What Christmas is like for a US President

This was excerpted from the December 24 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)On his first Christmas Day in the White House, President Richard Nixon managed to squeeze in an hour and eight minutes for dinner with his wife.

The inveterate politician spent the rest of December 25, 1969, in a 12-hour telephone marathon, building up chits he could later cash with Washington power players, business titans, state governors and other world leaders. Nixon called German Chancellor Willy Brandt and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He shot the breeze with his national security adviser Henry Kissinger and some of the President's men who the Watergate scandal would later make famous.
The White House diary of Nixon's appointments shows the President also called his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, who was liberated from the cares of office back home on his Texas ranch and who told Nixon, "We've got the motorbikes going here and the big wheels and dogs and everything."
    The first page of Nixon's 1969 Christmas Day agenda.
    Nixon was a more obsessive politician than most, but his Christmas Day phone blitzes that endured throughout his term-and-a-half are a reminder that even in the season of peace and goodwill, politics never stops for Presidents. LBJ was another phone addict. On Christmas Day 1963, just a month following his sudden elevation to the presidency after the Kennedy assassination, the President phoned an illustrious predecessor and his wife. "Mamie and I are just so old, we've just finished opening our presents, and we're just exhausted," ex-President Dwight Eisenhower told LBJ.
      Modern presidents have spent Christmas Day in the White House, at the Camp David retreat or in sunnier climes, but the job often gets in the way. While digesting his first White House Christmas dinner in 1981, Ronald Reagan received an irked letter from Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. "It seems we're intervening in Poland and he's upset about it," Reagan recorded in his diary, referring to US calls for democracy in the Warsaw Pact state.
        Reagan giving his radio address to the nation from Camp David in 1983.
        Twenty-eight years later, global turmoil intruded on Barack Obama's first Christmas Day as President in Hawaii when an Al-Qaeda operative tried and failed to down a US airliner over Detroit with a bomb hidden in his underwear. An initially sluggish White House response was blamed by critics on Obama's seclusion nearly 5,000 miles from Washington. It was a lesson his team never forgot during seven subsequent Christmas trips to his native state.
          George W. Bush spent 12 Christmases at Camp David in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland — four when his dad was President and eight on his own watch. He usually headed to his Texas ranch for New Year's but his tradition was appreciated by Secret Service agents and White House staffers who got to spend Christmas Day at home with their families. On his last Christmas Eve as President in 2008, the Bushes had a Texas-style supper of enchiladas and tamales. But it was roast turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie on Christmas Day, according to the White House menu.
            Bush making a Christmas Eve telephone call to US Armed Forces in 2008, from Camp David.
            This Christmas will be the last for Donald Trump's aspiring "southern White House" at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the 45th President will be stewing over his election loss. And one thing is for sure: Obama won't be sitting by his phone waiting for a call bringing the compliments of the season from his embittered successor.
            The Obamas during Christmas dinner at a Marine Corps base in Kaneohe, Hawaii, in 2010.