On the retreat at Camp David, Biden hangs out and exhibits that he has sport

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

In closing, he hit one of his granddaughters at Mario Kart during his first presidential visit to Camp David, the historic retreat for US leaders.

This is what Camp David traditionally offered presidents: a break from Washington, where they can cut ties and relax with family. Located in the Maryland Mountains, just 60 miles from the capital, offers everything from a bowling alley to an archery range.

It has been used by every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first personal hiding place in 1943, and has been the site of important diplomatic negotiations and political discussions over the course of the year, according to Michael Giorgione, who served as Camp David commander for President Bill Clinton History and George W. Bush and wrote the book “Inside Camp David”.

With the exception of Donald Trump – he generally preferred his own private clubs – every President has used Camp David “for a personal getaway, an escape from the clamor and din and the like of the White House, and has really gone to this exclusive mountain retreat. That’s a purpose. And the other is to bring the leaders of the world there, ”said Giorgione.

When Roosevelt arrived, the rustic retreat was “a hideaway with little hot water and with brushes that grew to the windowsills,” wrote former Associated House White House reporter Dale Nelson in his 1995 story: “The President is at Camp David. ” Even so, Roosevelt called it, somewhat fantastically, “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 grandson.

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

There is also a movie theater, skeet shooting range, horse riding and tennis courts on the premises.

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

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

His granddaughter Naomi posted a clip on her Instagram Saturday night in which Biden is playing the video game and is entitled “a little rusted, but he still (barely) won”.

However, Biden took up work with him, meeting with national security advisers on Saturday, making a statement on Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment trial on Saturday night, and signing an ordinance on Sunday to restore a White House office for religious engagement.

The history of the site encompasses more than just golf games and winter tobogganing. It also played host to foreign dignitaries and was a meeting place for diplomacy. According to Giorgione, 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 and stuffy if you would say, and certain presidents find a much better connection in camp than in the White House,” he said.

Roosevelt hosted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1943 to lay the foundations for the Normandy invasion on the first visit of a foreign guide.

The camp became synonymous with feverish diplomatic negotiations after President Jimmy Carter invited Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to negotiate a peace agreement there in 1978. 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 repeat this diplomatic alchemy when he invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Camp David for peace talks in the Middle East 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 to retire to the cabinet to explain his administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

In 2012 Obama hosted the Group of Eight summit for world leaders after protests on Occupy Wall Street left his hometown of Chicago unquestioned. The world’s leading politicians stayed in the site’s 12 cabins and were able to spend their free time on the site.

Trump spent little time there and did not host any foreign dignitaries. He once joked with a reporter, “Do you know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes. “

But Giorgione said he expected that with his appreciation for diplomacy, Biden would likely use the space to host foreign leaders now that the coronavirus pandemic, which has excluded most face-to-face gatherings, is under control. He said when foreign guides come to Camp David it can be like an “adult sleepover”.

“When we camp in the cabins, there is an atmosphere in which the managers are very close to one another. There is no large conference room with chandeliers and coffee service. This is a homemade, rustic get-together, ”he said.

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

“It created this art of getting into each other’s personal space and finding time to talk legitimately,” he said.

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