On Friday, before his Asia-Pacific trip, Donald Trump stopped in Hawaii and made a quick trip to the Trump International Hotel Waikiki. The White House soon after issued a statement touting the venue as “a tremendously successful project” for the president.
The visit came the day after USA Today reported that Trump “has installed at least five people who have been members of his clubs to senior roles in his administration.” The article added, “[N]ever in modern history has a president awarded government posts to people who pay money to his own companies.”
And then, in Seoul, the American president went just a little further down the ethically challenged rabbit hole. The Washington Post reported:
The world was watching as President Trump stepped to the microphone in the heart of South Korea’s National Assembly to deliver a high-stakes speech to rally fellow leaders against North Korea. What better time for the president to talk about … his New Jersey golf course?
Not long after he began his remarks, broadcast live on television feeds from Tokyo to Seoul to Washington, Trump took a moment to praise South Korea on the nation’s remarkable economic rise after the Korean War six decades ago. In doing so, he talked about the people’s prowess in engineering, technology, medicine, music and education.
Then he got to golf.
According to the transcript, Trump described Korean golfers as “some of the best on Earth,” which generated applause. He added, “In fact – and you know what I’m going to say – the Women’s U.S. Open was held this year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and it just happened to be won by a great Korean golfer, Sung-hyun Park.”
I don’t imagine anyone was especially surprised that Trump would use this platform to promote a property he owns, because we’ve grown quite accustomed to the president’s routine ethical lapses and efforts to profit personally from his presidency.
But that doesn’t make his actions any easier to defend.
Let’s also note for context that Trump reportedly threatened to sue the U.S. Golf Association if it moved the U.S. Women’s Open tournament from the club he owns in New Jersey. When it came time for the event in July, the president used his media profile to heavily promote the event.
When presidential ethical lapses effectively become political background noise, there’s a problem.