Sarasota Republican group gives TV star Donald Trump statesman award just before RNC in Tampa
He's hosted a business-centered reality TV show for NBC and spearheaded a ludicrous public challenge to the President's status as a natural born citizen that some say falls just short of outright racism.
In other words, the closest Donald Trump has come to politics is acting as if he might run for president at some undetermined point in the future.
So, of course, the Republican Party of Sarasota County has decided to give The Apprentice star its statesman of the year award on Aug. 26, just before the Republican National Convention begins in nearby Tampa.
The Talking Points Memo blog got a quote from the local GOP chair: "“(Trump's) a sage, skillful and respected leader” who is doing “all he can to take our country back,” Sarasota GOP Chair Joe Gruters told TPM. “At the end of the day, he’s one of the few people in the country who can command respect from people of all walks of life.”
The event is clearly about raising money for the party, with tickets priced from $150 to $1,000 (top-tier tickets included a meet-and-greet with The Donald himself).
But the question remains, how does a guy who has never held elective office deserve a statesman award? Particularly from a political group in Florida? (Was negotiating a peace between Clay Aiken and Arsenio Hall really that hard?)
The statesman award has an odd recent history. Last November, the group gave it to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, seven months after he dropped out of the presidential race and nearly a year after his controversial comments which seemed to dismiss the impact of racist Citizens Councils in his own state during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.
Those comments damaged his campaign and may have led him to drop out of the presidential race, but didn't stop the Sarasota GOP from giving him a statesman award at a ceremony also attended by then-candidate Herman Cain.
Before then, the statesmen recipients seemed to be Florida politicians, including former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2009, Rep. Katherine Harris and Connie Mack.
As a Facebook friend of mine pointed out, Merriam-Webster's definition of "statesman" seems to pretty much exclude Trump, no matter how much credit you give for his TV or business success: "1: one versed in the principles or art of government; especially one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government or in shaping its policies. 2: a wise, skillful, and respected political leader."
TIME magazine's Mark Halperin predicted this weekend that Trump, who has not been announced as a speaker at the RNC yet, will attend the convention because he'll already be in the area to receive the statesman award.
Seems odd that one of the biggest names at the RNC might be a guy who has never been elected to any office, whose only political credibility comes from months of talking about running for president and attacking the guy who actually has the job.
Regardless of the publicity (and fundraising) he generates, it seems dangerous to give a TV star with no government experience a significant role at a crucial convention. Because unseating a sitting president isn't simple as shouting "you're fired."