A number of years ago, during a winter vacation in Florida, I was invited — as a journalist from Europe — to visit Donald Trump’s lavish resort in Palm Beach: Mar-a-Lago.
Mr. Trump’s press officer suggested a Saturday night gala dinner, when Lionel Ritchie would be performing.
Naturally, I accepted. I had never seen this mansion, once the domain of the millionaire heiress, Marjorie Merriweather Post. The estate had been declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980, but just five years later, Mr. Trump purchased it for ten million dollars. (Since when are national historic landmarks put up for sale?)
He then completely renovated the property, installing 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces (in Florida!) and three bomb shelters. He tangled with local authorities when he erected an 80-foot flagpole with a blanket-size American flag, dominating the coastal vista. He finally shortened the pole by ten feet and moved it to another location. He is still in litigation with Palm Beach County over air traffic that he claims is deliberately flying over Mar-a-Lago. He is demanding $100 million in damages for noise and pollution!
Clearly, Mar-a-Lago is a major attraction in a county that has little else to vaunt (apart from a small museum and a large theater). So I was eagerly looking forward to my visit. The press officer showed me around, and was delighted to tell me that Mr. Trump himself was there that evening. And shortly after, he passed by. The press officer introduced me, Trump held out a limp hand, and walked on.
I am not now, and was not then, a 23-year old, 6-foot tall blonde; perhaps he would have paused to say a few words. But I was a guest, and Donald Trump’s rudeness remains a vivid memory.
A few years later, after the financial shock of 2008, developers began building again in Palm Beach. One real estate project, among many, was a tall residential building that needed a classy name. The developer offered Trump one million dollars for the use of his name. Of course, Trump agreed. He showed up for the groundbreaking, said a few words, and pocketed the million-dollar check.
This is the man who wants to be America’s next president. I shudder at the thought.