In the history of the nation’s capital, no chief executive has ever had so terrible a relationship with his new home as Mr. Trump, who leaves the city a more broken and battered version of itself.
The president found the District to be a prison, confining him to the White House. His only safe spot was his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Any chance he got, he headed for one of his golf clubs, either in Virginia for daylong road trips, or New Jersey or Florida for longer escapes.
The feeling was mutual. D.C. residents regularly lined up to boo his motorcade and jeer his staff as they braved the streets for a bite to eat.
“He considered it a swamp, and they considered him the swamp creature,” said Kevin Chaffee, editor of Washington Life Magazine.
As Mr. Trump departs, his supporters are leaving a parting gift for a city on edge and under siege. Ahead of the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, the Potomac River is being treated like a moat protecting the District. Although the drawbridges aren’t being pulled up, authorities plan to post blockades to deny access from the south.
It’s the latest manifestation of the disdain Mr. Trump and the city have long felt for each other.
Mr. Trump came into office with the least support from D.C. voters of any presidential candidate in history after winning 4% in 2016. He managed to raise that to 5% last year, still far below Richard Nixon’s Republican record of 22% in 1972.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting member of Congress, said Mr. Trump was irked by the Democratic nature of the city, and that made him hostile.
“When the D.C. statehood bill was introduced, he went out of his way to say that is a bunch of Democrats why would we want to give them statehood,” she told The Washington Times.
Asked whether she expected him to follow in the footsteps of the Obamas and Clintons by keeping a residence in the District, she laughed.
“Come on, he doesn’t have any residence here, No. 1,” she said. “No. 2, here is a man who lived in New York his entire life and he doesn’t really keep a residence there anymore. He lives in Florida.”
Mr. Trump may be forced to come back, though.
Federal prosecutors say they haven’t ruled out an investigation of the president as part of their look at criminal charges stemming from the attack on the Capitol.
Before Mr. Trump, presidents were regular parts of the city’s social scene.
Mr. Chaffee said the Reagans attended big affairs and paid visits to friends’ homes. The Clintons were also big figures on the town.
The Bushes were more low-key, and President Obama, who once cut a public television special in Chicago as a food critic, frequented the restaurants in the District for business and pleasure.
He held lunches for campaign supporters, went on date nights with his wife, Michelle, and sometimes made lunch runs for a cheeseburger. He was even known to mix in some diplomacy, by squiring then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev across the river to Arlington for Ray’s Hell Burger.
A night out for Mr. Trump, by contrast, was an exercise in corporate product placement.
“His idea of being social was going to the Trump Hotel and have steak and cheesecake,” Mr. Chaffee said.
Former Rep. James P. Moran, who represented the close-in Virginia suburbs for years, said it’s not that Mr. Trump had an antipathy toward the city.
Indeed, there was a time in Mr. Trump‘s life when he courted the city’s elite and contributed to its politicians. He even attended the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2011 but got a roasting from the stage by President Barack Obama.
These days, the president sees little or nothing to gain from socializing in Washington or having a presence in the city.
That’s why he goes to his own golf clubs and hotels, Mr. Moran said. By showing up, he might draw more business.
“His paradigm is what’s in it for him. How can he enhance his own self-interest,” Mr. Moran said. “If he owned restaurants, he’d be there all the time.”
When Mr. Trump mixed with the city, results were not pretty.
He visited the St. John Paul II National Shrine last year to promote religious freedom, drawing a rebuke from the Catholic archbishop of Washington, who called it “baffling and reprehensible” that the facility would allow him to show up.
The president earned more ire after his administration had protesters forcibly ejected from Lafayette Park last summer before a bizarre visit to hold up a Bible outside the historic St. John’s Church.
But the animosity began long before that incident. Local baseball fans welcomed him with boos when he made the trek to Nationals Park during the 2019 World Series — a slight witnessed on national television.
Two years earlier, he was jeered while delivering what was supposed to be a unifying video address to a crowd at Nationals Park during the 2017 congressional baseball game, just a day after a left-wing zealot tried to kill members of the Republican team while they were practicing in Alexandria.
The Trump-Washington feud extended to the Kennedy Center Honors, a showcase that traditionally offers the city’s political elite a chance to mingle with entertainment royalty. During Mr. Trump‘s first year in office, several of the honorees threatened not to attend should he show. He bowed out, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction — and he has never looked back.
He also never attended the White House Correspondents Association dinner as president.
He did, however, attend the Ford’s Theater Gala in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The event was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
The city’s anger spilled over to those who worked for Mr. Trump or those who defended him.
Then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to leave a Mexican restaurant after she was surrounded by hecklers, and senior Trump aide Stephen Miller was heckled at a different Mexican joint. Mr. Miller also reportedly dropped $80 for sushi at a restaurant, only to have the bartender curse at him and make a crude single-finger gesture.
Politico reported that young Trump staffers were having trouble finding dates once people learned whom they worked for.
That is not to say the city didn’t thrive during Mr. Trump‘s time.
Washington added tens of thousands of residents, topping 700,000 for the first time since the 1970s. Like the rest of the country, the District’s employment picture was remarkably rosy. It added 21,000 jobs on Mr. Trump‘s watch, until the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the city says it’s the president who owes D.C.
Mayor Muriel Bowser last year claimed Mr. Trump and his inauguration committee owed the city $9 million in unpaid security bills — $7.3 million that dates back to the inauguration and the rest from his 2019 Independence Day extravaganza.
Miss Bowser’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to multiple inquires from The Times about the status of that claim.
The city does have an active lawsuit against the Trump Organization and the inaugural committee. It says the nonprofit inaugural committee siphoned $1 million to Mr. Trump‘s company by overpaying for space.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.