David Usborne: Leaders follow in the footsteps of FDR and Winston Churchill

Camp David is the presidential retreat where history is made

Share
Related Topics

For the leaders of the world powers, the summits dotted through their annual diaries usually mean trips to whatever metropolis the host country is eager to show off. Recently, Pittsburgh, Strasbourg, Seoul, and London have all welcomed the circuses that spring up to accommodate the visiting HoGs and HoSs (Heads of Government and State).

But it won't be sirens or the horns of angry protesters that the participants in this weekend's G8 summit will be waking to this morning. It will be birdsong and the buzz of bees. This is Camp David in the mountains of northern Maryland, the retreat of US presidents since 1942 when Franklin D Roosevelt decided he needed a refuge and a place to meet foreign leaders, including Winston Churchill.

After a welcome dinner last night to discuss the most pressing foreign policy issues of the day – Iran, North Korea and Syria – the guests of President Barack Obama were shown not to hotel suites, but to the rustic sleeping cabins that stand apart from the main structure, Laurel Lodge. There are 11 of them at Camp David, enough for one each with three to spare.

It is the solitude, of course, that gives Camp David its appeal – even if some US presidents have warmed to it more than others. George W Bush was so enamoured by it that he visited 81 times during his two terms in the White House, clocking up 256 days enjoying its facilities – the heated pool, the mini-golf course, tennis court and the 125 acres of woodland. By contrast, this is President Obama's 23rd visit. History records those private meetings between the US President and foreign leaders when the stakes were highest. For FDR and Churchill, the topic was war. Jimmy Carter brokered the peace deal between Menachem Begin of Israel and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat. Bill Clinton tried but just failed to secure a Middle East settlement between Palestine's Yasser Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

It is the intimacy that persuaded Barack Obama to shift the venue of the G8 from Chicago, where a Nato summit begins tomorrow, to here. If he has neglected Camp David to an extent, this weekend will make up for it.

Dinner last night was set for the dining room in the main lodge, which this morning will be transformed into a conference room for their main meetings, where, of course, Greece's political turmoil and the threat to the euro will be the top topic of conversation.

Tranquillity, however, is not what the locals in Thurmont, population 6,000, are feeling this weekend. Chinook helicopters fly overhead, its schools were closed yesterday and its limited supply of rooms filled with Secret Service and other summit personnel unable to find a bed on the Camp David campus.

Some protesters are also in town, but they know their chanted messages will be lost in the glades.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'