Nation: Assessing a Presidency

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One of Carter's Sunday-school compatriots describes "the pressures that are right there in his face." But his doctor, Admiral William Lukash, sees a man who has developed a remarkable regimen of physical conditioning to protect himself from the emotional stress. The President's weight is 147 lbs., his blood pressure 114/80 and his pulse rate that of a runner, 52 per min. His entire cardiovascular system is that of a man less than 55. Carter sleeps about six hours on an average night and emerges well rested. His eating remains under rigid control; he has a great fondness for fruits and salads. His skin, which used to get irritated by sunshine, has improved because he now uses a sunscreen for long exposures. Shin splints and sore muscles that afflicted the President when he began his running no longer occur. Carter runs a mile in a modest 8 min. and he is careful about stretching before running. Part of his preparation: 50 situps. On hot days Carter ends his jog with a swim in the White House pool, and he still relishes tennis two or three times a week. His is an American routine.

In the past few months Carter has become a capable fly fisherman and experiments with tying his own flies. This exotic craft seems to have captured his fancy, and he has become remarkably proficient at it in the limited time he can practice it. One of his creations, a green-tufted "Nymph type" fly, has proved so successful on the Big Hunting Creek in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains that it has been dubbed "the Jimmy bug," at least partly in honor of the 18-in. rainbow trout the President landed. His interest in angling has grown to such proportions that Park Superintendent Tom McFadden gathered some flyfishing experts last month for a corn roast and a lot of gab with the President about the sport. A long time ago, another President wondered why so many of the select enjoyed fishing. Herbert Hoover concluded: "Next to prayer, fishing is the most personal relationship of man; and of more importance, everyone concedes that the fish will not bite in the presence of the public, including newspapermen."

In a simpler age the range of homey interests, the kindness, the academic explorations of national problems might have been enough to carry Carter far in the annals of presidential success. The kind of fumbles and hesitations that are rushed to every living room every night were often overlooked when America had huge margins of wealth and power. "People have not blamed Presidents for incompetence unless it hurt them directly," says Duke's James David Barber. That is the problem. The pain today is too often genuine.

The scholars around the nation are harsh in their judgments of Carter, believing that if he is re-elected the country will get no different leadership than it has got from him so far. Stanford Historian Gordon Craig feels that most of Carter's actions are geared to his political survival, that he really has very little expertise outside of campaigning for reelection. "The state of the economy is calamitous, but foreign policy in a broad perspective is even worse," he says. "Carter does things based on how they will sound or look on television."

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