Tags: Barack Obama | obama | camp david | use | changing

Camp David's Purpose Changing Under 'Urban Guy' Obama

By    |   Saturday, 21 Mar 2015 12:49 PM

Presidents for more than seven decades have enjoyed Camp David not only as a place to hold major negotiations but as a close, peaceful getaway from the White House.

President Barack Obama is not one of them.

Obama, by his wife Michelle's assessment, is more of an "urban guy" whose time away from work is more likely to include basketball games, gym workouts, and golfing than hiking trips, skeet shooting, and other outdoors adventures that are the hallmark of the secluded Maryland retreat, reports The Washington Post.

That doesn't mean the retreat is going unused. On Monday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani will meet there with Secretary of State John Kerry and other candidate members. Obama does not plan to be there.

Unlike other presidents, Obama prefers to woo or entertain foreign leaders elsewhere. For instance, he has met leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping or Jordan's King Abdullah II in California, where he enjoys time golfing at Sunnylands, the former estate of ex-diplomat Walter Annenberg that is now run by a nonprofit group.

While his wife Michelle and their daughters do use Camp David as a getaway and for key celebrations, it's more often used for staff retreats and work meetings than as a presidential vacation spot.

The first lady says that the most "unexpected and uniform advice" she got after her husband won was to go to Camp David early and often, and she does visit the retreat.

But her husband has made just 35 visits to Camp David since he took office, with visits spanning all or part of 86 days, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS news correspondent and White House statistician. In comparison, President George W. Bush made 119 visits to the retreat, totaling all or part of 375 days.

And in 2010, when a group of historians asked Obama if he took advantage of Camp David to escape some of the pressures of his job, his wife said he was "an urban guy" who was not fond of the Maryland retreat, those at the meeting said.

In 2012, Obama did invite G8 leaders from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Canada to join him at Camp David for the largest international summit in the camp's 70-year history.

The world leaders dined together around a circular table in a lodge, shared a chocolate birthday cake for the Japanese prime minister and stayed up late chatting, according to aides at the time, who said several leaders also went for strolls around the retreat's immaculately maintained grounds.

Meanwhile, Camp David also hasn't been used to bring together legislative deals, despite suggestions that its relaxing setting could help. The retreat is usually a last step in a negotiation, and as there was such discord between Republicans and Obama, no opportunities came up to use it.

A White House official who asked to remain anonymous said the president does plan to invite lawmakers from both parties to the historic camp to hold meetings "in a more comfortable setting" as the last years of his presidency unfolds.

Bush spent many weekends and holiday at Camp David and often invited lawmakers there. The lavish camp offers a variety of activities, including a heated pool, full gym, bowling alley, movie theater, tennis court, riding trails and a skeet-shooting range.

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Presidents for more than seven decades have enjoyed Camp David not only as a place to hold major negotiations but as a close, peaceful getaway from the White House. President Barack Obama is not one of them.
obama, camp david, use, changing
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2015-49-21
Saturday, 21 Mar 2015 12:49 PM
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