U.S. President Barack Obama managed to turn heads earlier this week when he abruptly returned from his vacation at Martha's Vineyard, spending less than 48 hours in Washington during a visit that cost to the tune of more than $1 million. Despite speculation on the reason for the "mystery" visit, no official explanation for his return has been given.
The Hill reported of the two-day mystery return that the President's time back in Washington was, "mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning and joining Vice President Biden to huddle with members of his economic team in the afternoon."
Speculation as to what the reason for the return may have been has been fueled by discussion among media outlets about the President's uncharacteristic behavior, as he seldom interrupts his vacations for such unusual on-the-job activities. Among the theories proposed on Monday were the notion that there had been "a serious meeting," possibly involving a meeting with world leaders, or possibly a new administration initiative having to do with immigration reform.
However, as of Wednesday, neither of these proposed reasons for the return visit were able to be confirmed.
In the past, erratic disappearances, meetings and schedule changes of this sort have fueled a number of rather bizarre conspiracy theories pertaining to U.S. presidents. Famously, an emergency dental visit President Eisenhower made in 1954 led to numerous alternative theories about where Ike had gone missing for several hours, and as Grant Cameron of The Presidents UFO Website recounts, the occasion spun out of control rapidly:
"[O]n the evening of February 20, 1954, during a week-long trip to Palm Springs, Eisenhower disappeared from where he was staying at the Smoke Tree Ranch compound, owned by his business friend Paul Helms. The records do not show how this disappearance became apparent to the press corps but they did figure out the president was gone. In fact, the Associated Press had already gone on the wire with the story that the President had suffered a heart attack and was dead. Minutes later they withdrew the story."
The final word on the strange encounter wouldn't be that there had been an emergency heart surgery, as some might have expected. Instead, then Press Secretary James Haggerty appeared before the press shortly afterward and explained that while eating fried chicken at a dinner he was attending, the President had damaged a tooth, and the emergency disappearance had simply been a trip to a dentist's office.
It gets stranger, though. Many proponents of an extraterrestrial presence behind UFO reports allege that during the hours he went missing, Eisenhower had actually been taken to meet alien beings.
A similar story involved President Bill Clinton, who during the famous Phoenix Lights incident on March 13, 1997, similarly disappeared as a result of what was reported at the time to be a leg injury. In the 2007 edition of UFO Magazine, William J. Birnes and Sean Casteel commented on the strange story of Clinton's purported leg injury, and the fact that within a few days, he hadn't appeared to have sustained a broken leg after all:
"A few days later he’s walking around and he’s okay. It never came up again. Government secrecy theorists might be easily led to the conclusion that the broken knee was a cover story designed to hide the perceived need to get the commander-in-chief to safety in the wake of the unnerving events happening out in the Southwest desert."
Clinton's disappearance may or may not have had anything to do with what, admittedly, was one of the most widely-reported mass-UFO sightings of the last century. But it certainly isn't impossible.
With the background behind such reports of Presidential disappearances and sudden schedule changes, how long will it be before someone is claiming President Obama really came back to Washington to meet with alien ambassadors? Perhaps more importantly, what else--short of an alien invasion--would be considered serious enough for Mr. Obama to do the virtually unthinkable, and interrupt his vacation from Martha's Vineyard?
Maybe there's a real conspiracy here after all...