At 11 a.m. yesterday, dozens of cameras awaited Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance to the White House, where they were poised to capture his words as he went in

the door to meet with President


But the Soviet leader never showed. Like others the White House wants to keep out of the camera's eye, Gorbachev yesterday was sent to the "back door," the southwest entrance to the White House where reporters are banned, rather than the northwest "front door" he used Thursday.

Seeking to recapture control of what one official called the "story line" of the summit, administration officials spent much of yesterday trying to ensure that, at least while he was on their territory, Gorbachev's spontaneous chats with the press would not disrupt the summit themes the White House was trying to lock into place.

On Thursday, Day One of the summit, this effort mostly failed as many news organizations reported movement toward an agreement on the future of Germany.

By yesterday, however, administration officials were more successful. They promoted yesterday as "arms control agreement day," later adding the dollop of what was supposed to be seen as a move toward the Soviets with the signing of a trade agreement that avoided the wrath of conservative critics that would have been provoked by granting most favored nation trading status.

On the opening day of summit negotiations, Gorbachev had strolled out of the White House to suggest to reporters that new proposals had been put on the table on the divisive issue of the future of Germany.

Bush, who had watched Gorbachev's extemporaneous news conference on television, then hurried out to the Rose Garden to try, as one official put it, "to walk it back" and dampen expectations that a solution to one of the major problems confronting the two leaders would emerge at this summit.

Instead, Bush seemed to confirm new proposals, and White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater went even further, suggesting that the foreign ministers of the two countries would meet the next day to begin working on the knotty problem, a clear sign in the murky world of diplomacy that some solution was in the offing.

Before their eyes, the administration saw what was to have been a story line on the summit opening with serious and in-depth talks on a range of issues transformed into a summit opening with a possible solution to the German problem in sight. Said one official, "That would have been great if some solution was in sight. Instead, we left the day the way, essentially, we had started it, with an agreement to put the {German} issue aside."

A senior official blamed the confused message that emerged from the White House Thursday on "mixed signals that took on a life of their own." The official did not mention that the signals came from the two presidents themselves. Another U.S. official speculated that Gorbachev had deliberately suggested progress on the German issue in an attempt to force movement.

"If he suggested we were getting somewhere, then we might have to make some concessions to get somewhere, or the story out of the summit would be we failed to get anywhere," the official said.

Late into Thursday night, the administration's counterspin machine was on full-blast, with Fitzwater and other spokesmen calling reporters to say there had not been significant progress on the German issue and that the two foreign ministers were not meeting. The "new ideas" that the Soviets were said to have brought were old ideas with new twists, the officials said, adding that each side maintained the essential position with which it had entered the talks. The fact that later discussions were being planned meant the problem was not totally intractable, simply not solvable at this summit, the officials add- ed.

At stake were not only international news reports of the progress of the summit but German sensibilities over the United States and Soviets plotting a solution to the future of their country.

When Bush got to the White House Thursday and Secretary of State James A. Baker III got to the State Department, each planned to call his counterpart in West Germany. It was unclear whether Bush called Chancellor Helmut Kohl, but Baker was said to have assured Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that no secret deal was cut in Washington.