In mid-October, Donald Trump – evidently needing a break from his usual Washington routine of tweeting vulgar insults, binge-watching Fox News, coddling tyrants, and thinking up ever new ways to torture migrant children between rounds of golf –– decided to give our fair city a visit, the ostensible point being to come where the West begins, get reinvigorated, and raise tons of filthy lucre from Texas’ well-bootheeled.
I waited among the throng in front of the Flying Saucer downtown around lunchtime, eager to catch a glimpse of 45. I was standing with a handful of anti-Trump protesters, a small isle in a sea of supporters and the merely curious. After a rush of motorcycles and black SUVs, the president’s limo finally came into sight. And I have to hand it to Trump. He didn’t give your usual cheesy politician smile complete with a stiff hand wave. He rode by with a frown set firmly on his face, appraising those who came out to see him like a potentate. Or more likely, he was just saving himself for the real audience, his donors at the tony City Club of Fort Worth.
And for good reason. Trump has hovered around the not-very-impressive 45-percent approval rating only a few times, been beset by multiple scandals, and faces a possible impeachment. If he wants to win in 2020, he’ll need ready cash and plenty of it. He’s reportedly already raised more than $300 million this year. And not surprisingly for him – between his official duties, Keep America Great rallies, and his great “concern” about corruption in Ukraine – he’s found time for some Trumpian self-dealing. His campaign and the Republican National Committee, Forbes says, have already paid more than $1 million in rent to Trump Tower. Sweet.
Knowing all that, I was surprised to learn that Fort Worth didn’t charge anything for Trump’s October visit. Now what did 45 do in our city exactly? Did he come here to console the relatives of Atatiana Jefferson, the woman who was murdered in her home by a Fort Worth police officer? Now that would have truly been a presidential act for him, trying to bring us together instead of being the usual divisive figure he’s been throughout his presidency. Imagine Trump hugging Atatiana’s family, expressing sympathy, and pleading for real justice to be done. Perhaps in a kinder, wiser alternative universe but, sadly, not in ours. Trump came to Fort Worth in October for one reason: to rake in cash from his mega-rich donors.
Tickets were sold for between $5,600 and $250,000. And, according to Bloomberg News, he was successful, raising $5.5 million. His biggest contributors received the holy grail of campaign giving: close access to the president in a roundtable meeting.
Then Donald left the way he came, with our police force providing protection, closing streets, and leading the motorcade. The Star-Telegram reported that about 100 police officers were involved in protecting Trump.
The City of Fort Worth tells us that we can’t afford to keep the Botanic Garden open without charging admission, something that would benefit all the people of Fort Worth. Instead, they can offer a wealthy president free police protection for a visit that has nothing to do with his official duties while his campaign is swimming in big bucks.
Some could reasonably argue, why bother charging him? The Trump campaign has already stiffed cities from Spokane to El Paso for more than $1 million total. But it’s the principle of the thing. You can’t let the shiftless ultra-rich go around thinking it’s alright to get something for nothing. Conservatives love to complain about welfare for the poor, taking an almost primal delight in making the lives of lower-income people even more brutal and short while ignoring the more common public funding of welfare to the rich, of which this is a prime example. And we didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt.
Fort Worth writer Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue can be reached at email@example.com. The Weekly welcomes opinion submissions from all political persuasions. Please contact Editor Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.