On the President’s Weekly Winter Vacation

Except for howling winds and an extended dry spell the weather’s been nice and warm around here lately, the Wichita State University Wheatshockers are heading into collegiate basketball’s championship tournament on a 15-game blow-out streak, and so far it’s been a pretty good March in our patch of the prairie. Still, we can’t help noticing with a certain wistfulness all the references to Mar-a-Lago in the latest news.
Usually around this time of year in Kansas we’re chattering our teeth and wishing for a south Florida vacation, and fondly recalling that one especially bitter winter when we did escape to a week of driving around Miami in a rented convertible V-8 Mustang, which yielded lots of funny stories we still like to tell, but even our most fanciful late winter fantasies never included anything quite so fancy as Mar-a-Lago. A very Republican friend of ours said the other day that he’d never heard of Mar-a-Lago, so perhaps we should explain to a general readership that it’s a Great Gatsby-esque mansion and sprawling estate complete with golf courses and tennis courts and all sorts of amenities located on a prime stretch of Palm Beach real estate that Trump had turned into a $100,000-a-year resort before he became president, and now uses as the “Winter White House” while charging a recently raised $200,000-a-year fee for the rest of the guests, and by all accounts it’s very swank.
Trump has spent five weekends there since being sworn in as president just last January, and the taxpayers have spent an estimated $3.5 million per visit, which is also pretty damned swank, even by government standards, and we can’t help thinking that it would be a bigger story if he weren’t there “tweeting” unsubstantiated charges about his wires being tapped and thus dominating the next days’ news cycles.
We spent much of the past eight years grousing about how many vacations President Barack Obama took and how many rounds of golf he played, and sneering about how his Martha’s Vineyard getaways belied his man-of-the-people image, and how damned expensive it was for the actual people, and feeling sorry for partisan Democrats who had to make excuses for it after eight years of grousing about George W. Bush’s far cheaper recreation expenses and rounds of golf. So far Trump has gone out of town for non-business-related reasons and played and golf far more often than Obama did, and racked up monthly travel bills equal to what to Obama rang up in a year, and seems to think he proved his Jacksonian populism by pouring ketchup over the well done steaks he ordered at the Great Gatsby-esque resort where the government pays the tab even as he collects it, and because we were Republicans long before Trump ever was we’re not about to make any excuses for five straight weekends at Mar-a-Lago.
Should Trump ever bless the nation with a slow news day we’re sure his antagonists in the media will be able to fill it with some standby stories about Trump’s unusual buyer and seller arrangement with Mar-a-Lago, and the potential that a mere $200,000 a year membership could buy access to the president, and how top-secret negotiations were conducted there within earshot of waiters and busboys and other diners in the restaurant, and how it really doesn’t fit with the image of a champion of the black-lunged West Virginia coal miner and opioid-addicted former factory worker from the Rust Belt. Nor does it comport to our old-fashioned Republican fantasy of a Republican president working overtime at the actual White House on the weekend to get all those policies just right so that the damned Democrats couldn’t make such easy hash of them, and we can only imagine what the the Democratic media will make of it.
The press is already taking note of who isn’t going to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend with Trump, the latest reports have some of the famously feuding top White House staff left behind, and even over the work week it’s hard to find any evidence even in the friendliest meeting that the administration is humming along like the finely-tuned machine that Trump swears it is. Perhaps Trump will find some insight at Mar-a-Lago that repays the taxpayers’ expense, but until he does the resentment is likely to rise, even if Trump’s much boasted-about extravagance was one of his selling points. Trump used to grouse about Obama’s vacationing and golfing extravagance, too, and so long as we’re stuck here on the prairie we’ll fell free to grouse about them both. From what we hear, the weather’s been pretty mild in Washington, D.C., too.

— Bud Norman

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On the Climate, Both Figurative and Literal

All that heated argument about anthropogenic global warming notwithstanding, Thursday was colder than a well digger’s posterior or even a witch’s breast here in our portion of the prairie. The sky was a depressingly Ingmar Bergman-esque gray all the short day long, the winds that came sweeping down the plains from the North Pole were whipping around a desultory amount of snow the in otherwise dry atmosphere, and we had chores to do.
Our beloved Pa helped us deal with the dreary task of getting our newfangled cellular telephone to reveal those noisome voice mails it now features, and to replace it with the old Ma Bell land-line number that had been in the phone books for as long as we or any of our friends who might call can remember, which our Pa insisted on in case there was some family emergency that only we can deal with, and after making it all happen with the help of the earnest but rather dim-witted woman at the phone company’s east-side strip-mall shop he treated us to a couple of very nice slacks at a nearby clothing store that was already touting its Valentine’s Day specials. After that we helped we helped our beloved Ma and Pa take down all their fabulous Christmas decorations in their enviable retirement apartment and return them for another 11 months or so to their place in a nearby rental storage space, and although some of those boxes were heavy enough to cause a strain in our back it also somehow lifted our heart.
All that bother also kept us largely away from the rest of the news all day, and we happily listened to old rockabilly and garage band music and the crazed conversation of the regulars at a dive we sometimes frequent on the way home, which also did us much good. When we at long last got home to our adequately-heated old house and turned on the space heaters in our poorly ventilated airplane room of an office we logged on to the internet and found it as desultory as ever, but we decided to dismiss it all with the same hopeful attitude that our Pa and Ma lately seem to have. They’re both convinced that the age of Trump can’t be any worse than the age of Obama, which is all too convincingly plausible, and that the weather is bound to get better for at least a little while, which is inarguable.
The weather for today here on our portion of the plains is forecast to be just as awful as yesterday, and we’ll have more chores to do, but we nonetheless have our own high hopes. We’re slated to get up relatively early to take an old and dear friend of ours home from the hospital, where he’s undergoing some nether-region-invading procedures that he assures us are quite routine yet still require sedation that prevents him from driving himself home. He once woke up even earlier on an even colder morning to give us a ride home from the airport after we’d been visiting the folks when they were living back east during Christmastime, and we expect that the chance to partially repay the favor will boost our spirits past what the thermometer shows. That gray-ponytailed old hippie is also convinced that the age of Trump can’t be any worse than the age of Obama, and although he’s a couple of decades younger than our Ma and Pa we’ll consider his wisdom, and look forward to a brief nap today despite all its other chores.
By next Tuesday the temperatures are forecast to be near 60 degrees Fahrenheit around here, and although that’s nowhere near were we like it to be we’ll still be glad of it. There’s every reason to believe that our Pa and Ma will be starting their early Valentine’s Day celebrations during their 60th year of marriage, and that our gray-ponytailed friend will be relieved that those intrusive tests have proved happily negative, and that the age of Trump will prove at least no worse than the age of Obama, and that no matter what all our friends will still be able to reach us in case of emergency at that same old land-line number.

— Bud Norman