Trump to give 7 na­tion’s high­est civil­ian honor

The Olympian - - Nation & World - BY EMILY COCHRANE

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will be­stow the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom, the na­tion’s high­est civil­ian award, this com­ing week on an eclec­tic mix of con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal fig­ures and cul­tural and ath­letic luminaries, in­clud­ing Elvis Pres­ley and Babe Ruth.

Among those to be rec­og­nized at a cer­e­mony Fri­day are Miriam Adelson, the Las Ve­gas physi­cian and prom­i­nent Repub­li­can donor; Sen. Or­rin Hatch of Utah, the longest-serv­ing Se­nate Repub­li­can; and Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, a con­ser­va­tive pil­lar of the Supreme Court who died in 2016.

Alan C. Page, a Hall of Fame de­fen­sive tackle who be­came the first black judge on Min­nesota’s Supreme Court, and Roger Staubach, a Hall of Fame quar­ter­back and Viet­nam vet­eran, will also be hon­ored.

The medal is one of the few pres­i­den­tial des­ig­na­tions that dis­penses with the tra­di­tional lay­ers of staff re­view that pre­cede par­dons, com­mu­ta­tions or Medals of Honor, and in­stead re­flects the com­man­der in chief’s whims and per­sonal in­ter­ests. Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, who es­tab­lished the prac­tice in 1963, sought to broaden a pre­vi­ous civil­ian honor, the Medal of Free­dom, to in­clude the arts or ath­letic and aca­demic ac­com­plish­ments and to al­low only the pres­i­dent to con­fer it.

For Trump, a re­al­ity tele­vi­sion star and busi­ness mogul who briefly owned a foot­ball team, the seven peo­ple des­ig­nated as his first re­cip­i­ents in part re­flect an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for cul­tural icons like Pres­ley, the trail­blaz­ing rock ’n’ roll star, and Ruth, the leg­endary New York Yan­kees player.

And de­spite a typ­i­cally com­bat­ive re­la­tion­ship with the NFL, the pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged the ath­letic ca­reers of Staubach, who won two Su­per Bowls with the Dal­las Cow­boys, and Page, who played for the Min­nesota Vik­ings and Chicago Bears.

A hand­ful of the des­ig­na­tions also nod­ded to the Repub­li­can base that cat­a­pulted Trump to the pres­i­dency. After Scalia’s death in 2016, Trump filled the va­cancy with Neil Gor­such, and Adelson and her hus­band, casino mag­nate Shel­don Adelson, have con­trib­uted mil­lions to Repub­li­can politi­cians – in­clud­ing $5 mil­lion in Septem­ber to a pro-Trump PAC.

Hatch, who will re­tire after four decades in Congress at the end of the year, has also been a fer­vent sup­porter of the pres­i­dent’s.

Trump, who of­ten up­ends tra­di­tion, has waited an un­usual amount of time to an­nounce re­cip­i­ents of the award, com­pared with his more re­cent pre­de­ces­sors.

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