It was a born-again presidency for Jimmy Carter. After months of discouraging setbacks, a steady decline in the polls and increasingly open disdain from members of his own party, the President was exuberantly on the move, roving from New Jersey to the Carolinas to the Middle West. Everywhere he went, crowds turned out and cheered him for his historic success at the Middle East summit talks at Camp David, and those ringing cheers were backed up by new polls that showed him making dramatic gains in the past week. According to a CBS survey, popular approval of his Administration climbed from 38% in June to 51% last week, while a Gallup poll rose from 39% in August to 56%. This shift testifies to the mercurial nature of public opinion, at least as measured by the surveys. One triumph can cause a President's rating to soar, one setback can start it plummeting again.
Despite the strains of the long bargaining sessions over the past fortnight, Carter appeared jaunty, confident, partisan, pugnacious, smiling more than ever —a revival of the man who had defied the odds and the experts to win the presidency. "Mr. President, it's wonderful how many friends you've discovered here in the last few days," remarked Republican Senator Clifford Case as he welcomed Carter to the federal aviation center in New Jersey. Replied Carter: "It is a good day for the world." Sounding much like a candidate once again, Carter was moved to make a grander claim at a fund-raising luncheon in Atlantic City: "I believe that we are making great strides in bringing peace to many areas of the world. I am proud that since I have been in the White House, there has not been a single American soldier who has lost blood in a foreign war or in combat. I would like to go out of office still having maintained that record."
The prospects were not entirely unclouded, of course, either for the world or for Jimmy Carter. In the Middle East itself, Israeli Premier Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat received tumultuous welcomes home, but when Secretary of State Cyrus Vance flew to three Arab capitals to mobilize support for the Camp David agreements, he encountered reactions ranging from skepticism to outrage.
Noisiest of the opponents, predictably, was Palestine Liberation Organization Leader Yasser Arafat, who declared that "Camp David is a dirty deal and Carter will pay for it." While making a campaign stop in Pittsburgh later in the week, Carter compared the P.L.O. to the Ku Klux Klan, the Communist Party and the Nazis. Added the President: "It would be nice for us if they would just go away." From Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev came a searing denunciation of the summit talks, which he said made the Middle East "more explosive than ever."