is well known. This buildup has been in progress for something in the neighborhood of 10 years. Only two years ago, did the U.S. and its NATO allies feel that it was necessary to . . . respond to that buildup. . ."
Zamyatin said he had something he wanted to add on the subject. "For a number of years already, the Soviet Union has not been building up its forces in Central Europe," he said.
". . . An approximate balance of military forces has already formed long ago . . . We are not disrupting it and we do not plan to disrupt it."
This could have been an end to this portion of the debate - it had already gone well beyond the normal response to a question. But Zamyatin went on to add a charge that "NATO is intensifying its military buildup . . . And the United States is increasing its [forces] situated around the Soviet Union - as my collegue, Mr. Powell, said recently in replying to Sen. Jackson." Zamyatin was referring to the response Powell had made in Washington to a charge by Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.).
Powell leaned into the microphone and said: "You can see what makes these problems so difficult."
When an American journalist asked if Carter had requested Soviet help with the refugee problem in Southeast Asia, Powell said the president had not. But the press secretary said he would be "happy" if Zamyatin wanted to discuss the matter.
"The question of refugees from Vietnam is not an issue of Soviet-American relations," Zamyatin offered. "And from Cambodia, there are not refugee: the people who are fleeing are Chinese."
The two spokesman continued their policy differences throughout discussions of the mobile missile - which the Soviets criticized and which Powell said is smaller than "the familiar SS-18" Soviet missile and "equivalent to the smaller SS19 which the world has been familiar with for a number of years."
Zamyatin showed a flash of anger at one point, when laughter filled the hall after his statement that Brezhnev had told Carter of his "hope and also his confidence" that the Soviet legislation would ratify the SALT treaty.
"I hear laughter," Zamyatin said "but I ascribe this laughter to lack of knowledge about the Soviet structure."
But if Zamyatin was not in good humor, Powel was, "I was just checking my notes," Powell said, when asked if he had anything on the subject of SALT treaty ratification, where the prospects in the U.S. Senate are far from certain.
"I don't believe the president of the United States had very much to say about the ratification process, except to thank President Brezhnev for his explanation of the process of the Soviet Union." And he smile, as the audience of journalists erupted in laughter once again.
Zamyatin showed perhaps understandable lack of humor when a British correspondent asked about the state of Brezhnev's health.
"The question is irrelevant," he said Saturday. "It has nothing to do with the subject matter of our press conference. But still I will answer your question."
He went to talk about the "tremendous volume" of work Brezhnev was doing in Moscow and the "huge volume" of work he was doing in Vienna.
"This work naturally requires good health," he said, in a carefully worded response. "And Brezhnev has no complaints about his health. And the sepculations that appear in your press on this matter are nothing but speculation."
Next, a man from the Soviet Union's Izvestia stood up to ask what would be the final question of the evening.
Question: "Would you mind telling us about the political health of President Carter? (The reporters laughed.)
Powell: "About the same." (Laughter again.)
Late tonight, up in his suite, Powell was reminiscing about his weekend as a costar withe Leonid Zamyatin at the Palace.
"I took debate in high school for three years and I was always on the negative team," Powell said. "It was good training for being a press secretary." CAPTION: Picture, Presidents Carter and Brezhnev toast one another at a dinner last night at the U.S. Embassy.