NOW THE PRESIDENT is confusing the imagery. Is he Moses or Heidi's Alm Uncle - a supplicant ascending the mountain in search of wisdom or a brooding, vaguely ominous presence already there? It was surely only a matter of time until foggy mountain-top psychology seized the nation, including, most prominently, the media scribes. It always does. The mythology is overpowering. Our literature, folklore, religious scripture and legend -- all feed the romance of the mountain, the spiritual pilgrimage of the ascent itself and the mystic revelations at the top. Say mountain top, and what are the associations? Lonely. Mist-shrouded. Mystical. Wilson-infusing. Communion with what? Well, with Something.
The confusion of imagery that has now set in has to do with more than the evident ambiguity about whether Mr. Carter is primarily seeking or dispensing lonely counsel up there. Even more profound -- in fact, endemic -- trouble resides with the mountain itself. Let us be plain about it: The mountain that harbors Camp David is a runt. All this talk, rising throughout the week, about the clarified and rarefied thought processes available on the "mountain top" wouldn't lead you to believe that what we are actually talking about here is little more than a topographical lump in the Catoctins, approximately 1,880 feet high. Mont Blanc, for purposes of comparison, dusts the heavens at about 15,771 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340.
But there is worse. For to those romantic associations that spring so readily to mind must be added another set, not so romantic -- except, perhaps, to their principal, Richard Nixon, who led all his Sherpas up the Catoctins for a protracted stay after the 1972 election. The pronouncements to the press have an eerie ring today: "ladies and gentlemen, as you have been here at Camp David for the past two weeks, I know that you would like somewhat an evalution of what has happened . . . . I find that up here on top of a mountain it is easier for me to get on top of the job, to think in a more certainly relaxed way at times . . . with perception . . . A word, too, with regard to the White House staff. Several changes will be made . . . ." ect.
Richard Nixon, of course, plunged from that political peak to the very depths, whereas President Carter, at the moment, has nowhere to go but up. But who knows what a prolonged visit in the place, with its heady, romantic imagery can do to a fellow? Delusions of Matterhorn? Why not? It's already happened to the press. President Carter, come home.