Jimmy Carter will succumb to a virus when he stands before the East Front of the Capitol to take the oath of office as President of the United States.
The virus, which is of recent origin, is commonly called Presidential Television. It is known to have two strips,domestic and foreign. There is no known cure for either.
The foreign variety is the more virulent of the two. It is characterized by a restlessness that usually surface after the first few months in office, and can only be relieved by jet travel, airport receptions, motorcades, banquets, toasts, and full and frank exchanges of view. Greatest comfort is provided by continuous monitoring of the patient's progress by live television camera until virus has run its course, which usually occurs somewhere in the vicinity of Andrew Air Force Base.
Candidate Carter seemed immune from early infection by the virus when he said during the campaign that he did not expect to engage in foreign travel during his first year in office. But President-elect Carter showed signs during the interregnum (which specialists in the virus are beginning to agree in the incubation period) that the condition od his health dictated an early trip aboard to attend an economic summit meeting.
The origins of the virus are somewhat vague. Researchers are generally agreed that the increase in the foreign strain is coincident with the Cold War. Though President Truman made few trips aboard - the motto on his desk read: "The virus stops here" - his successor sought relief from the minor aches and pains of office by making 16 trips abroad seeking the relief that was only thousands of miles away.
Dwight D. Eisenhower's most dramatic search for a cure came when he visited India in 1959, no doubt on his doctor's advice that heat was good for a cold. It was at this precise moment that television's monitoring of the course of the virus came into its own.
Less successful were television attempts on the same trip when French television, in an effort to monitor the patient on a train trip from Toulon to Paris, mounted television cameras on the train to relay pictures back to Paris. The problem, according to those present, was that the cameras, barred from taking the temperature of the patient, were trained instead on reporters, nearly all of whom were drunk.
John F. Kennedy's first trip overseas took place in the spring of 1961. Its purpose was said to be meetings with Charles De Gaulle in Paris and Nikita Khruschechev in Vienna. Veteran virus-watchers speculated at the time that the real reason for the trip was relief, not from a virus, but to divert attention from the lingering aftermath of another affliction, Bay of Pigitis.
Medical observers now agree that the Presidential Television virus came into its own during this trip, a development facilitated by providing better background for camera monitoring of the patient than the White House. Hyannisport and Palm Beach.
But the same observers began to be concerned about the spread of the virus and its effect on presidents during Lyndon Johnson's occupancy of the White House.
Nearly all trips were to the Pacific and Southeast Asia, occasioned, for the most part, for relief of a then persistent Asian irritation which carried the rather exotic name of Nguyen Van Thieu. Though N.V.T., as it came to be described in medical textbooks, brought little relief to LBJ, president health specialists agreed that some psychological relief was provided by television cameras showing President Johnson standing next to people who came up to his elbow.
Richard Nixon set will probably rank as an all-time record for being afflicted by the virus of Presidential Television (foreign strain). He visited 28 country in 5 1/2 years. Most of those trips were covered live via satellite. It was said, however, that what gave him the most relief during those travels were the uniforms worn by the palace guards in Brussels and the portable toilet along the route of his motorcade Belgrade.
President Ford came close to matching Nixon's record. His overseas travels, as well as his seemingly never-ending domestic flights, were believed to have been designed to counter the effects another virus - failling down and bumping into strange objects ' by keeping him constantly in the air where his feet could never touch the ground.
It strikes some observers that all this is not a very satisfactory way to combat presidential restlessness. The virus itself - Presidential. Television - has become the cure. That is the reason why modern presidents are always feverish. Instead of going to bed, taking two aspirins and calling a doctor in the morning, they always call the pilot of Air Force One and the the three networks. Jimmy Carter won't be any different.