Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trump's in front row for Hillary 2017

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WASHINGTON -- No one is going to have a better view of Hillary Clinton's inaugural parade in 2017 than one of the lunatic Republicans who might blow a billion bucks to run against her.

That would be Donald John Trump Sr., the periodically bankrupt zillionaire who has leased the gorgeous Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, directly overlooking the quadrennial presidential walkathon. The Donald's intention is to turn this Romanesque masterpiece into a luxury hotel for tourists willing to pay about $500 for a room just so they can see his name on the towels they steal.

Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, have pledged to spend $200 million to refurbish the building, which was constructed, according to an inscription on its northern facade, in MDCCCXCVII. Their lease will not expire until MMLXXV, by which time Washington may or may not have run out of Clintons.

The conversion of the Old Post Office from a charming yet tired souvenir mall and food court will create what Ivanka Trump calls "the past meeting the future in a seamless pairing that will result in a level of luxury previously unseen in this market." But it comes at the expense of a few dozen shopkeepers and immigrant stir-fryers who were turfed out of the atrium in January.

Since then, while awaiting its Trumpification, the pavilion has exuded a melancholy air, being occupied only by a security guard named Kahil Britt from Ithaca, N.Y., and his partner, a Nigerian who passes the afternoons playing Candy Crush Saga on his cellphone and shooing tourists away from the deadened plaza.

"You just missed Trump and his daughter," Britt told me when I wandered into the Pharaonic lobby one wintry afternoon. "His head is SO big! And his daughter is GORGEOUS! I was like, 'Here ya go, babe.' "

"Did The Donald offer you guys a job in his new hotel?" I asked.

"He can't afford us," said Britt.

Britt, a well-informed young man already casting an eye toward the 2016 elections, noted it will be nearly impossible for any Republican, orange-haired or otherwise, to carry all four of the vital states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Virginia. In support, I cited a recent opinion survey that gave Clinton a 10-point lead over Chris Christie, the gibbous (but waning) Governor of New Jersey -- not only in pivotal Virginia, but in Christie's home riding as well.

At this, the Nigerian looked up from his video game and warned, "American politics are very unpredictable."

Donald John Trump Sr. did not even register in the poll. But no matter who loses to Hillary 32 months from now, Trump "père et fille" will have a fine view of her march to the White House from the apex of their hotel's 96-metre clock tower and belfry.

In the meantime, The Donald continues to tease us with hints that, as he surveys the Republican field, the most superior and best-dressed potential candidate he espies is he himself.

This week, thousands of us flocked to the Conservative Political Action Conference, eager to hear the impresario declare himself a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016.

"Our country is in serious, serious trouble," he testified to a ballroom filled with the sort of people who wear T-shirts that say FIGHT CRIME -- SHOOT BACK.

"Our leadership is so weak and so pathetic," he went on, noting Barack Obama's approval rating had tanked at a new nadir of 38 per cent.

"I'd love to see him do a great job, but it's not gonna happen," predicted Donald Trump.

China, he said "is really ripping us off big-time." Ripping off everyone but the Donald, that is.

"What do the Chinese want?" he asked. And then he answered: "Everything Trump!"

"We're becoming a Third World country," he said. (Except in Washington, of course, where he is building what he called "perhaps the most luxurious hotel anywhere in the world and creating TREMENDOUS numbers of jobs.")

"We have so many issues, we have so many problems, and it's all about the leadership," we heard him say yet again, building to his crescendo. And then, speaking of himself in the second-person plural.

"In 2016, you're probably running against Hillary."

We stood on our chairs in anticipation of The Announcement and envisioned the 45th president marching down Pennsylvania Avenue while Ivanka and her children waved from the bell tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion.

"Whoever's president," said Donald Trump, bursting our balloon, "good luck!"

Allen Abel is a Brooklyn-born Canadian journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2014 A9

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