Donald Trump, doing the backstroke over a flood of criticism after he failed to criticize white supremacists on Sunday, appeared Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" to talk equality.
As Republican voters in a dozen states head to the polls on Tuesday, Trump explained his equality bona fides to host George Stephanopoulos.
"So are you prepared right now to make a clear and unequivocal renouncing the support of all white supremacists?," Stephanopoulos asked.
"Of course I am. Of course I am. I mean, there's nobody that's done so much for equality as I have," Trump said. "You take a look at Palm Beach, Fla., I built the Mar-A-Lago Club, totally open to everybody. A club that, frankly, set a new standard in clubs and a new standard in Palm Beach. And I've gotten great credit for it. That is totally open to everybody. So of course I am."
This statement seems perfectly calibrated to give Bernie Sanders a heart attack.
As The Washington Post reported last year, Trump's plans for Mar-A-Lago hit a stumbling block with the Palm Beach City Council, which wanted to constrain what it anticipated would be Trumpian levels of commotion from the refurbished facility. To counter, Trump suggested that the council was perfectly comfortable with the existing private clubs in Palm Beach, ones with histories of excluding black and Jewish members, as so many golf clubs have done. The counterattack put the council on its heels, and Trump carried the day.
But being the least-racist golf club is a bit like being the world's most honest lawyer. It doesn't exactly vault you into "nobody has done so much for equality as me" status.
Particularly since Mar-A-Lago is not a public golf facility. There are public event spaces, to which Trump invites celebrities and so on. But it's a private club, one whose website touts membership as "provid[ing] the highest privileges and an elite lifestyle reserved for a select few." You cannot see how much a membership is at the website, because the types of people who apply for memberships at Mar-A-Lago are the types who say "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" shortly before blowing a lot of money on something.
To become a member of Mar-A-Lago, you can be white, black, brown, Jewish, whatever -- but you must above all be wealthy. The membership is $100,000, with an annual fee of $14,000 on top of that. Put another way: The annual fee at Mar-A-Lago costs one-fourth of the median American household income in 2013, every year. The membership fee itself is practically a bargain, having been sliced in half in the wake of the recession.
Donald Trump talks off the cuff; it's why people like him. He's also prone to hyperbole. But were the presidential election to come down to Trump vs. Sanders, it would be amusing to watch Trump present this argument for his civil rights bona fides during a debate. "I am the world's greatest champion of racial harmony because I will accept a $100,000 fee from anyone, regardless of race or creed," he might say. And Sanders wouldn't know where to begin.
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