At Camp David Retreat, Biden hangs out and shows he has games

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden spent his third week in office visiting the Pentagon, touring National Institutes of Health and working on the administration’s COVID-19 response.

He shielded it by beating one of his grandchildren on Mario Kart during his first presidential visit to Camp David, the historic retreat for American leaders.

That’s what Camp David has traditionally offered presidents: a respite from Washington where they can cast their ties and relax with the family. The connection in the Maryland Mountains just 97 miles from the capital has everything from a bowling alley to an archery range.

It has been used by every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt first went there in 1943 as a personal hideout and has been the site of major diplomatic negotiations and political discussions throughout history, according to Michael Giorgione, who served as Camp David commander to President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and wrote the book “Inside Camp David.”

With the exception of Donald Trump – in general preferred their own private clubs – every president has used Camp David “for a personal escape, an escape from clapping and noise and the like like the White House, and really going to this exclusive mountain retreat. That’s one purpose. And the other is to bring world leaders there, Said Giorgione.

When Roosevelt first arrived, the rustic retreat was a hiding place with some hot water and a brush that grew up to the windowsill, “former Associated Press White House reporter Dale Nelson wrote in his 1995 story: ″ The president is in Camp David . ″ Still, Roosevelt called it something amazing “Shangri-La,” the name of the utopian community in the popular 1933 novel, “Lost Horizon.”

When Dwight Eisenhower took over, he added a putting green and a new name: Camp David after his father and his grandson.

Over the years, presidents have made upgrades to suit their tastes. Richard Nixon added a heated swimming pool, and George HW Bush installed a regulation of horseshoes. Barack Obama, known for his love of basketball, built a court.

The connection also has a cinema, skeet shooting range, horse riding and tennis courts.

“I leave my problems outside the gate,” Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson, once said of the camp.

Biden even told reporters before traveling to Washington for the connection that his main plans for the long weekend were to “just hang out with the family and do what we always do.” While presidents typically take the Marine One helicopter for the short trip, the weather forced the president to fly to Hagerstown, Maryland, via Air Force One before taking a motorcade to camp.

His granddaughter Naomi posted on her Instagram Saturday night a clip of Biden playing the video game, with captions “a little rusty, but he still won (barely).”

However, Biden worked with him and met with national security advisers on Saturday, issuing a statement of Trump’s acquittal in his prosecution on Saturday night and signing an executive order restoring an White House office on religious engagement on Sunday.

The history of the association includes more than just golfing and winter tobogganing. It also hosts foreign dignitaries and has been a gathering place for diplomacy. Giorgione says the relaxed atmosphere of the camp lends itself to building relationships.

“There is a certain feeling of going to camp as opposed to the White House, which is a little more formal, a little more enclosed, if you will, and some presidents find a much better connection in the camp than they do in the White House. ,” he said.

Roosevelt hosted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill there in 1943 to help lay the groundwork for the Normandy invasion during the first visit of a foreign leader.

The camp became synonymous with feverish diplomatic negotiations after President Jimmy Carter invited Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat there in 1978 to negotiate a peace deal. After 13 days of tense talks, the two agreed on a framework that ultimately led to peace between the two nations.

Bill Clinton tried to replicate diplomatic alchemy when he invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Camp David for Middle East peace talks in 2000. After two weeks of negotiations, the summit ended without an agreement.

George W. Bush visited the camp frequently and used it to entertain a number of foreign leaders as well as for a cabinet withdrawal to plan his government’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

In 2012, Obama hosted the Group of Eight World Leaders Summit there after Occupy Wall Street protests made his hometown Chicago out of the question. World leaders stayed in the area’s 12 cabins and could spend their free time mingling on the grounds.

Trump spent some time there and did not host any foreign dignitaries. He once joked with a reporter: “Do you know how long you want it? For about 30 minutes. ”

But Giorgione said he expected Biden, with his appreciation of diplomacy, to likely use the space to host foreign leaders after the coronavirus pandemic, which has ruled out most personal gatherings, is under control. He said that when foreign leaders descend on Camp David, it can be like an “adult sleeper”.

“Going to camp in the cabins creates an atmosphere where leaders are very close to each other. There is no large conference room with chandeliers and coffee service. This is a home-made, rustic gathering, ”he said.

The participants “walk the paths together, we take a bike ride, we sit down at a nice table in a small conference room.”

“It created this art of having to get down into each other’s personal spaces and find time to speak legitimately,” he said.

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