His first review is in. President Donald Trump actually likes Camp David.
Trump took his wife Melania and 11-year-old son Barron to the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains for the first time to celebrate Father’s Day, and, surprisingly, this verdict was positive. “Camp David is a very special place,” he wrote on Twitter. “An honor to have spent the weekend there. Military runs it so well and are so proud of what they do!”
As he walked into the White House from his Marine One helicopter Sunday after visiting the wooded hideaway, a reporter asked how he liked what his predecessors and White House staffers often called “Camp.” Trump replied, “incredible,” “beautiful,” and “really nice.”
First lady Melania Trump had tweeted Saturday, “Barron, @Potus and I enjoying beautiful Camp David!”
All this was in contrast to the negative remarks Trump made just before taking office in January. “Camp David is very rustic,” he told reporters for foreign newspapers. “It’s nice. You’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
President Franklin Roosevelt created the retreat in 1942 when he took over a tract of federal land, then called “Hi-Catoctin,” for use by himself and future presidents. He wanted a place that would be cooler than Washington, D. C. in the summer, well protected, secluded and easily accessible from the White House. He found just what he was looking for in what he named “Shangri-La,” after the fictional Himalayan paradise described in James Milton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name to honor his grandson David in the 1950s.
Up to now, Trump has preferred to spend personal time at the luxurious properties that he owns, such as Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida and his fancy golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
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But Camp David has a special appeal, and it’s possible it may win him over to some extent if he can get used to its rustic nature. It does not offer the kind of luxury and ostentation that Trump enjoys, but it has been upgraded over the years to include tennis courts, a swimming pool, a single-hole golf course, a movie theater, walking and bicycle trails, and facilities for horseback riding.
Perhaps most appealing to Trump, going to Camp David would save the taxpayers money because it is already secured and maintained by the government and doesn’t need special arrangements and the assignment of extra federal workers and the additional protective expenses that Trump’s personal properties require when he goes there. It’s also relatively inexpensive for a president to visit–only a half-hour helicopter ride from the South Lawn of the White House.
Not all presidents have enjoyed Camp David. Among those who didn’t like the retreat were Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. But by and large, America’s presidents have found the spot a valuable place to find a sense of normalcy and quietude.
As I pointed out in “From Mount Vernon to Crawford,” my book about presidential retreats, homes and hideaways, Camp David also has been part of history. Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill planned the end of World War II there, and Jimmy Carter negotiated a peace agreement there between Israel and Egypt in 1978.