#TBT: Presidential Power Over The Years At Camp David : It's All Politics On his first trip to the site, Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly was helped out of his car and exclaimed, "This is a Shangri-La!"
NPR logo #TBT: Presidential Power Over The Years At Camp David

#TBT: Presidential Power Over The Years At Camp David

The entrance to Camp David, seen in 1959. AP hide caption

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The entrance to Camp David, seen in 1959.

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President Obama met with Gulf leaders Thursday, but not at the White House — they spent the day at Camp David in Maryland. It's about a two-hour drive from the White House (30 minutes by chopper) and has been used since the 1940s as a rural retreat for the first family and as a place to welcome foreign leaders.

The residence was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose doctor suggested that the cool mountain retreat away from the Washington, D.C., heat would be good for the presidential sinuses.

On his first trip to the site, Roosevelt reportedly was helped out of his car and exclaimed, "This is a Shangri-La!"

It was renamed "Camp David" by President Dwight Eisenhower, after his grandson.

Here's a look back at some of the presidents who have enjoyed the power retreat:

Ike spent time at Camp David to recuperate from a heart attack in 1955, holding Cabinet and National Security Council meetings there.

President John Kennedy talks with former President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961 at Camp David. Anonymous/AP hide caption

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President John Kennedy talks with former President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961 at Camp David.

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Eisenhower was the first president to travel to Camp David by helicopter, according to the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Flying cut the commute from Washington down from two hours to just 30 minutes.

President Richard Nixon on the grounds of Camp David in August 1972. AP hide caption

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President Richard Nixon on the grounds of Camp David in August 1972.

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Richard Nixon, seen here in August 1972, modernized Camp David, adding a swimming pool and an office to the Aspen Lodge.

Egypt's President Anwar Sadat (left) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978 as U.S. President Jimmy Carter looks on. AP hide caption

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Egypt's President Anwar Sadat (left) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978 as U.S. President Jimmy Carter looks on.

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The 1978 framework for Middle East peace — which became known as the "Camp David Accords" — was perhaps the most important policy to come out of meetings at the camp. For 12 days, President Jimmy Carter was joined at Camp David by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Nancy Reagan later reported that it was first lady Rosalynn Carter's idea for her husband to meet with the two leaders there.

President Jimmy Carter (fourth from left) meets with Egyptian, Israeli and other world leaders in February 1978. AP hide caption

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President Jimmy Carter (fourth from left) meets with Egyptian, Israeli and other world leaders in February 1978.

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As historian Douglas Brinkley put it to PBS, "100 years from now, 200 years from now, people will be talking about the Camp David process, that began in those Maryland mountains."

In this photo released by the White House, former President Ronald Reagan (left) and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush ride horses at Camp David. Michael Evans/AP hide caption

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In this photo released by the White House, former President Ronald Reagan (left) and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush ride horses at Camp David.

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President Ronald Reagan reportedly enjoyed Camp David more than any other president. He rode horses with his vice president, George H.W. Bush; his wife and children; and world leaders, including President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico. He also hosted British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher there.

In her memoir, My Turn, Nancy Reagan wrote that Camp David "gave us a chance to enjoy a little privacy, and we relished it. It was also a place where we could spend time outdoors without anyone staring at us, shouting at us, or taking our picture."

President George H.W. Bush's daughter Dorothy and Bobby Koch exchanged marriage vows during a 23-minute ceremony at Camp David in 1992. David Valez/AP hide caption

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The former first lady also revealed that while "Ronnie" drank only rarely, and usually wine, at Camp David he would have a screwdriver before dinner.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush's daughter Dorothy was married at Camp David in the first wedding performed there.

President Obama is not as frequent a visitor to Camp David as his predecessors, especially for hosting world leaders. In 2012, he held an overnight gathering of G-8 countries. But by comparison, CBS's Mark Knoller tallied far fewer visits for Obama than for George W. Bush, who made 149 visits there.

Thursday was just Obama's 37th.

President Obama talks to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait, during a working lunch at the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit Thursday at Camp David. Getty Images hide caption

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President Obama talks to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait, during a working lunch at the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit Thursday at Camp David.

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