Trump has already given the property the equivalent of a bad Yelp review. “Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it,” he said in a post-election interview. “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
By this time in their first terms, the past three presidents had already spent time there, according to CBS newsman Mark Knoller, who serves as an unofficial White House historian. So far, though, Trump has preferred spending weekends at his private club in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, where amid the gilded ballrooms and verdant golf course, he has entertained Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife — drawing scrutiny for conducting classified business on the restaurant terrace — and attended a black-tie fundraiser.
The style of Camp David, which consists of several cabins and a main lodge, doesn’t exactly jibe with the New York native and luxury hotelier’s penchant for over-the-top luxury. President Jimmy Carter once described the getaway as akin to “a villa that wealthy family might lease for week,” but then again, Trump’s tastes run a bit more to gold leafing and crystal chandeliers than the modest peanut farmer’s.
Larry Knutson, who literally wrote the book on the topic, “Away From the White House: Presidential Retreats, Escapes, and Vacations,” says that Trump could still come around, like other presidents who initially didn’t think they would spend much time there, including the Kennedys and Trumans. “Generally, they have all taken to it in the end — it’s nice and it’s close, which is very important.”
Gary Walters, who was the White House chief usher for 20 years, similarly thought Trump could warm to the place. “I have no idea whether the current president will use Camp David,” he wrote in an email. “But I do remember a previous president who said he wanted to get rid of the presidential retreat in Maryland along with other benefits of the presidency like the yacht Sequoia.”
Carter ditched the fancy boat, but after spending several weekends there, decided to keep Camp David — which wound up being the site of the peace accords that were one of the biggest accomplishments of his administration.
Presidents’ use of the wooded property has varied, according to Knoller. The Reagans loved it, spending 517 days there. So did George W. Bush, who racked up 487 days in the woods. The Obamas visited less frequently, spending only 93 days. Former first lady Michelle Obama once explained that her husband was more of an “urban guy” than a nature lover (the fact that there’s only a one-hole golf course probably didn’t help make it a big draw for the links-loving president).
Both those factors might be reasons for Trump, an avid golfer and Manhattanite, to stay away. Another reason?
That solitude that many past presidents have loved will likely be a negative for Trump, who seems to revel in being around people. At Mar-a-Lago, he regularly chats up the paying members and guests — he even posed for a picture with a bride whose wedding reception took place there last weekend.