“They all come over, they all eat, they all love me, they all kiss my ass. And then they all leave and say: ‘Isn’t he horrible.” BUT I’M THE KING.
That quote says it all and that is why my only complaint about “Mar-A-Lago; Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace” is that it’s a shame the country could not have read this book by Laurence Leamer sooner.
Leamer’s book is not a boring biography going through each phase of Trump’s life. Instead, Leamer focuses on how Mar-a-Lago shaped President Trump.
Donald Trump was an unwelcomed guest in a world of old money, the uber rich, and quiet conservatives in Palm Beach. Trump was the flashy and outspoken real estate mogul from New York who managed to turn upside down the small island paradise with his threats, rhetoric, and his bully-like behavior. Sound familiar?
Leamer starts “Mar-a-Lago” with a brief introduction into the history of Florida and Henry Flagler.
Flagler is known as the father of Miami and Palm Beach. I was born and raised in Miami, but since last year reside in the St. Augustine area which was also heavily influenced by Flagler.
Like Flagler that put Florida on the map, Trump did the same with Palm Beach, but their routes were different, if not polar opposites, but there are some similarities between the two.
Flagler was ruthless in his approach to business, just like Trump. Flagler was also a robber baron (guess who has a son named Baron) in the days of Rockefeller and Standard Oil.
When Trump made Palm Beach his second home, even as a young teenager I remember the “buzz” even though I lived 100 miles further south.
I remember my father talking about Trump, excited that he was coming to south Florida, and I most definitely remember Trump’s public battles with the city of Palm Beach, its residents, especially as it is related to Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s manipulation of the facts and the public persona he created as a fighter to get what he wanted at any cost even seduced me, leaving me wondering why he was being rejected with every move he tried to make when he was trying to make the town better. Again I’ll ask; sound familiar?
But, that’s what Trump has always excelled at: creating his own future and facts through manipulation of the past and reality. Palm Beach was even ground zero for Trump learning to fight back against the media if any stories were unflattering.
Not very knowledgeable of Trump’s personal life nor interested in reading an entire book of Trump’s ex-wives, Leamer provides the reader with just the right amount of facts, skipping the gossip unless it is to prove a point.
For example, Trump’s first marriage was to Ivana, who was the female version of Trump. She was rude, vulgar, and greatly exaggerated her accomplishments as a model and a professional skier. No wonder the two were attracted to one another.
With wife number two, Marla Maples, Trump was now educated in the world of media manipulation especially with the National Enquirer.
Trump’s divorce from Ivana was daily tabloid headlines and in a conservative town like Palm Beach you can imagine the gossip as Maples was pregnant. But, an expert at turning a negative into a positive (lying), the romantic “billionaire” had the “National Enquirer” snap photos of him suitcase in tow, as he was ready to fly off to Paris to marry Maples.
Of course, residency requirements prohibited Trump from getting married in France and he knew that, Maples didn’t, but it made for great headlines. Trump, the greatest deal maker in history, even managed to get a great deal on the engagement ring. Not really, he lied about that as well.
With his marriage to Maples, Trump also learned to kill a story, a slightly different version of “catch and kill,” a term we have come to learn thanks to Trump’s presidency and David Pecker of the “National Enquirer.”
Maples had an affair with her bodyguard and the National Enquirer was ready to run with the story. For Trump to be cheated on, that was a sign of weakness, so instead he concocted a story where Maples was not having sex under the lifeguard stand with her bodyguard, but, was actually urinating and the bodyguard was nearby.
In the process, Trump not only saved Marla from embarrassment, but also himself. The bodyguard? His professional life was destroyed and he died a few years ago from a drug overdose.
But why stop there when you are a pathological liar?
Leamer tells one story of a bet between Trump and his attorney. The bet was for Trump to lose 20 lbs. and win $200,000. The friendly wager ended in a draw, but Trump claimed he lost more than the required 20 lbs. within a shorter period of time and won the $200,000 bet.
When it came to Mar-a-Lago, expect anything different? Trump’s list of members were a who’s who, too bad the members didn’t know.
Henry Kissinger, President Gerald Ford, Lady Diana and Prince Charles were members (not really).
Trump even fabricated controversy of what would happen if Lady Diana and Prince Charles bumped into each other at the club since by then they were divorced. The lies were so great that even the British tabloids wrote that the story was false, so Trump blamed his staff for confusing honorary members with full-fledged members.
Fake news? That’s not a new term. Trump fought against the media in Palm Beach constantly, even insulting one journalist by calling her a fat slob. Remember Trump’s insults to Rosie O’Donnell?
And just like Twitter is Trump’s modern-day platform to seek revenge and insult everyone that he perceives has not done him well, Trump’s second book “The Art of the Comeback” was nothing more than an outlet for revenge.
Remember Trump’s insults during the presidential race to his competitors? He did the same with the other clubs in Palm Beach, including false accusations of anti-semitism. Remember, President Trump actually tweeted that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK. So, false accusations are nothing new for him.
Insults calling Senator Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas? When Trump couldn’t build casinos in Florida, guess who he accused of having ties with the mafia? Native Americans!
Leamer briefly writes about Russians buying Trump’s properties as investments in Sunny Isles, a small town on the north end of Miami-Dade County along the coast.
For those like me who lived for so many years in South Florida and especially because of my background in law, I know all too well the stories of Russians and the real estate market in south Florida, including real estate projects tied into Trump. Something I’m sure we will hear more of in the news now that Felix Sater has the attention of Congress.
I would definitely recommend Leamer’s book and hope he has another one in the works as it relates to Trump and the presidency. It was an easy read and kept my attention which isn’t easy.
“Mar-a-Lago” was published by Flatiron Books and is available now.
Alexander Hernandez is a practicing attorney since 1999 who enjoys blogging about politics when he is not riding his motorcycles or playing golf. He is also an Amazon best selling author.