The oven-baked heat of August will run elected officials out of Washington for the entire month.
Just think, for 31 days we won’t have to listen to angry, bombastic Republicans and Democrats on our electronic devices. For a full month, there will be peace in the swamp.
We hear there is no place in the U.S. hotter than America’s capital city in August. Thus, Washington goes from a noisy city of ill-tempered politicians to a quiet, peaceful city.
Though we will be boiling, too, here in east Alabama, the month-long stand-down in Washington is something we can look forward to and delight in. We won’t have all those nasty hot winds of argument on Capitol Hill blowing our way.
Senators and representatives will be heading back to their hometowns or will be hitting the campaign trails, while department heads will relax on sandy beaches and party under tropical tents.
Presidents have shown their preferences for August get-away places by their past visits. The locations give us a clue as to how presidents view themselves and their powerful office. Some choose humbly, others arrogantly.
An article in a recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine offers some clues.
President Trump will fly luxury class aboard Air Force One to his fabulous Palm Beach, Florida, resort, Mar-a-Lago, for rounds of golf on an immaculate course and hundreds of tweets during the early mornings at his palatial estate.
Trump at Mar-a-Lago got me thinking how former presidents spent the month of August. We can get an idea of their personalities by their choices.
Barack Obama headed to a private Hawaiian hideaway for golfing and exotic island beaches. That doesn’t sound very humble, but it delivered him from his constant critics.
Franklin Roosevelt relaxed at his modest home in Warm Springs, Georgia, known to all as the Little White House. Though wealthy, Roosevelt considered himself a normal person and he never mentioned or exhibited his inherited fortune.
At his Warm Springs cottage, Roosevelt slept on a single bed and ate his meals in a combination living and dining room. That reveals his true character of humility.
Like Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter headed home to his modest ranch-style dwelling in Plains, Georgia, or to the presidential retreat at Camp David in the nearby Maryland woods. Camp David is no camp. It’s a well-maintained, ritzy place. So we get a mixed signal from Jimmy.
John Kennedy, a man also of inherited wealth like Roosevelt, kicked back at his family’s plush Palm Beach, Florida, mansion with white, sandy beaches at his back door. For sure, no humility there for John.
Richard Nixon headed straight to his Key Biscayne home in Miami, Florida, the same place he retreated to after the political fallout from the Watergate break-in. Again, not so humble but a good hideout for Tricky Dick.
Harry Truman loved the Florida White House at the Naval Air Station at Key West. Other presidents who used the two-story white wooden structure were Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton. That sounds humble, though we know Bill liked living large, somewhat above his plain Arkansas roots.
Eisenhower and Truman were just plain old boys from out west, Ike from Kansas and Harry from Missouri.
George W. Bush relaxed at his Prairie Chapel Ranch at Crawford, Texas. A person keeping count said George traveled to the ranch a staggering 77 times during his eight years in office. Wow, no humility there. That’s a lot of time away from Washington and a lot of miles of wear on Air Force One.
It seems George ran up big expenses for the nation by flying on the taxpayers’ dollars on all those trips. Living large, George.
Woodrow Wilson stayed at the Dixie White House in Pass Christian, Mississippi, and word was that Ulysses S. Grant also vacationed there, though no Southerner knew the Yankee general was anywhere around. On the humility meter, Woodrow and Ulysses fall slightly toward the lower end.
Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover spent August days at a splendid dwelling on Sapelo Island, Georgia, on the Atlantic coast, owned by a wealthy automotive executive. Rank Silent Cal and Hoover, who is blamed for America’s Great Depression during the 1930s, on the high end of the luxury meter.
Regardless of where they rank, not one of the presidents can touch The Donald and the splendor of his retreat at the magnificent Mar-a-Lago.
Built in the early 1920s by Marjorie Merriweather Post of General Foods fortune, the estate has 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms with gold-plated fixtures.
Post spent $7 million building the 110,000 square-foot palace. In today’s dollars, that would be $90 million.
As she aged, Post tried to unload the estate on the state of Florida or on the federal government as a retreat for high-ranking officials. Her efforts were unsuccessful.
In 1985, Trump paid $8 million for the estate and all its elegant furnishings — a very small fraction of its true worth. We’re sure he exercised the “art of the deal” when he acquired it for pennies on the dollar.
Trump sold sections of the mansion to willing buyers and kept his part of the estate, where he dines on lobster, golfs on his own private course and tans at his Olympic-size pool.
So, where would we rate the lavish Trump? Surely not humble. Is there a word larger than extravagant?
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.