tv The Presidency Michael Giorgione Inside Camp David CSPAN October 13, 2021 8:00am-8:45am EDT
of the david science center for white house history. the white house historical association is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to educate americans about that rich and diverse history of the white house and the people who live and work there. our guest this evening is michael he is a retired rear admiral from the navy civil engineer corps. he served in a variety of assignments around the world and is 29 year military career. including as commander of camp david. after retirement thousand ten, michael jordan private industry is a chief executive officer of the building information technology company headquartered in his hometown of pittsburgh, pennsylvania. in october 2017, he published his first book inside camp david the private world of the presidential retreat.
mike travels often speaking about the book has been covered by the wall street journal, the today show c-span and many other print radio television outlets. after our conversation, mike will be taking questions from our live audience. please be your questions for mike and the chat we will get to as many as possible welcome to white house history live mike. >> wonderful to be here. it's an honor to serve the nation. [inaudible] >> only start from the beginning, your story with camp david. tell us about how you were selected as commander of camp david, what that process was likely. >> camp david is actually a navy command naval support facility and a town nearby. the navy has operated and maintained it since it was started in 1942 by president
roosevelt. civil engineer corps officer with history. 1998 is put on a short list for possible officers to be considered, how the interview with president clinton, went through a visit to the camp about a week later i got the call. >> visited once as an assignment officer left the visit that day the next assignments. that cut a really difficult place to work it will be weird to work there someday. put it away, went on for the
next few tours and lo and behold i was shortlisted was selected reported in june of 1999 and the end of president clinton's second term bird. >> let's talk a little bit about the history of camp david. the history begins later talk about that. >> let's go back to 1942 roosevelt loved with a three presidential's in his times in the potomac.
new book on the right is oakland california today. secure as hobbies it's a place to go get away from the white house helicopter squadron existed, that got to find somewhere drivable nearby. interestingly because of the new deal, bring us out of depression and part of the work projects are the progress administration on the conservation corps put money back into the country i rebuilt a lot of the roads and parks. you place in maryland, also known as camp number three. rose was given three sites nearby to visit.
he went to all three when he came to camp number three he looked at it and said this is it. and here's the first and this is my shangri-la. joe roosevelt amended chandra law applying a utopian mysterious place of the mountain. he had that whimsical nature about naming things bridget that's what its name. as mail president eisenhower renamed after his grandson, camp david. that is how we know it today. >> you describe kempton for a lot of our viewers and listeners who i'm sure have never visited camp david in person. i'm probably will not visit camp david. when you paint a picture of what the camp is like? >> i will try. great partners of ours 1800 feet elevation, on the spring and summer months.
a leafy canopy perfectly manicured yards, the road meanders to the camp. in these cabins we presidential walk-through all the cabins have this oak plank siding with the certain shade of green paint. all the roofs are cedar shake shingles. these very rustic, very leafy, very fresh. but at night i find it particularly surreal definitely quiet, no white except pathway light. no noise except for a squirrel in the tree no lights, no noises from below eerily quiet peaceful. inside the campus is called cedar just from the corner from aspen and the president's
logic. >> how many cabins are in camp david, how big is the site? >> there are about four guest cabins president eisenhower started that called the presidential watch eisenhower when he renamed it camp david named all of the trees, all named after trees coat 12 for entertainment 20 total that include the fire department, the ash, clinic, eucalyptus, popular, the cycle of drought the staff at camp david pretty were the commander. was assize the military staff at camp david? what kind of job do they perform? >> over 200 sailors and marines, officers maintain
their maintenance. officer supply corn to marine officers in washington d.c. also put all of the sailors and rings together just over 200 staff. there's also white house communication detachment there in charge of communications that is a joint command coming out of the main command. >> q tells a little bit about how camp david is changed over the years? it was very rustic is been some notable additions to the complex. mention there is a chaplin so there is a chapel at camp david. that also about the activities and how that complex is changed over time. >> >> to fdr again apparently it's why the navy has it. he took the sealers of the uss potomac of not had a job and
took them with him to camp david brought them for security. they went there during the non- winter months. truman, not a favorite of camp david prefer to go to key west. had the trees pushed back on during eisenhower's time it was winterized and installed the other cabins. they still maintain that, over the years use of a family cabins have been added president nixon during his time but a lot of expansion into the camp, putting in the hourglass shape pool adding laurel which is the main entertaining cabinet you see sometimes on news report and coverage of world leaders and visiting number of other features throughout. to modernize the time they challenge the president to
modernize the cabin and expanded that's been going on last for five years but a very sequential smart way to keep current but maintain the rustic nature outside. and the amenities on the inside part is not a marble, brass a four star resort is not meant to be. it is a rustic, comfortable place to get away, to think, to walk in privacy and silence. and recreate on your own or meet with other world leaders. the most unique thing the bottom right of this photo of the evergreen chapel donated to private money, with camp david commissioned in 1994 during president george h.w. bush. >> how do presidents get to camp david customer could talk about fdr within driving distance. but present to circle do not drive to camp david in a morbid. >> we prefer to bring them end by the helicopter squadron
eisenhower was the first to come in like that. and weather permitting they will fly in the talk marine one. they'll come up by motorcade from where ever their departure platform is. >> camp david is a presidential retreat. yet you know presidents often find themselves working in camp david. tell us a little bit how it functions as the white house? >> thank you. i think most people recognize no matter who is the president, there can be a lot of critiques about what you do when you're off duty for how you do your job. but the fact is you are always on duty. and you need time off, we all need time off. in addition to a second home some of us have been some do not, camp david provides that peaceful getaway for family, friends, and if needed for staff and for world leaders.
it's a great the presidents going to get away most of the time as a couple to get away, to recreate but also i'm sure to think about things every is a little different. to me the outsider think the best val is a personal respite for your family and friends. then you find it's a great place to bring world leaders to to talk privately. there is no press unless you invite the press and pray there is no press, there are no protesters, there is no traffic, no plane flying overhead serenely, private and peaceful. >> how do people get around? >> it's golf carts everyone is assigned a golf cart program golf cart one. so golf cart one, golf carts for all of the gas, bicycles
are available for pedestrians. we have cross-country trails through the woods in the winter months if you want to do that. snowmobiling saw the president president ford and his family. principally golf carts to get around or walk. >> just a reminder to everyone we are going to be taking questions at the end of our conversation. if you do have questions for mike about camp david comments history, what it's like please put them in the chat will get to as many as possible. stock a little bit about the history of camp david the historic events that have taken place for camp david. can you talk about some of these episodes for them and why presidents might choose camp david for the setting of these historic occurrences? >> i will mention four events and then i will focus on the fifth one in particular. we have seen photos from the nearby stream.
but the point of the bottom left of them talking about how, roosevelt on the top left inside aspen the stone hearth fireplace is still there for there is a wagon wheel the roosevelt table is still there. president truman, i only went ten times in his tenure he preferred key west. the presidents come that that's the first time with fdr and churchill. president carter made it famous for most people 1978 with the peace accords with sadat and israel. during my time 2000 president clinton brought arafat and the prime minister of israel to camp to try to represent a similar thing for president 12 president obama hosted the conference at camp david. the single time the most world leaders have been in camp at any one time. the incident want to go back
to his 1961. april 1961. president kennedy inaugurated in january succeeding president eisenhower. bad things are being planned by the scenes with the cia, u.s. government and others passed off to the administration you see the photo of the top right of pulitzer prize winning photo called serious steps. what's interesting about this i think from a human and political point is that president kennedy inherited the operation. it was launched, and did not go well hence the name. riches across the political and personal i'll and invites president eisenhower to come to camp david and help them understand how to get to this how do i fix this mess, what do i do? it's a very poignant and significant moment i think part of the new upstart democrat inviting the old
guard five-star general to talk about what to do. i think it's a very humble may be possibly desperate measure. very humble way to recognize leadership and what passes between administrations and talk about what to do best for the country. >> you mentioned this already, mike, who talk about this in your book. some presidents and first ladies visit camp david or frequently than others. if you talk a little bit about the differences in how the presidents and first families use camp david and explain why think that is? >> one, i think it depends on children. what are the ages of the presidents children. i think that dictates are they going to leave their intramural leagues, back in d.c., are they hosting their friends, of the running out of
the house, too, some have second homes and go there for they could do both. three, some like the quiet nature. president clinton really went to camp david his first term but did a lot more second term. over two terms is on the value. some prefer just to go somewhere else. prefer to entertain elsewhere. you have seen a mix over 80 some years of how they use it. >> host: can you share this one or two of your most favorite memories from your time camp david? >> are certainly the historic moments most people recognize the middle east peace summit, work with the state department to welcome president clinton meeting yasser arafat and having a photo shaking his hand, watching from the sidelines as president clinton spent two weeks trying to forge the peace agreement. watching president bush
welcoming the blairs to couples getting to know each other much like as you would moved with their neighbors as you move into a neighborhood. there very poignant things to watch on the sideline for even you get to serve there, see things, you have to remember you are in the role you get to know some personal things about the families but you are not of their world you have to maintain that corm. i will tilt two stories that are a more personal nature. i think it helps to relate to the families. the first one is the final clinton weekend four days nonstop, hundreds of guests coming through, dinners, musicians performing in the chapel, just a wonderful event we said goodbye with the hanger that night with the family some walking to the helicopter at 10:00 o'clock on that sunday at the snow on the ground, thanking them for leading our country and walking them down to marina
one, might for last time to see you then. when gerald student stanford turns to me and hands me too stuffed animals. when jesus commanded i've had these in my bed and for eight years in aspen for please give them to your daughter breonna and ryan and think your wife michelle for everything you've done. just a touching unexpected moment of course a very human approach. great keepsakes now for the two girls. that was the first whimpered as the final time as to the clintons of 2001, the second was a humorous story from the book about goldfish. and the commander of the camp, the factor responsible for security, we have to run errands to do official things for us during the middle east peace some of the first week, michelle and taken to the city fair, common thing to do here at camp david in the summer.
she's coming back to the gate with the two girls the backseat they each had one a goldfish. there goldfish in a plastic bag are each holding. we have a strict policy at the time no animals at camp david, no pets. the marine corps guard, who knows us we know all the marines, they know us. everyone is doing their job reese's ma'am you cannot bring pets into the camp. she looks at him with a bit of an incredulous look. the girls are hearing this and steers tears start to come down there i paired she was looking at them he's looking at her, she's looking back at him he's doing his job mom is doing her job, michelle is into the window and says they are for dinner. i'm kind of winks. yes man please proceed. most little funny moments like that there are still people there. we have these times, we all live with rules and regulations but sometimes you see the human side and work through it. that's her favorite store
because moms and dads get it. thank you. >> the final chapter in your book is called the true meaning of camp david. can you tell us what is the true meaning? and is it different for every president and first hamlet spends time there? >> is definitely different as we described different families use a brief president george w. bush love going to camp david like his dad. basement every christmas there. for some at the time for family to come together for special holidays. during my time, the clintons loved camp david for thanksgiving. again every president is done it differently. president reagan nancy reagan love their almost by themselves. he did always radio addresses from the cabin and elsewhere. they all used it differently. the meaning comes from has a
theme of a camp david kind of place for the spirit of camp david one by one the soviet premieres at the time was about a place you come together with trust, within nature, no press unless you want them there, the ability to sit down as people, break bread, share a story, get to know each other. to me that the true meaning of camp david a place of the presidents to get away and relax the best they can. a place to entertain family and world leaders probably one of the most unique places in the world to do that. growth and reasonable distance of the white house. >> michael had some really great questions from our live audience. nancy from facebook asked i know president reagan and nancy reagan rode horses while they were at camp david. is there a stable there? what other activities are available besides swimming?
>> the only time we had a stable there, a corral's during the kennedy years the pony macaroni was kept there for the children, the kennedys. otherwise horseback, had one incident where president clinton and chelsea wanted to go horseback riding. so the national park service from d.c. brought the horses up we use the back gate into the wilderness with secret service on horseback to to go to the nearby woods. horseback riding is possible but there is no corral for their skeet shooting, trap shooting, mini golf course, a driving range, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, presidents want to go golfing to go back to the nearby golf course. if they want to fish this nearby fishing hold on private farmland so we arranged to take them. there is a bowling alley game room, rex david asks, never
approach the perimeter of camp david? >> it happens and there are some warning times. you could drive by the roads in camp, three do have protocols if you do happen to approach the fence and get closer things to deal with. again it's a no-fly zone i'm sure that happens and continues to happen. >> didn't fdr, didn't he make a wrong turn when he was driving once to try to get to shangri-la and didn't come across a neighbor who is not too happy to see him? >> yes it has happened. when we did not drive around as much as we do today and we were not always surrounded by agents there's been those humorous events you knock on the door and the yelled who are you.
what's the long essay president has stayed there, wasn't carded there for a week or more during the middle east peace talks? >> yes. there is a time almost two weeks for the peace talks president carter also went there during the 1979, he came back and gave that talk about the condition of the country, what was going on we had the hostages taken, all of this was going on. he supported himself almost two weeks working there during that difficult time in his presidency. typically presidents go for a weekend, up friday back sunday night too. >> jeff asks a good question, how did eisenhower get naming
rights to name camp david, camp david for it was there an executive order? was it legislation or did he have someone go out with lumber and paint and redo the sign? >> i like the second explanation best but i do not know. i imagine that henry something signed to change the name from the shangri-la to camp david. will have to check the archives together. >> karen asks, when a president chooses not to visit camp david very often, how does that change staffing and operations? >> staffing and operations do not change. you are always ready or your mission is always to be ready to receive. some let camp david be used by desperate president carter visited with his whole family during president clinton's term was a former president visiting. some presidents have allowed staff to use it. but if no one is there you are just maintaining the place and taking care of it. that can be a morale issue. i had a gap of five months
with president clinton. a lot of time not to do your job per se you get a little rusty sifter practice at times but some weekends the presidents are always on a big comes and operations tempo you would say. >> that is the question that gaudi had, what happens at camp david when the president is a way? what do you do as a staff? >> we have more time to do training, physical nest programs, contest if time allows it. we send our sailors and marines to school you always have to be ready. you are really sitting waiting taking care of the place, mowing the grass, training, firefighting training is constant. certainly because you're always ready your way to execute when the president does visit we look forward to those visits.
>> has hollywood or the news media for a documentary ever films on site at camp david? >> harry reasoner with abc news interviewed president ford inside the camp. i believe that was the only time there's an interview done in that regard, certainly during world events like middle east peace summit the press was there in a secluded area to film. the principals coming in and then they were escorted out on the bus. there have been hollywood guests over the years and musical guests and sports guests. no real filming, documentary done on camp david other than on the archives and as it any presidential films from the libraries. >> peter asked, what is the reason for the no pets rule at camp david? >> who is a self grown and
today the are allowed to have a pet. it depends what happened in history. with the french poodle in the camp commander's dog. it is a humorous time which is why this it changes at times. today we are a little more reasonable i would say with the pet rule. kathie asks you mention the library paid what kind of books are in the library and it does it depend upon the administration, to the books change depending upon the president or the first lady? >> we keep some archives in an open public library near the game room. more of the history, that is where the white house christmas cards, there cap the president sends out we frame those, put them in the movie theater in the library. in the cabin holly which is where carter chose to meet with sadat because it is a smaller nature, i like that room because that library is
close to the presidential papers. too there's copies of the presidential papers published in other historical novels about the military services. that is what we mean when we refer to the two libraries. one for public use, one with a history of camp david. the second is the presidential papers. : : : works to make it harder possible and how to do the air-conditioning and all the things they did in their own home and he talks about the transition through kennedy reacting to the assassination and the shaded administration
and president johnson and his family. >> grant asks has president biden visited camp david, do you know? >> he has been there a time so far. he goes on to delaware and he's been decamp david eight times as president it has been there many times as vice president. >> has camp david ever been damaged by bad weather? >> yours a mic or burst on the hill and there's when those will knockout trees in the state park in a national park but fortunately nothing serious is it the area. >> vivian asked a good question. has there ever been a wedding at camp david? >> one wedding one of the bush daughters was married in the chapel.
>> salt from facebook asks what was the biggest surprise you ever had while working at camp david? >> the day the sprinklers went off when president clinton was chipping golfballs. the sprinklers go off and i was watching nearby. the sprinklers went off again and he threw his clubs and to the golf course and went to the driving range and it's humorous but you have to understand the frustration of someone dealing with that. i tried to make light of it that night when he left camp david. it was a poor attempt at humor into you when -- you learn a balance of when to be serious but not too serious and went to be humorous. fortunately i had no serious incidents during my time. i left the month before 9/11
occurred and we spent a lot of time describing that the light moments during my time there. >> how much heads up do you get to know when a president is coming? >> it depends on the president. the change of command day at 10:00 a.m. my predecessor didn't know at all the a.m. ceremony and we get word the president is coming that night. so a fascinating factor to realize you are about to inherit the camp then you know nothing about what goes on and you get briefing that you are the new ceo and you are driving a car. i signed on to be -- because it taught me just to sit back and let them do their job and all i have to do is get dressed walk
walked down there introduce myself and shake hands and that's all i did that or stay but i learned a lot about my crew and i said let people do their job trained them have their backs to support them but let them do their job. the bush administration very descriptive and you always knew well ahead of time. again it depends on the person. >> can the vice president and his or her family go there as well? >> if the president allows it. it has happened in curse -- history and not a lot but occasionally. some go away for leadership retreats. president obama did that a lot with this staff members so the commanders and in the chapel and they welcome people may do what they are there to do. so it varies.
>> if you know this teen on how the pandemic has affected to camp david or the new procedures in place? >> very observant of mask rules and vaccinations. again this is telling of the trump administration in the beginning of the biden administration but everyone is observer in the following the rules. whether by the white house or the navy commissions so a very appropriate response. a lot of outside guess calm but no world leaders have been there in five years. but i think that will open up and i hope it will. >> i think i know the answer to this question but i will ask it anyways did camp devon ever -- camp david open its doors and has the average person gone to
camp david? >> it's not open and there's a fake web site out there that advertises it. don't believe that. not true. the other way to get decamp is on a nonpresidential visit weekend so either know someone who works there if allowed or know the president and be invited by the president. >> what is the food like it camp david? good question. >> we run a galley operation for sailors and marines and there is the lounge on the bar but for visits we work with the first families and social secretaries and the first lady to work the menu. we have well-trained culinary specialist who work with the chef for the navy master prepare the meals. for world leaders we sometimes work with the state department especially for kosher meals
during the yasir arafat visit they were brought from d.c. to provide meals for all guests so we accommodate the guests but they today we have a galley that serves a crew that works there. >> jackie is watching on youtube asks what is something you think every american should know about camp david? >> it's a place called shangri-la navy command just like the marine command in air force one etc. and it was first established in 1942 by president roosevelt. >> macias was the highest rank of someone from the marines are the navy at camp david? >> the camp commander is the u.s. navy commander. sometimes that officer might the selected as captain if he or she
is departing the camp but it's a job for the commander. the senior captain of the marine corps and for the white house communication detail that's their navy lieutenant colonel of the u.s. army. >> the last question this evening several viewers have asked this. why did you decide to write the book on camp david and what was one or two things that were fascinated that you learned while you were researching for the book? >> thank you. on the day of command there's a photo of my wife and two daughters ages seven and four and my wife michelle and she hands me this journal and the oeste thing in the journal are scrawled notes from my two daughters saying dear daddy please write stories about the president's. i had never thought of it so
after every visit weekend or event i would sit down and write down what happened. i did it after the clinton administration and the inauguration and i put that away in my desk. i never thought i could write a book. over the reunion weekend a lot of the former training officers were there and they were all meeting each other some for the first time and some had known each other for years and i here heard many of them talking about how to capture some of the history and they have learned later many had their own story. i first realized i could write the book as far security so it was possible. i did want to write anything that was unattractive to any president and a new i could read 15 stories of other commanding
officers from kennedy forward and that would bring the history of a lot of the camp together and the ceos you will see their stories and their photos. and i would use it that way to tell a historical narrative of some of the personal insights. some people wanted third in stories but that wasn't the purpose or wanted to show respect and to tell the story. a little bit about the inside workings and how the military supports the president 24/7. >> thank you so much. this has been a really comprehensive conversation about