David and Julie Eisenhower are interviewed in this Washington Post feature for their new book Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969.
In 1969, Richard Nixon was eager to spend time at the Catoctin Mountains retreat reserved exclusively for the fraternal order he had just joined: U.S. presidents. His daughter Julie accompanied him as he whisked into the secluded sylvan enclave, where a jarringly simple sign announced their arrival in “Camp 3.”
What happened to “David”? The disappearance of that name erased a dictate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the GOP general Nixon had served as vice president. It was also a dismissal of the tribute Ike had paid to his grandson, whom Julie Nixon had just married. “I tell ya — within one hour, they found the shed,” Julie recalls over coffee one afternoon with her husband at their suburban Philadelphia home. “My dad got the sign back up.” There would be no doubt when future visitors arrived: This place was Camp David.
Nixon’s gesture further sealed a unique bond between two presidential families that are still linked four decades later in America’s collective memory as a love-locked dynasty. American presidents come and go, but the fascination with their family trees endures. The presidential family diaspora carries with it many obligations, perceived and unperceived, imposed and organic. There are kin who buff legacies and kin who stain them. There are kin who demand attention and kin who disappear.