With Washington officialdom and its press corps stirred up about Billy Carter and his ties to Libya, Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie says all he knows about the situation is what he reads in the newspapers.
The chief of U.S. foreign policy official, questioned during a breakfast meeting with reporters yesterday, said he had no special information about the controversial relationship between the president's brother and the Libyan government, that nobody from the Libyan desk at the State Department had brought the matter to his attention, and that no one had said to him: "Mr. Secretary, we have an alarming problem here."
Muskie appeared content to keep the controversial issue at a distance from his department, saying only that he did not like anything that shakes the confidence of citizens in their government, "no matter who it is."
Muskie was also asked about another controversial episode reported recently -- that President Carter was so enraged about news leaks last year that, in one case, he asked several top officials of the government, including then-secretary of state Cyrus R. Vance, to sign affidavits that they were not the leakers.
Muskie said he thought the White House approach "was an unwise course." He said government generally is a pretty leaky vessel, but as far as he was concerned, when he took the oath of office and pledged to uphold national security "it seems to me if that isn't sufficient, then I wouldn't stick around."
Another reporter asked Muskie if he had heard reports that, if the Democratic National Convention in New York next month becomes deadlocked, the party could go to a compromise candidate for president and that Muskie's name was among those being mentioned.
Muskie said he had heard those reports, that he was not enchanted by them and that his reaction was to discourage them. Asked if he was, nevertheless, interested, he said he would rather be secretary of state than president, but he did not say so.