Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie tonight reiterated his commitment and support for President Carter but declined again to issue a "Sherman-like" declaration that he would not accept the Democratic presidential nomination should it be offered to him.
Despite Carter's statement at a press conference Monday that Muskie has "actively attempted" to stop the effort to "Subvert the rules of the Democratic Party," the secretary of state also declined to take a public position on the controversial rules issue that will be the first test of Carter's political strength at the Democratic National Convention next week.
"I don't think it is appropriate for me to become involved in the nitty-gritty of the convention" by commenting on the rules issue, Muskie said. n
The former Maine senator and former presidential hopeful made the statements aboard his airplane flying West to appearances before the United Steelworkers of America and other groups in a foreign policy speaking tour.
Muskie stated taht at age 66, and in a position to cap his career with work for peace, he has no political ambitions. "My only interest is in being secretary of state," he said.
Muskie's name has surfaced in recent weeks as a likely alternative if the convention refuses to renominate Carter, and Muskie had led other Democrats in recent public opinion polls.
At one point tonight, he said, "I think I have" taken himself out of consideration for the nomination and at another point said it is his "desire" to do so. However, Muskie also said he would not go beyond his previous declaration of a "commitment" backing the president. "That concept to me is final, it's complete, it's comprehensive," he said.
Muskie said he had not approved of the opening of a Muskie for President office in Washington earlier this week and quarreled with a reporter's statement that this was an indication of a groundswell. "There's a difference between an office and a groundswell," said Muskie, "as I learned in 1971-72" when he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination.
While seeking for forswear Democratic politics, Muskie showed zest to do battle against Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan on foreign policy isues. He particularly challenged references in the GOP platform to intended U.S. military superiority, saying this is inconsistent with potential arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.
"If he [Reagan] can weasel around this, all credit to him -- but he's not going to have it both ways if I can help it," Muskie said.