Camp David awaits ex­tended Trump fam­ily as se­cure re­treat

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

Of all the perks of the pres­i­dency that Barack Obama will miss as he leaves the White House, it’s a good bet that Camp David won’t rank high on the list.

Com­pared with his pre­de­ces­sors, Pres­i­dent Obama has spent lit­tle down­time over the past eight years at the se­cluded pres­i­den­tial re­treat in the moun­tains over­look­ing Thur­mont, Mary­land. In to­tal, Mr. Obama has vis­ited Camp David 39 times, span­ning all or parts of 93 days — barely 3 per­cent of his two-term ten­ure.

By con­trast, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush made 149 vis­its to Camp David in two terms, cov­er­ing all or parts of 487 days, said Mark Knoller, the CBS News White House re­porter who keeps metic­u­lous

records of pres­i­den­tial com­ings and go­ings.

Mr. Obama’s vis­its to the re­treat have been less fre­quent dur­ing his sec­ond term. Ten­ta­tive plans to host con­gres­sional lead­ers at Camp David in the “fourth quar­ter” of his pres­i­dency never ma­te­ri­al­ized as Mr. Obama’s re­la­tion­ship with Repub­li­can law­mak­ers con­tin­ued to erode.

The last time Mr. Obama vis­ited Camp David was in July, when he spent a pre-birth­day week­end with friends. First lady Michelle Obama hosted a “girls’ week­end” for some of her friends in Oc­to­ber at the re­treat, which costs about $10 mil­lion per year to main­tain and staff.

As in so many other ways, things may be about to change.

Pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian and au­thor Doug Wead said he be­lieves Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump and his fam­ily — in­clud­ing four grown chil­dren and 10-yearold Bar­ron, eight grand­chil­dren and three Trump sib­lings — will spend more time at Camp David than the Oba­mas de­spite own­ing ex­pen­sive homes in New York City and in Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. Wead called Camp David “a per­fect match for the Trumps.”

“I sus­pect they may fol­low the pat­tern of the Kennedys. The Kennedys didn’t like it. They thought it was a dump,” Mr. Wead said. “They had their place in Hyan­nis Port [Massachusetts], their place in Palm Beach. They did ev­ery­thing they could to stay out of the White House. But as the months pro­gressed, they ended up lov­ing Camp David and em­brac­ing it.”

There has been spec­u­la­tion that Mr. Trump may use his Trump Na­tional Golf Course in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey, as a kind of “Camp David North,” where he has hosted Cabi­net prospects dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion. Although it is a pri­vate club and is only an hour’s flight from Washington, it presents se­cu­rity and ac­cess prob­lems.

Mr. Wead pre­dicted that the Trumps will come to ap­pre­ci­ate Camp David’s rel­a­tively has­sle-free se­cu­rity. Around Trump Tower in mid­town Man­hat­tan, he said, “the se­cu­rity’s a mess.”

“It’s not that they’re wor­ried about se­cu­rity; it’s the im­po­si­tion that it causes so many oth­ers,” said Mr. Wead, who worked as a spe­cial as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush. “The New York thing is go­ing to get old. If it’s a big, sprawl­ing fam­ily, like the Carters, with grown chil­dren who have fam­i­lies of their own, it’s per­fect. And you don’t have the [se­cu­rity] mess.”

Even Mr. Trump’s ex­clu­sive sea­side es­tate and club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, “wasn’t built with pres­i­den­tial se­cu­rity in mind,” Mr. Wead said.

“I wouldn’t be sur­prised if Trump gets in there and buffs it up,” he said of Camp David, which was built in the 1930s. “He’s a builder by na­ture. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if he put his own stamp on Camp David and made it some­thing pretty spec­tac­u­lar. He doesn’t seem to be bound by tra­di­tion.”

Pres­i­den­tial pre­serve

The 180-acre Camp David was built dur­ing Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s pres­i­dency as a Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion project and opened in 1938 as a re­treat for fed­eral em­ploy­ees. Roo­sevelt vis­ited for the first time in 1942 and called it “Shangri-La,” af­ter the utopia de­scribed in James Hil­ton’s 1933 novel, “Lost Hori­zon.”

Pres­i­dent Tru­man win­ter­ized the cab­ins in the 1940s, and Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower re­named the re­treat Camp David af­ter his fa­ther and grand­son in the 1950s. The Bush fam­ily rode to­bog­gans there in win­ter; the Rea­gans rode horses.

The fa­cil­ity is main­tained by the Navy and staffed by Marines from the bar­racks at Eighth and I streets in South­east Washington. Be­sides the Oba­mas, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have used it for staff re­treats and other events.

But Mr. Obama prefers to re­lax on an 18-hole golf course, which Camp David lacks. It also has been sug­gested that the Oba­mas’ daugh­ters, Malia and Sasha, who were rel­a­tively young when they en­tered the White House, have pre­ferred to spend time with friends in Washington rather than decamping to the Mary­land woods.

Among Camp David’s many ameni­ties is skeet shoot­ing, which Mr. Obama man­aged to turn into a mi­nor con­tro­versy in 2013 as he was push­ing Congress to im­pose uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on gun pur­chases. He told an in­ter­viewer that he shot skeet “all the time” at Camp David and said he has “pro­found re­spect” for hunt­ing tra­di­tions.

Crit­ics weren’t buy­ing it, so the White House re­leased a pho­to­graph of Mr. Obama skeet shoot­ing at Camp David. His right hand was grip­ping the bar­rel rel­a­tively far for­ward in what looked to some gun en­thu­si­asts like an awk­ward pose.

Mr. Wead said Camp David is “per­fect for fam­i­lies where the kids are grown and can have their own pri­vacy.”

“The Obama kids didn’t need it as much,” Mr. Wead said. “The Rea­gans couldn’t wait to get out there for week­ends. [Pres­i­dent Rea­gan] would kind of sneak ahead on Thurs­days some­times.”

Camp David has been the site of his­toric sum­mits. Roo­sevelt con­ferred there with British Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill.

Eisen­hower held a sum­mit with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. In 1978, Pres­i­dent Carter hosted talks with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Me­nachem Be­gin and Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Anwar Sa­dat that re­sulted in the out­lines of a peace treaty. Pres­i­dent Clin­ton hosted Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans in a failed bid for a peace deal. Ge­orge W. Bush hosted for­eign heads of state at Camp David 19 times in eight years.

Mr. Obama has hosted for­eign lead­ers at the re­treat only twice, most re­cently in 2015 when he met with Per­sian Gulf lead­ers. He has opted at times to hold sum­mits with lead­ers such as Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the Sun­ny­lands re­sort in Cal­i­for­nia, which has golf courses.


DECAMPING: Pres­i­dent Obama will say good­bye to Camp David, where he has spent all or parts of just 93 days dur­ing his eight years in the White House.


Pres­i­dent Rea­gan took Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush along on one of his fa­vorite recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties at Camp David in July 1981. The Rea­gans looked for­ward to vis­it­ing the ru­ral Mary­land re­treat so much that they some­times would leave on Thurs­days.

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