Eric Trump defended his father’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago home, and nearby golf clubs,in a recent interview with an Irish newspaper, comparing the Palm Beach estate to President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
“You can sit with somebody in a golf cart where there might be cultural differences and language barriers and have a good time and build a friendship in a way that you could never do sitting across an office table from someone — and I think being able to go to Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s Florida estate), it is my father’s Crawford, Texas,” Eric Trump said.
The analogy is plausible.
Where President Trump refers to Mar-a-Lago as his “winter White House” or “Southern White House,” those in the Bush administration called the Crawford ranch the “Western White House.” Over the eight years of his presidency, Bush made 77 visits to the ranch and spent 490 days there, according to CBS News. Bush hosted several world leaders at the ranch, including former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President Trump has spent seven weekends at Mar-a-Lago since taking office in January, and in that time has hosted two world leaders: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump, like Bush, has been criticized for the frequency and price of his trips to Palm Beach. The collective cost to local taxpayers for Trump’s trips so far is about $4 million, The Palm Beach Post has reported.
Bush faced criticism throughout his presidency for taking long vacations at his ranch. An August 2005 article in the Washington Post noted that Bush was making his 49th trip to Crawford, and he would spend about five weeks there. At the time, Bush had spent about 20 percent of his presidency at the ranch, according to the article.
“Crawford was George W. Bush’s ranch and Bush brought foreign leaders from all over the world (there),” Eric Trump said in the interview. “He would go down to the ranch and they would drive a truck around and they would have fun and they would eat and that was his way of bonding.
“Mar-a-Lago is an amazing estate that has been a very effective tool for (my father) to go down and get to know somebody while not sitting — no different to you wanting to sit next to me on this couch today — not sitting across a wooden partition, which instantly makes a relationship more strenuous,” Eric Trump said. The goal, he added, is to “find common respect, common ground and friendship,” developing a relationship beyond what it might be if those involved only spoke over the phone or in an office.