Last week in Laconia, New Hampshire, the never-laconic Donald Trump addressed a well-attended campaign rally. Answering a question from the audience about small businesses, Trump non-sequitured into a conversation he’d had with a member of the Trump National Doral golf club in Florida, which he bought out of bankruptcy in 2012 and renovated. “You know, Mr. Trump,” Trump recounted the man saying, “if you could do the same thing for the country as you did at Doral in Miami, it would be unbelievable.”
Switching back to the first person, the candidate told the standing-room-only crowd, “And I can. I can!”
This week, I spent a few nights at the Trump National Doral, a golf club–cum–resort hotel near the Miami airport, hoping to get a preview of what a Trump turnaround job on America might look like. At the slab marble reception desk, I was greeted by a framed portrait of Trump, grinning and pointing at me with his trademark (but not trademarked) “you’re fired” gesture. I tried to envision the photo framed in every federal building and looking down on every airport customs line, welcoming the world to the United States.
The décor of the Trump National Doral might be best described as Fallen Empire. The reception building is held up by ersatz Roman columns; a discus-throwing nude adorns the roof of the clubhouse; the rooms boast Sun King mirrors; and, lest we forget, the whole idea of building golf courses in the tropics was an innovation of the late British Empire. Some of the imperial touches are distinctly American, however. We might not be able to build a high-speed rail system to compete with China’s or an education system to match Singapore’s, but is any nation our rival in golf course design? The Trump National Doral boasts 90 manicured holes. I admittedly know little about golf, but my back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that this is fully five times as many holes as the game requires. I suspect this must make playing on Trump’s course five times better.
On the stump, Trump speaks frequently about making the American Dream “bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” and his devotion to American industry is on display at the Trump National Doral. On the menu at the on-site steakhouse, the featured draft is listed as “Bud Light, Missouri.” Could there be any more patriotic pairing for the $92 “American Kobe Rib Eye?”
Despite Trump’s nativist leanings, that American steak will almost certainly be brought to your table by a Latin American, as nearly all of the staff at the Trump National Doral are Latino immigrants. I know this because all Trump National Doral employees have their nation of origin embossed on their nametags. (“I have so many Hispanics, and they love me,” Trump boasted in New Hampshire. “I have thousands! I have thousands!”) Presumably, all of the employees at the Trump National Doral have been thoroughly vetted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their names checked against Miami-Dade County’s strictest-in-the-nation sex offender registry.
Trump’s lead over the wide Republican field took a bit of a hit recently after the candidate disparaged John McCain’s heroism, saying that the former prisoner of war was only a hero because he’d been captured by the enemy. At the Trump National Doral, Trump honors American heroes made of stronger stuff, men who earned their fame before they got caught: The shiny gold lettering on the “Tiger Woods Villa” is buffed to a high sheen. Of course, no American hero is more glorified at the Trump National Doral than Trump himself. The carpeting in each room features a pattern of interlocking T’s. And since nothing is more American than a hereditary coat of arms, the Trump family seal, with its suit of armor, clenched fist, and raised spear, is ubiquitous—imprinted on napkins, carved into buildings, emblazoned on bathrobes. There’s even one at the bottom of each trash bin.
Alas, few among us will ever enjoy Donald Trump’s success—most of us would be happy just to have his six-figure pension from the Screen Actors Guild. But at the Trump National Doral, guests can live like a Trump for a night or two. The brass-capped Trump Hotel Collection shampoo and conditioner gave my hair a high-altitude boost, though maybe that was just a trick of the Sun King mirrors—a Trump l’oeil effect, if you will. And despite the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant having recently been dropped by NBC and Univision, the resort still offers a $209 “Miss Universe Luxury Facial” (“red carpet ready [in] 80 minutes”)—as long as you’re not a Univision employee. For the kids (ages 4–15), there are “Children’s Spa Experiences” including the “Mini Trump Cleanse Facial” ($80 for 25 minutes). For frequent guests, there’s the Trump Card Privileges Program. As the brochure in my room guaranteed, “If success hasn’t spoiled you, we will.”
It’s safe to say that success has spoiled Donald Trump, and, having experienced the Trump lifestyle for two nights, I can’t quite envision a United States with Donald Trump as CEO. It’s not so much his policy proposals, such as they are. It’s that I can’t quite imagine that he would want to live in that cramped, dowdy cottage on Pennsylvania Avenue, where so many of the portraits are of people other than Donald Trump.