Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Obama Down on Camp David

"Camp David just isn’t Obama’s kind of retreat" by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post  March 29, 2015

WASHINGTON — When Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, visited Camp David last week, the presidential retreat in Maryland once again served as the venue for important geopolitical negotiations on seemingly intractable issues, a role it has played for more than seven decades.

But as Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other Cabinet members hosted the Afghan president, one major US figure was not present: President Obama.

Just wondering if torture was brought up.

Yes, thankfully, we have all been reassured that a ‘‘long-term American presence in Afghanistan is essential’’ and the troops are staying (per the requests of the CIA that is changing focus?) -- even as the AmeriKa government has sometimes inadvertently financed the very militants it is fighting (as well as "mistakenly" arming them; I suppose there is no limit to the inane excuses the propaganda pre$$ expects us to believe). Nothing baffling about it, nor is the propaganda proposition after all else has failed and with the war campaign going badly. Time to flog the women, and well, you know those Muslims (never you mind the airstrikes and drone missiles taking their lives or those of relatives. Or the rapes brought to you by US warmaking)!

Sorry, but it just seemed SILLI to bother with any of those. Amazing how ISIS now stretches from the tip of Africa to the rim of the Pacific, 'eh? Gives the AmeriKan government an excuse to intervene throughout the Eastern Hemisphere in a weird sort of reverse Monroe Doctrine. I may not be a pacifist in the face of immediate danger, “but we don’t want our young people to go to war for lies,” do we (as they promote them!)?

Btw, they dig out of the snow yet?

His absence is just one indication of how the role of the cloistered compound in the Catoctin Mountains has changed under this president, a city dweller who prefers gym workouts and golf courses to hiking trips or fly-fishing expeditions. For several of Obama’s predecessors, Camp David was a critical refuge from the public spotlight and a chance to spend time outdoors, as well as a forum for soft-touch presidential diplomacy.

For this president, its role has receded. When he wants to woo or entertain foreign leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping or Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Obama has opted for California’s Sunnylands, which offers plenty of sunshine and an 18-hole golf course. When he’s looking to relax on his own, the woods are hardly ever his first choice.

While the current first family does use the naval installation as a location for key celebrations, it is now used more for administrative events like staff retreats and other work-related meetings.

Shortly after Obama took office, first lady Michelle Obama said the ‘‘most unexpected and uniform advice’’ she had gotten from her predecessors was to go to Camp David ‘‘early and often.’’

White House officials say the first lady — at times with her daughters — visits a fair amount. The president, however, has not warmed to the place in the same way as some previous commanders in chief.

With entourage in tow?

Obama has made 35 visits to Camp David since taking office, according to CBS News correspondent and informal White House statistician Mark Knoller, which have spanned all or part of 86 days. At same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had made 119 visits covering all or part of 375 days.

During a 2010 White House dinner the Obamas had with a group of historians, one of the academics asked the president whether he had taken advantage of Camp David to avoid the pressure of the job. Michelle Obama interjected that the he was ‘‘an urban guy’’ not that taken with the place, according to multiple participants.

‘‘Some presidents really like rustic, no-frills living, like FDR and Jimmy Carter,’’ said Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley, who has an upcoming book on Roosevelt’s relationship with the land. Of Obama, he added, ‘‘This president likes his golf.’’

Yeah, we all know how important is golf.

Shortly after Obama took office, his top aides identified Camp David as a setting that could be used to forge legislative deals, according to individuals involved in the discussions who asked for anonymity. But since then, it often ranks as the venue of last resort.

After the November midterm elections, however, the president began making overtures once again. The White House invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to Camp David but he declined, for scheduling reasons, according to individuals familiar with the matter.

One White House official said Obama plans to invite both Democratic and GOP lawmakers to Camp David at some point ‘‘to take advantage of the facilities for a few meetings in a more comfortable setting,’’ in what the president has taken to describing as the ‘‘fourth quarter’’ of his presidency.


"Dozens of world leaders have journeyed there since Franklin D. Roosevelt made it into a presidential retreat he dubbed “Shangri-La” in 1942. It was created in part because of the Secret Service’s concern that his use of the presidential yacht could leave him vulnerable to enemy attack."

The web version clipped that from my print version, and the print version clipped a whole lot more.