Pres­i­dent has proved to be a mas­ter of the car­rot and stick.

The pres­i­dent has proved to be a mas­ter of the car­rot and stick

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron­ald Kessler Ron­ald Kessler, a for­mer Washington Post and Wall Street Jour­nal in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter, is the au­thor of “The First Family De­tail: Se­cret Ser­vice Agents Re­veal the Hid­den Lives of the Pres­i­dents” (Crown Fo­rum, 2015).

Back in June 2006, I asked Don­ald Trump how he would op­er­ate if he were pres­i­dent. One of the first things he would do, Mr. Trump said, is to hold a din­ner and in­vite “all of the peo­ple who are our friends and many of the peo­ple who are en­e­mies to see if we can work things out.”

Pres­i­dent Trump’s re­cent din­ner at the White House with sen­a­tors from both par­ties and their spouses and his pointed ref­er­ence be­fore TV cam­eras to Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer’s pres­ence was a start. But for a roadmap to how Mr. Trump will op­er­ate in Washington, take a look at his suc­cess in turn­ing his Mar-a-Lago estate into a club that turns a profit of $15.6 mil­lion a year.

If the mem­bers of the Palm Beach Town Council had had their way, there would be no club. I re­mem­ber that as I flew down to Palm Beach on Mr. Trump’s plane with him and my wife Pam, a for­mer Washington Post re­porter, to stay at Mar-a-Lago for my 1999 book “The Sea­son: In­side Palm Beach and Amer­ica’s Rich­est So­ci­ety,” Mr .Trump glee­fully im­i­tated the nasal, con­stricted tones of Palm Beach’s blue blood Old Guard con­demn­ing his club be­cause it promised to ad­mit blacks and Jews.

To this day, several clubs in Palm Beach will not ad­mit blacks or Jews as mem­bers. Mr. Trump be­lieved that prej­u­dice by Palm Beach Town Council mem­bers, some of whom be­longed to those clubs, was in part be­hind their op­po­si­tion to his plan to turn Mar­jorie Mer­ri­weather Post’s 1927 estate into a pri­vate club that would not dis­crim­i­nate.

To over­come the town’s op­po­si­tion and get his club ap­proved, Mr. Trump used the car­rot and the stick. His Florida lawyer, Paul Ram­pell, who had come up with the club idea and per­suaded Mr. Trump over a pe­riod of a month to ac­cept it, sent DVDs of “Gen­tle­man’s Agree­ment,” a movie about anti-Semitism in the 1940s, and “Guess Who’s Com­ing to Din­ner,” about anti-black prej­u­dice, to the mayor and each of the town council mem­bers when they tried to im­pose crush­ing re­stric­tions on the club.

Their lim­its on mem­ber­ship, traf­fic, party at­ten­dance and even pho­tog­ra­phy would have made it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for Mar-a-Lago to op­er­ate as a club. None of those re­stric­tions had been ap­plied to clubs that dis­crim­i­nate.

The mes­sage be­hind send­ing the movies was clear: Mr. Trump was ac­cus­ing town council mem­bers of big­otry. On top of that, Mr. Trump pub­licly re­ferred to the trust fund ba­bies who op­posed his plans for Mar-a-Lago as the “lucky sperm club.” For good mea­sure, he sued the town for $50 mil­lion.

At the same time, Mr. Trump un­leashed a charm of­fen­sive. Guided by Mr. Ram­pell, who is Jewish and a life­long res­i­dent of the town, Mr. Trump in­vited mem­bers of the town council to play golf or ten­nis with him. He in­vited them to glit­ter­ing events at Mar-a-Lago, promis­ing the men that gorgeous young women would be in at­ten­dance. Mr. Ram­pell helped raise money for one council mem­ber’s cam­paign and let her use his of­fice for phone banks.

For town council mem­bers, send­ing the movies de­pict­ing prej­u­dice was the last straw. “It’s like say­ing the em­peror has no clothes,” Mr. Ram­pell tells me. “Dis­crim­i­na­tion by clubs was an un­men­tion­able. … They ex­pected [Mr. Trump] to bow to them. Don­ald was the ex­treme in the other di­rec­tion.”

When the is­sue of al­low­ing Mara-Lago to be­come a club came be­fore the town council for a vote, one council mem­ber got so ag­i­tated he had to take ni­tro­glyc­erin for his heart. A woman in the au­di­ence stared at Mr. Ram­pell, all the while hold­ing up her mid­dle fin­ger. In its news­let­ter, the 1,800-mem­ber Palm Beach Civic As­so­ci­a­tion re­ferred to Mr. Trump as “the no­to­ri­ous New York de­vel­oper and part-time Palm Beacher.”

In 1995, Mr. Trump was able to open Mar-a-Lago, and the club thrived. It now costs $200,000 to join — up from $100,000 be­fore Mr. Trump be­came pres­i­dent — plus $14,000 a year in fees. In ad­di­tion, the roughly 450 mem­bers pay for din­ing, shows and suites where they can stay overnight.

Mr. Trump paid $5 mil­lion for Mara-Lago in 1985. Based on sales of other Palm Beach prop­erty fronting on both sides of the idyl­lic 3.75-square-mile is­land, Mar-a-Lago is now es­ti­mated to be worth $300 mil­lion.

As Mr. Trump wrote in “The Art of the Deal,” Mar-a-Lago “may be as close to par­adise as I’m go­ing to get.”

In con­trast to Barack Obama, who rarely spoke with Democrats in Congress let alone Repub­li­cans, Mr. Trump as pres­i­dent will con­tinue his two-pronged ap­proach, si­mul­ta­ne­ously coun­ter­punch­ing while cul­ti­vat­ing both friends and en­e­mies. In that en­deavor, Mr. Trump will de­ploy one of his biggest as­sets: in­vi­ta­tions to dine or stay at what he now calls the South­ern White House.


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