EVERYONE knows (not least because he constantly and rather vulgarly boasted about his tremendous wealth throughout his election campaign!) that Donald Trump was a billionaire and property mogul before he became President of the United States.
And since he made no secret of his love for Mar-a-Lago, the opulent 114-room mansion, members-only club and resort that he has owned for many years in Palm Beach, Florida, I expected him to escape there whenever he could spare the time. And he has indeed used Mar-a-Lago as a sanctuary.
Trump has spent so many weekends there since he was sworn in at the beginning of 2017 that this oasis of leisure and luxury has been nicknamed “the Winter White House”. And I’m certainly not begrudging him for regular sojourns in his private palace.
Washington DC is often wet and icy cold. Presidents have insanely heavy workloads. And Trump is 70, so who can blame him for taking refuge, whenever possible, in a relaxing retreat in Florida, which is affectionately known as “the sunshine state”.
I’d do the same if I were in his shoes.
However, Trump – who is over-the-top by nature – has a habit of going too far. Give him an inch and he will try to park a train in it! And he has taken to wining and dining with foreign dignitaries like the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago. And I think that he should be stopped.
Because Mar-a-Lago is not a not-for-profit bolthole for Oga, his family and his friends. It is a commercial venture. The super-rich folks who can afford club membership don’t necessarily know the famous proprietor personally and have to pay an eye-watering annual fee (which, by the way, was quickly – and slyly, if you ask me! – doubled to $200,000 as soon as Trump won the election).
Mar-a-Lago can also be hired, at enormous expense, for lavish wedding receptions and parties. And if you google it, the website blurb will reveal that it is not a closed shop that is resting on its laurels and reluctant to expand its customer base.
Mar-a-Lago is an active business that is eager to recruit suitable newcomers and increase its revenue. And given that America is not supposed to be the kind of country in which ‘Anything Goes’, I’m very surprised that American Government rules do not bar Trump from promoting a venue in which he has a financial interest by hosting high-profile government guests there, in full view of the global media.
Trump was a calculating hard-nosed Bottom Line entrepreneur for decades; and I don’t think that this leopard is capable of changing its spots. But who knows? Perhaps I’m being unfair.
He may have been telling the truth when he promised to firmly shift his focus from money-making to governance; and it’s possible that he did not set out to use his exalted new office to promote Mar-a-Lago.
The vast amounts of free publicity it receives whenever he hosts a foreign counterpart there may be an unintended consequence.
Perhaps he invited Abe and JinPing there SOLELY because he likes the joint and wanted to provide his guests with wonderful pleasurable experiences (Mar-a-Lago seems to be a lot plusher than the Washington White House!). Perhaps his motives were entirely innocent.
But even if his intentions are pure, he should still be compelled to host official functions, meetings and leaders in government-owned locations.
When a head of state openly provides himself or his relatives with a huge commercial advantage, intentionally or otherwise, he makes the nation he leads look like a banana republic. And when he receives cooperation from diplomats, I’m extremely disappointed.
Some of Trump’s Democrat opponents have criticised a blog post on the website of the US embassy in London that mentioned Mar-a-Lago.
The blog, published on 5th April but removed a few days later, outlined Mar-a-Lago’s history.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden accused the publicly-funded State Department of promoting Mr Trump’s “private club” at taxpayers’ expense.
The department has issued no comment.
I salute Pelosi and Wyden for complaining.
Now that I’ve joined in their complaint – a potentially suicidal move – I wonder whether the US Embassy in London will reject my upcoming visa renewal application?
Watch this space!!!