The word that’s used most often to describe Camp David is “rustic.” The presidential retreat, located in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland near the Pennsylvania border, was built in the 1930’s by the WPA under President Roosevelt and named by President Eisenhower in the 1950’s for his grandson, David. Technically a Naval Support Facility staffed by Navy and Marine personnel, Camp David consists of a main cabin, the Aspen Lodge, used by the president during his visits, and about a dozen guest cabins, which have housed members of various presidents’ families and foreign dignitaries, as when the G-8 Summit was held there in 2012, or when President Carter put together President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel during the famous peace talks of 1978.
Look up photos of Camp David, and you’ll find shots of presidents and their guests tossing horseshoes, playing tennis, shooting skeet, taking walks in the woods, even bowling. It’s a casual place. Aspen Lodge is a Y-shaped cabin made of rough-cut clapboard siding with a cedar shingled roof and flagstone terraces. The guest cabins, connected by paths that wander through the wooded site, are similarly constructed. By all accounts, it is very much the rustic park-like retreat where presidents, cabinet members and congressional leaders have gone to relax and unwind for more than seven decades.
Congressional Republican leaders and members of the cabinet got the message last weekend when they were invited up to Camp David for a political summit to make plans for 2018. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was photographed in khakis, a checked shirt and a bright blue fleece under a blazer; Senate Leader Mitch McConnell wore blue jeans, a button down shirt, and a red v-neck sweater under a blazer. Senator John Cornyn wore khakis and a dark open collar shirt under a blazer. Even buttoned-up Vice President Pence wore khakis and an open necked button-down shirt under a blazer.
But not President Donald Trump. He was attired, as he has been virtually every day since he’s been president except when on the golf course, in his usual dark, boxy business suit, white shirt, and tie. His clothing might fit the description of a uniform were it not so obviously a suit of armor. The man is apparently congenitally incapable of letting down his guard and relaxing even for one minute.
A story in Axios over the weekend had details of the new presidential daily schedule. Trump’s official day in the White House often doesn’t begin until 11 a.m. Before that the schedule shows “Executive Time,” from eight until 11 a.m. Axios reports White House sources say Trump usually spends that time in his private residence watching TV and tweeting. George W. Bush began his day in the Oval Office at 6:45. President Obama worked out early in the morning and was usually behind his desk by 9 a.m. Last Tuesday, according to Axios, Trump’s schedule went like this: “Trump has his first meeting of the day with Chief of Staff John Kelly at 11am. He then has ‘Executive Time’ for an hour followed by an hour lunch in the private dining room. Then it's another 1 hour 15 minutes of ‘Executive Time’ followed by a 45 minute meeting with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Then another 15 minutes of ‘Executive Time’ before Trump takes his last meeting of the day — a 3:45 pm meeting with the head of Presidential Personnel Johnny DeStefano — before ending his official day at 4:15pm.”
But let’s put aside Trump’s so-called “schedule” for a moment and consider what it’s like to actually be him. How would you like to wake up in the morning and confront the deluge that awaits him every single day? The entire op-ed page of the New York Times hates him and it’s much the same at the Washington Post. Even the “conservative” writers on both papers are never-Trumpers.
Here at Salon, all day every day there’s someone after him, and elsewhere online, he gets taken to the cleaners around the clock by The Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Raw Story, Slate, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, and I don’t know how many others.
Shows on MSNBC and CNN are famously critical of Trump, from early in the morning until late at night.
And who’s on his side? Well, he’s got Fox and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and Breitbart and down in the right wing weeds, Drudge and Limbaugh and the geniuses at Townhall.
That’s Trump’s world, and it’s probably why he’s on the job only a few hours every day. But from what’s in Michael Wolff’s insider-fueled “Fire and Fury,” he doesn’t spend much time relaxing. When Trump isn’t daydreaming his way through official meetings, he’s on the phone to friends and confidants complaining. Or watching TV and inhaling quarter-pounders (with cheese, no pickles, extra ketchup) and tweeting. In nearly a year as president, he hasn’t drawn a happy breath.
But why? Outside the walls of the West Wing, the world is going his way. The stock market is booming, unemployment is at near-historic lows, wages are trending up, Isis is on the ropes, they passed a huge tax cut for his rich pals, and all over the government, his minions are busy crippling regulations that protect air, water, food, medicine, banking, oil drilling and mining – hell, even nursing homes. He hasn’t scrimped on vacations. According to NBC, as of the end of 2017, out of what was then 354 days in office, Trump had spent a total of 117 days on vacation at Trump properties, and 90 of them playing golf. He spent 27 days at Trump International West Palm Golf Course, one day at Trump National Jupiter, 23 at Trump National Potomac Falls, and 39 at Trump National Bedminster. He has taken off one third of his presidency. You’d think he’d be giddy with delight.
But he hasn’t budged from the mid-30’s in approval ratings in the polls. Somewhere north of 55 percent of the public disapprove of the job he’s doing as president. He’s got Special Prosecutor Mueller subpoenaing everything from his campaign’s emails to his banking records. His son and son-in-law are being called before congressional committees and grilled about their connections to Russians during the campaign. Two of his former campaign officials are under indictment for multiple felonies, with another having pled guilty, and his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was by his side all the way through his campaign, has pled guilty to a felony and is telling Mueller everything he knows. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Trump said there was “no collusion” with Russia 16 times, appearing to wish away the connections that have already been proven.
He hasn’t cracked a genuine smile in public in months. Remember the photos of Trump and Melania sitting at the head table at the Congressional luncheon following his inauguration? Neither of them smiled even once. They didn’t talk to anyone or to each other — and it was the greatest day of his life! Michael Wolff found a source who told him Trump was miserable for the entire day of his inauguration. He was displeased with his shabby accommodations at Blair House, across the street from the White House, the night before. He was fighting with his wife Melania about something. When reports late in the day showed the crowds at the inauguration were sparse, Trump blew his stack and sent spokesman Sean Spicer before the press bellowing a blatant lie that they were the largest in history. It was the very first of nearly 2,000 lies Trump has told, or ordered to be told in his name, since taking office. But not even lying his way through the job of being president makes him happy.