The Presidents & Camp David
As some of you know, I have written a series of articles on the history of Camp David for Frederick Magazine. The first one appeared in the October issue, while the second and third will appear in December and February. Here are some quick and interesting items that changed my perceptions of the presidents.
Camp David was really established to provide a place for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to relax and continue to hide his infirmity. I never realized how hard the administration worked to conceal his paralysis.
President Harry S Truman rarely visited the camp but I did learn something about his poker. Here was the chief executive who dropped two atomic bombs, yet always made sure his tablemates walked away with only a small loss.
I thought he was an old fuddy-duddy ambling around in a state of semi-sleep. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a very good amateur landscape artist and had a warm sense of humor. The leader of the Joint Military Command and the free world slept in a pink bedroom. This was Mamie's doing, but it just strikes me as funny.
Jackie must have known of President John F. Kennedy's affairs. That is the only explanation I could come up with for why they kept going to the retreat separately. I don't want to get salacious, but I wonder about that cruise she took with Aristotle Onassis while she was First Lady. She later married him.
The assassination of President Kennedy gripped President Lyndon B. Johnson and had a real emotional effect on him. I did not realize how deep until I found out about his personal search for a religion among the churches around Camp David. I wonder if he ever found what he was looking for.
Though he seemed to have been normal during his first term, President Richard M. Nixon held the usual family celebrations and life passages. But something happened somewhere at the end of his first term and his massive popular vote re-election. There is a very distinct dividing line in his activities at Camp David. I think it may have been do to an assassination plot, real or, imaginary that was discovered during that time, but I am not sure.
I had always had an image of President Gerald R. Ford as a bumbling, uncoordinated klutz who fell into the presidency. Seeking pictures for the article, I found one of him bouncing on a trampoline that dispelled that notion. There are sad stories of Betty Ford, which are not covered in my articles, and I am amazed at the courage of her recovery and the establishment of the addiction recovery center which bears her name.
President Jimmy Carter enjoyed fly-fishing. I never realized how many different types of flies and how an angler can become emotionally attached to a particular rod and reel. Or how much study there goes in the hobby. I thought all you did was throw it in the water and hope for the best.
He really loved horses. No, I mean he really, really, really, really, really, really loved horses. President Ronald Reagan flew to Camp David to be with them, and I have some really (smile) wonderful stories about his riding around the Catoctin. (Hint: Buy the magazine.)
I thought President H. W. Bush was a blue-blooded New England snob transplanted to Texas. I had the impression a butler laid out his clothes; he walked around in tie and tails at the retreat and rang a bell to have someone draw his bath.
Boy, was I wrong. Reading about him at Camp David and then writing about his activities opened my eyes to a warm and sensitive man - with his family at least.
I have not finished researching President William J. Clinton and President George (Dubya) Bush. You can read about them in February's issue of Frederick Magazine.