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“Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
Donald Trump, speaking to a European journalist in January, as quoted in the Washington Post February 21
Well, that’s a pretty nasty insult to rural America. Who needs a boring rural getaway when you own Mar-a-Lago? When you can go to your own very “non-rustic” private club every weekend at substantial taxpayer expense?
Used by every White House occupant since the 1940s, Camp David is the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. It is north of Frederick, Maryland, and south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but does not appear on maps due to security concerns.. If you are a pilot, you don’t want to fly near it. Our new President apparently does not care for the retreat, or maybe for anything “rustic.” Maybe the word “camp” is just a big turn off.
Located about about 60 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., Camp David was built by the Works Progress Administration between 1935 and 1938 as a retreat for federal government employees and their families.
In 1942, President Roosevelt took it over as a Presidential retreat and named it Shangri-La. Roosevelt hosted Winston Churchill there. In the 1950s President Eisenhower renamed the facility after his father and his grandson, who were both Davids. Perhaps the retreat’s most significant national and world role was in 1978, when President Carter brought President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minster Menachem Begin of Israel together for the peace talks that led to the Camp David Accords. President Reagan loved Camp David and went there over 150 times during his presidency. George W. Bush went 149 times. President Obama, a city guy, went 39 times.
I have not been to Camp David and do not expect to go. But my family and I have been frequently to the bordering Catoctin Mountain Park, run by the National Park Service as a sort of buffer zone around Camp David, and to the very nearby Cunningham Falls State Park. Both are popular, beautiful, peaceful, and pretty rustic. The nearest town, just east, is Thurmont, Maryland, where Trump won in November by 359 votes to Clinton’s 106. Trump also won the surrounding Frederick County by 59,500 to 56,500. According to the Washington Post, in Thurmont “Trump banners still hang on the sides of barns. Local restaurants sell Trump memorabilia [and] there is a house with a Confederate battle flag flying out front.”
Thurmont residents, including those who voted for Trump, are not concerned about his spurning of Camp David so far. But maybe they are just simple “rustics.” Or maybe there is a positive note to the insult. If he decides to rid himself of this rustic backwater, Camp David could revert to a public park, Don’t suggest to him that it might be a Trump hotel.
Joe Belden is a writer and consultant based in Washington, D.C.