Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Monumental Mistake

Move over Washington. You too Dr. King. Step aside Lincoln. Out of
the way Jefferson.

There’s a new monument coming to Washington, D.C., a city where we
reverently honor our sacred democratic institutions and salute our

This particular edifice will carry the name of a man who has gazed
longingly at the White House from afar on many occasions.

He considers himself presidential timbre even though his approval
ratings among voters equals Frank McCourt’s among baseball fans.

He’s a man who commands serious media coverage ever though few take
him seriously.

We speak, of course, of Donald Trump.

Yes, that Donald Trump. The man with a bad haircut who stars in
really bad reality shows.

Sure, he wields a fair amount of influence in the Republican Party,
despite the fact that publicly most GOP bigwigs treat him like the
crazy uncle who spoils Christmas each year.

That’s because he’s rich. As someone said at a roast recently,
“What's the difference between Donald Trump's hair and a wet raccoon?
A wet raccoon doesn't have seven billion dollars in the bank."

But let’s face it, Trump would never be a candidate for a monument
based on his record as an American statesman.

So he’s done what rich guys do. He’s buying one.

He has purchased the historic Old Post Office pavilion on
Pennsylvania Avenue, an architectural masterpiece and one of the
tallest buildings in the district.

It occupies a prestigious location between the White House and the
Capitol and is topped by a distinctive clock tower.

Built in 1890, it is home to a handful of federal offices,
tourist-oriented shops and restaurants. It has, by all accounts,
fallen into a state of disrepair and loses more than $6 million a

Trump and his colleagues plan to spend $200 million to convert the
building into a hotel, which they modestly say will be “…the finest
luxury hotel in the world.” Tour groups need not apply.

I get the feeling Washington residents are nervous about Trump’s
definition of “luxury.” This is a button down city, not long on
flash. This is a city that shows CNN in its bars, not “Celebrity

This is a city that embraces power but frowns on gaudy displays of

This is a city that fears that Trump’s hotel may end up looking like
one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, topped with a gigantic neon sign
resplendent with the Donald’s name that will be visible from
Arlington Cemetery to Camp David. After all, his ego is at least that

Not to worry, said the Government Services Administration, which
engineered the sale.

“The Trump Organization plan will preserve the historic nature of the
building and improve the vitality of Pennsylvania Avenue,” a GSA
bureaucrat told the Washington Post.

“This redevelopment represents good business sense on behalf of the
American taxpayer, the Federal Government and the District of

This is the same GSA, it should be noted, that was caught spending
$820,000 for a training conference in Las Vegas and $268,732 on a
one-day performance awards ceremony. It’s assessment of “good business sense” seems questionable.

The good news is that the building is an official historic landmark
and all plans will fall under heavy scrutiny by the U.S. Commission
of Fine Arts, according to the Post. But for $200 million, they just might allow him to put his name in lights.

The bad news, according to Post columnist Steven Pearlstein, is that
Trump and his partners “are high-risk gamblers who play all the
angles and have a habit of overpaying and overleveraging. When
projects get into trouble, as this one surely will, they think
nothing of handing the keys over to the lenders and moving on to the
next deal.”

The best we can hope for is that the Donald will decide not to move into a neighborhood whose most famous resident, in his view, is a citizen of a foreign country.

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