With Mr. Obama’s popularity sputtering, and summer on the way, I have a surefire proposal for the president — invite us all over to Camp David.
What goes on at this camp anyway? I’ve never seen a four-color brochure for the place and it doesn’t have a Facebook page. But it must be one hell of a good camp because presidential candidates eviscerate each other for the chance to get in there.
Ever since I was a seven-year-old growing up during the Kennedy administration, I would hear that familiar media refrain, “The President and his family will be in seclusion at Camp David this weekend,” but I couldn’t get a clear picture of the place. I’d imagine JFK, Jackie, and the kids wrapped in pine-scented blankets, marshmallows roasting over a campfire with a dressed-down Secret Service agent rendering sleepy tunes on a wistful harmonica.
With each new administration, I’d change the players to match their signature shenanigans: Lyndon Johnson chasing the camp’s floppy-eared, canine mascot, devising all sorts of auricular torture; Richard Nixon bowling at the camp recreation hall with occasional breaks to write heavily redacted letters to his mother; Jimmy Carter, The Lustful, making clandestine canoe trips to the sister camp across the lake (Is there a sister camp? Is there a lake?). And George W. — a camp director’s nightmare — short-sheeting Jeb’s bed at night and stuffing Tiger Balm into the underwear of visiting generals during Joint Chiefs weekend.
For all I know, for all anybody knows, that’s precisely what’s been going on in the Maryland woods since Dwight Eisenhower named Camp David for his grandson in the 1950’s and began taking his bivouacking brood there. How is it possible that paparazzi will bury themselves in thorny hedges for days to produce a few grainy shots of philandering senators, but the Internet is almost devoid of good Camp David photos and neither Sasha nor Malia has ever posted anything on Instagram.
In lieu of an all-citizens tour, I’d like President Obama to answer some pressing questions about America’s most elite sleep-away camp: “Sir, do you have any Camp David t-shirts and, if so, where can I get mine (men’s medium)? … Who conducts daily cabin inspections now that Eric Holder has resigned? … Can you confirm that Joe Biden was found skinny-dipping in the camp pool with the entire cast of Veep? … Do you prefer that counselors call you Barry, Barky, or O’Bomber? … Has Michelle’s insistence on a plant-based diet triggered any epic food fights?… And, finally, Mr. President, is it true that you’ve replaced morning reveille with Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together?”
As much as I’d like to see a 60 Minutes exposé on Camp David with Lesley Stahl uncovering new revelations (“Sources close to Hillary Clinton now confirm that if elected, she’ll change the name of the presidential retreat to Camp Charlotte…”), it appears that the shroud of virtual secrecy surrounding this sanctuary will remain in place for another sixty years.
But if President Obama really wants to secure his legacy, he should forget about climate change, income inequality, and affordable healthcare and send us average Americans to camp instead. Camp David.
(A version of this essay originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.)