By Gail Collins – The New York Times.
All these Trumps are getting damned expensive.
Last month, taxpayers forked over nearly $100,000 to protect Eric Trump while he was on a business trip to Uruguay. And the Defense Department is looking to rent space in Trump Tower — which goes for as much as $1.5 million a year per floor — so they can bring the nuclear launch codes along when the president comes to visit his wife in New York.
The mere idea of Donald Trump and the nuclear codes is way more disturbing than the money. But still, critics claim that Melania Trump’s decision not to move into the White House is costing the country more in security than the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Melania is staying in New York so her son, Barron, can continue at his school. Presumably, the bill will drop somewhat over the summer. Meanwhile, the city police and the Secret Service have wrapped an incredibly expensive security blanket around a chunk of Fifth Avenue.
Of course she’s totally within her rights. One of the rules for criticizing a first family is that you leave the kids alone. (I am not thinking here of Eric.) If Melania decides never to become part of official Washington at all, that’s fine. There’s plenty of precedent. Zachary Taylor’s wife, Margaret, hated the whole idea so much that when Taylor died in office, the engraving of the deathbed scene showed Mrs. Taylor with her hands over her face in grief, because nobody knew what she actually looked like.
On the other hand, she never filed a lawsuit claiming an erroneous news story had hurt her ability to market a “broad-based commercial brand” while she had an unmatchable opportunity to be in the public eye as first lady.
Melania says her legal actions are completely misunderstood.
Conservatives used to have a field day complaining about the high cost of moving the Obamas around. The future President Trump himself once tweeted: “The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million +++ while there is 20% unemployment.”
The unemployment rate was not, at the time, anywhere near 20 percent. And last weekend Trump happily ran up a federal bill of around $3 million for a trip to Mar-a-Lago where he watched the Super Bowl and dropped in on a Red Cross ball, which presumably brought his resort a hefty fee.
Yeah, it’s the profit-making end of the story that’s so irritating. When Eric Trump went to Uruguay, his mission was to promote Trump Tower Punta del Este. “We’re going to have an amazing company,” Eric told the local media, adding that his father was going to do “amazing things for the United States.” And that Dad would be “an incredible commander in chief.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, adjective-wise.
The president has theoretically separated himself from all his businesses, but they still belong to him. He may not have operational command, but Eric does, and it’s hard for folks in Uruguay not to believe that the president is watching when the son comes to call and mix with his fellow realtors, flanked by a security detail that’s on our dime.
Those continuing financial interests around the world are a huge problem — you probably noticed that the immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries didn’t include the ones in which the president had hotels or condos or golf courses? And he’s never going to do anything to fix it. When Trump was calling for better ethics in Washington, he only wanted us to drain the other guys’ swamp.
But don’t you wish he’d try to show he appreciates the security price tag? We don’t want to make little Barron change schools, but Trump could buy Melania a condo in a relatively low-traffic location to save security from having to create a no-go zone in Midtown. It would send up a signal that he realized the problems he was causing. Also it would be cheaper for the Defense Department. And maybe closer to the school. The only thing inconvenienced would be Donald’s bottom line.
And Eric could have put his security detail up for free. Given that he was traveling on a moneymaking venture and all.
Trump did announce that when the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, came to visit him in Mar-a-Lago this weekend, he was not going to charge Abe for his room. “That is a gift that the president is extending to the prime minister,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, otherwise known as The Most Miserable Man on Earth.
That was the grand gesture. Meanwhile, you could argue that Trump is using a visit by an important foreign leader to promote one of his brands.
At least Abe has not been requested to pose holding up a gift bottle of Trump wine. As far as we know.