President Carter, reacting to criticism of soaring interest rates, today blamed the problem on the Federal Reserve Board.
In a campaign day otherwise devoted to attacking Ronald Reagan on the issue of a new arms race, the president for the first time criticized the Fed's handling of monetary policy as "ill-advised," and appeared to be trying to avoid the political fallout from the newest rise in interest rates.
His comments came as Citibank in New York boosted its prime rate half a percentage point to 14 percent. [Details on Page E1.]
In response to a question at a campaign stop in a suburban back yard here, Carter said the Fed was paying too much attention to growth in the money supply and not enough to the effects of those policies.
"I think the Fed ought to look at the adverse consequences of increased interest rates on the general economy as a major factor in making their own judgments," the president said.
His remarks also followed by a few hours a sharp attack on his economic policies by his Republican opponent, who blamed the administration for high interest rates he said have led to a recession in the housing industry.
Until now, the president had avoided criticizing the Fed's performance, and has allowed the quasi-independent body to carry much of the burden in his fight against inflation.
But today he warned that "Congress and I together would have ultimate authority to override some of the consequences of the Fed's decisions." He added, however, that the process is "very complicated, and creates unwise conflict and controversy within the economic system."
Carter praised Paul Volcker, his appointee as Federal Reserve Board chairman, but said he thought the Fed "put too much of their eggs in the money-supply basket."
Earlier, in Dayton and here, Carter stepped up his attack against Reagan's arms policies, belittling his main opponent's proposal to scrap the SALT II treaty and accelerate nuclear arms production.
Carter said Reagan's proposal could have very serious consequences if adopted, but the American people would be "silly" to accept it.
At a town hall meeting in Dayton, Carter linked his support of the now-shelved SALT II treaty with the policies of arms limitation pursued by all presidents since Dwight Eisenhower.
He also identified himself with his Republican predecessors Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford in the development of the SALT negotiations with the Soviet Union, and said Reagan's proposal could lead to an uncontrolled arms race.
Reagan said in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press that the SALT II treaty should not be submitted to the Senate and that the threat of an arms race might scare the Soviet Union. The increased arms buildup could be traded in the future for similar Soviet concessions, Reagan said.
Reagan's foreign policy advisers, meanwhile, were the target of criticism from Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's national security affairs adviser. In an interview with Carl Rowan, broadcast on WDVM-TV's "Eyewitness News," Brzezinski charged that Reagan's advisers are marked by "a one-sided preoccupation with military strength and nothing else." He said that such a view is "not sufficiently broad and flexible" for a changing world.
The president arrived in Dayton for his second town meeting in two days and the fifth of the campaign, to a hostile reception from a local newspaper, but a warm one from 1,400 citizens who filled the rows of folding chairs in the Dayton Convention Center.
The Dayton Journal Herald, a conservative newspaper, printed a long editorial endorsing Reagan for president and saying that although Carter had promised to avoid becoming an imperial president he had been "seduced by the trappings of office." It called Reagan "essentially less pretentious reflecting traditional values now coming back into fashion."
No one mentioned the editorial during the hour-long question-and-answer town hall meeting, but one questioner brought laughter and applause by asking the president whether he would vote for Reagan or John B. Anderson if he could not be a candidate himself.
Carter paused and said: "At every town meeting there has to be one question I don't answer."
Then he said he thinks the American people would prefer a Democratic president, so his choice, if he could not run, would be Vice President Mondale.
"You'd make a news reporter," he told his questioner. The president often has said that he gets better questions from citizens at these White House-organized town meetings than he does from Washington reporters.
The president's clearly well-prepared remarks on his Republican opponent's nuclear policy were made in response to a question about whether the military draft will be reinstated in the foreseeable future.
That was one of 16 questions asked by selected members of the audience in Dayton. Carter responded smoothly, and won applause from the friendly audience for each of his answers as he sailed through another of the forums he is so adept in handling.
Carter's mention of Reagan's nuclear policy was the only time he named his opponent, and the president made it clear that he expects the nuclear issue to win him votes on election day.
"I believe the American people want to see nuclear arms controlled, and I don't believe the American people want to see a nuclear arms race begun by this country that might aggravate an already dangerous situation," Carter said in predicting that voters will choose him over Reagan.
On the flight from Dayton to Carter's second stop here, White House press secretary Jody Powell elaborated on the president's concern about nuclear arms.
Carter thinks Reagan's proposal 'indicates that he does not understand the complexities of arms control or of a nuclear arms race," Powell said. Carter had told interviewers from The Dayton Daily News that Reagan's remarks reflect "an apparent inability" to understand nuclear arms control.
At the Dayton town hall meeting, Carter also was asked about the curious history of presidents elected in years ending in zero. None of them has survived his term since 1840.
Carter said, "Even if I know I would die in office if I were a president, I would still run for the office because I think it's the most exciting and challenging and important position in the free world." He added that the honor of being president "would be worth it even if I knew that it would end in some kind of tragedy."
In this city, near Philadelphia, Carter went to the back yard of Joseph Phillips for another of the series of meetings he has held with ordinary citizens during his presidency.
The guests in the garden, which was pleasantly shaded by a walnut and several spruce trees, were easily outnumbered by the press and White House staff who ringed the garden and moved back and forth between the yard where the president spoke and a neighbor's yard, where six telephones were strung up around the base of a pin oak.
The president began by asking his audience to say a prayer for his mother. Lillian, who broke her hip in a fall at her home and was being operated on in Plains while the president was in the Phillips' back yard.
The president joked that he didn't know whether his 82-year-old mother had been surfing or skateboarding when she fell. He is expected to fly to see her either Friday or Saturday.