It was nearly 100 days into his presidency, and Donald Trump had spent half of his weekends as president at a private resort in Florida. There, in addition to playing golf, he held cabinet meetings, met with foreign dignitaries, and, while enjoying a candlelit dinner on the patio, reviewed evidence of North Korea’s ballistic missile testing. Many people criticized him for not spending enough time at the traditional home office of the nation’s chief executive. But the press secretary assured the nation that the president “carries the apparatus of the White House” wherever he goes.
As the weekend trips to Florida continued, the criticism continued. They complained and complained and drew charts and tables showing how much more President Trump spent on travel than President Obama, than Franklin Roosevelt, than Abraham Lincoln. On the last day of Trump’s presidency, a major newspaper posted a graphic showing that, on average, Trump spent more on travel in five minutes than George Washington did in his entire life. And so it was believed that this was the end of the dual residence president.
But the next president wanted to spend weekends in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Although a cabin in the woods was much quieter a fancy Palm Beach resort, so many tree houses had to be built to house the secret service, White House staff, and visiting dignitaries that the eastern meadowlarks and three-toed woodpeckers had to be relocated to the nearest Best Western, to the annoyance of animal rights advocates and hotel cleaning staff.
People figured that after a resort president and a nature president, it would be the end of the president spending half his time as president living someplace other than the White House. But the next president announced in his inauguration speech that he would be spending weekends in a cave. He assured the American people that because the cave had only one entry way, far fewer secret service agents would be required. And this was true, although cabinet members disliked having to sit upon rocks during meetings rather than chairs.
After the cavern president, people were no longer surprised at the president choosing to spend time at an alternate residence. In fact, they began to expect it. Getting to live wherever the president wanted became one of the perks and political prizes of winning the election. During the presidential campaign season, political commentators would analyze the candidates’ likely choice of residence alongside their views on domestic and foreign policy. And it was not uncommon to overhear ordinary people saying things like, “Yes, I think it’s time that America had a president who lived in the Cinderella Castle at Disney World.”
The “Presidential Residence Agent” became a permanent position on every presidential campaign staff as the candidates became more and more creative in their choice of residence. The effort paid off. One president wanted to spend his term voyaging under the seas like Captain Nemo. The army corps of engineers built a special submarine residence called the Nautilus which the radical liberal Marxist Leninist media dubbed the “Thought-a-Less.” And after that was a president who opted for a crystal palace at the North Pole, modeled after Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. There was international tension because of the proximity to the Russian border. But we removed our opposition to Russia’s plan to turn the Caspian Sea into a giant samovar, and crisis was averted.
And then there was the president who did not like to travel. Don’t ask me how he got elected. Obviously someone tampered with the voting booths. But nevertheless there he was, ready to move in to the White House and occupy it as his only residence…and it turned out that someone else was there. The White House had been shunned as a residence for so long that it had been leased to a group of elephant trainers, and the new president and his family had to live at the Hampton Inn in a room next to the eastern meadowlarks and three-toed woodpeckers.