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Archive for Sunday, November 30, 2003

Presidential trips often sneaky

November 30, 2003

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— President Franklin D. Roosevelt used a body double to sneak away for a meeting with his British counterpart during World War II. President Johnson on the hush paid a visit to U.S. troops at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

President Bush's covert trip to Iraq on Thanksgiving, when Americans were told he was at his ranch eating turkey and watching football, caught many off guard.

Historically, the White House often has kept details close to the vest on risky travel by presidents and sprung surprise last-minute trips on presidential entourages.

Not so often has the White House openly deceived Americans as it did in saying Bush was in one place when he was someplace else.

For example, when President Clinton flew into Pakistan in March 2000 despite concerns about his safety, he performed a sleight of hand of sorts, switching planes during his departure from India and taking an unmarked plane to Islamabad.

But his destination was known and White House officials did not lie about his whereabouts.

FDR was a master of deception, holding a secret rendezvous in submarine-heavy waters. At one point, he had an impostor wave to crowds from the presidential yacht Potomac while FDR really was meeting Churchill off the coast of Newfoundland in August 1941.

The two discussed joint aims and what they called the Atlantic Charter. It outlined a vision of free trade, self-governed nations and military disarmament, the model that became post-World War II Europe.

In January 1943, FDR left the United States and arrived in Morocco without anyone knowing. The trip was not disclosed to the public until he was already back in Washington.

President Johnson talks to American troops at Cam Ranh Bay, during
the Vietnam war Oct. 26, 1966. Behind Johnson, from left, are Gen.
William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. troops in Vietnam; Gen.
Nguyen Van Thieu, Vietnamese chief of state; Premier Nguyen Cao Ky
of Vietnam; and U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The final
decision to visit Vietnam was made the day before in secret with
urging by Westmoreland.

President Johnson talks to American troops at Cam Ranh Bay, during the Vietnam war Oct. 26, 1966. Behind Johnson, from left, are Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. troops in Vietnam; Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, Vietnamese chief of state; Premier Nguyen Cao Ky of Vietnam; and U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The final decision to visit Vietnam was made the day before in secret with urging by Westmoreland.

Other leaders have pulled off elaborate sneak trips, too.

In 1952, President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower left New York on a 47-hour flight to Korea, under cover of darkness and great secrecy, in an attempt to expedite the end of the Korean War, which he would inherit in the White House.

Officials apologized to the sleepy-eyed entourage for not offering coffee. They said staff had to be kept to a minimum to maintain the confidential nature of Ike's trip.

Johnson flew to the huge U.S. military complex at Cam Ranh Bay and confined his visit to the base, as Bush did. The final decision had not been made until the day before, and arrangements were made in secret.

President Bush holds up a turkey during a surprise visit to troops
at Baghdad airport Thursday. Historically, the White House has
often been secretive about risky trips by presidents.

President Bush holds up a turkey during a surprise visit to troops at Baghdad airport Thursday. Historically, the White House has often been secretive about risky trips by presidents.

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