China summit, Syrian strikes in past, this is new normal for Trump


Two days after President Donald Trump ordered airstrikes on Syria while dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-A-Lago and a day after the leader of the world’s largest Communist nation checked out of a tony Manalapan hotel, life returned to normal on Saturday in Palm Beach County.

Well, what has become normal since Trump’s inauguration nearly three months ago.

Normal traffic snarls erupted as Trump visited his golf club on Summit Boulevard to play a round of golf. Normal sign-waving protests followed.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Presidential summit in Palm Beach

And, as has become their new normal, Hypoluxo Island residents Karl and Nina Lindroos drove their very abnormal, yet spectacular “Trump Mobile” to the impromptu rally across from Trump International Golf Club. The massive hearse-like vehicle, embellished with a mini-Trump carving and maxi versions of Trumpisms like “Make America Great Again,” countered an array of “Dump Trump” and “Stop Hate” signs brandished by about 50 protesters nearby.

Even life in the Manalapan area, which had been transformed into a makeshift China-town during Xi’s two-day stay at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, showed signs of rebounding. Most notable: The green tea ice cream was gone.

“We sold out,” said Tara Skrecz, manager of the Ice Cream Club in the Del Mar Plaza across State Road A1A from the oceanfront hotel. Chinese visitors who mobbed the shopping center loved it, she said of the confection whipped up specially for Xi’s visit.

» MELANIA PHOTOS: The First Lady and the Chinese First Lady gave a local school a surprise visit

To welcome Chinese tourists, who reportedly travelled from California, New York and other places that have real Chinatowns for a chance to see the revered leader of their homeland, store keepers adjusted.

Emi Ebben, manager of Jewelry Artisans, said she swapped out some of her usual offerings for ones featuring jade. Aom Srimongkol, manager of Asian fusion restaurant Thaikyo, recognized that none of their loyal customers could reach the plaza that was ringed with wire fencing and barricades for Xi’s visit, so they turned into a way station for the Chinese visitors.

» PHOTO GALLERY: Trump and Xi visit Palm Beach

Working from 5 a.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday, Srimongkol said she and others served free water and soft drinks to an estimated 500 Chinese guests, allowing them to use the restrooms and take a break from the heat.

“We decided to help people, to let them use our restroom,” she said. “It was packed.”

Like other store owners, the native of Thailand said the visit was somewhat costly in terms of lost sales. But there were few complaints.

From her perch inside the ice cream shop, Skrecz said she could see security guards running alongside the limousines that delivered Xi and his delegation to the hotel. “It was fun to watch,” she said. “It was different than a normal day.”

Ebben agreed. While business was slow, with the police, federal agents and media converged on the typically sleepy plaza, “There was a buzz,” she said.

» MAR-A-LAGO: Take a peek inside Trump’s Winter White House

Harris Hollin, who lives near the shopping plaza, said the small inconveniences — like traffic jams and his wife being forced to reschedule her hair appointment — were worth it. “How often do you have two presidents in Palm Beach County?” said Hollin, 85, a retired manufacturing company owner. “It’s very exciting. The whole world is centered right here on Palm Beach County.”

And as he often does while in Palm Beach County, Trump tweeted.

He first thanked Xi and his wife for the visit, mentioning “tremendous goodwill and friendship was formed,” before adding “but only time will tell on trade.” He followed that tweet by thanking the “great military men and women” for representing the country in the Syria attack. Back at Mar-a-Lago, he appeared to tweet in defense of the attack on the airport, which was reportedly reopened Saturday, by writing: “The reason you don’t generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!” He tweeted later about Judge Neil Gorsuch being sworn in at the Rose garden on Monday.

It was Trump’s sixth visit to his Southern, or Winter White House, in 11 weeks. Protesters mentioned that in addition to the traffic headaches, the president’s trips are costly for the county.

The Palm Beach Indivisibles, a group that has taken part in past protests against Trump, figured the president would want to relax with a game of golf after a couple of hectic days, so they gathered across from Trump International at about 8 a.m. About an hour later, the telltale caravan of black SUVs arrived.

As cars whizzed by, with some honking their horns in support and some drivers yelling, “Build the wall!,” members of the group voiced concern about Thursday’s attack on Syria. “I don’t agree with the Assad regime,” Indivisibles member Christelle Martin, said referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “But when missiles are launched anywhere it should be well-placed. There needs to be a strategy. I don’t like an impulse finger on that button.”

Nearby Lindroos and his smaller group of Trump supporters, gave the protesters wide berth. A native of Finland, he said he knows people are deeply split. “We understand it’s divided,” he said. But, he said, he supports Trump’s decision to punish Syria for using chemical weapons against civilians, including children.

While not all felt comfortable joining his group or the protesters or even expressing their views with a toot, some showed their support in other ways. As Lindroos showed off his aptly named Trump Mobile, which he outfitted with a welcoming message for Xi written in Chinese, a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy pulled alongside in a cruiser. Without speaking, the deputy raised a red cap: “Make America Great Again,” it read.

 



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