A decade or so ago, I lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., and taught at a campus on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway from the famous, and infamous, world that is Palm Beach.
Now, the people who live in this enclave of big money tend to talk and, no surprise, one of things they love to talk about is people with money and how those people spend their money. A central question is whether the person being discussed is "old (inherited) money" or "new money."
The key: Those "new money" people (think Rush Limbaugh) have to graciously earn respect from the many Palm Beachers with old money, don't you know.
During the years I was there, I heard local folks say one thing over and over about Donald Trump, whose profile on both sides of the Intercoastal was, well, YYHHUUGGEE. Trump, folks agreed, was the ultimate example of "old money" who kept acting like "new money." This was not a compliment.
I pass along this observation because of that New York Times feature that ran the other day describing the life of the billionaire GOP front-runner through the eyes of a man who would certainly know the fine details -- the man who for decades served as the butler at Citizen Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Anthony Senecal, now semi-retired, has to know the details of Trump's life, tastes and habits inside out. In light of the obsessive news coverage of Trump's life and beliefs during this campaign, what question would any reporter be SURE to ask if granted an interview with this butler?
Let's see if we can spot the God-shaped hole here. But first, the overture:
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Everything seemed to sparkle at the Mar-a-Lago estate here on a recent afternoon. The sun glinted off the pool and the black Secret Service S.U.V.s in the circular driveway. Palm trees rustled in a warm breeze, croquet balls clicked and a security guard stood at the entrance to Donald J. Trump’s private living quarters.
“You can always tell when the king is here,” Mr. Trump’s longtime butler here, Anthony Senecal, said of the master of the house and Republican presidential candidate.
The king was returning that day to his Versailles, a 118-room snowbird’s paradise that will become a winter White House if he is elected president. Mar-a-Lago is where Mr. Trump comes to escape, entertain and luxuriate in a Mediterranean-style manse, built 90 years ago by the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.
Few people here can anticipate Mr. Trump’s demands and desires better than Mr. Senecal, 74, who has worked at the property for nearly 60 years, and for Mr. Trump for nearly 30 of them. He understands Mr. Trump’s sleeping patterns and how he likes his steak (“It would rock on the plate, it was so well done”), and how Mr. Trump insists -- despite the hair salon on the premises -- on doing his own hair.
Moving on. What we need here is a wine reference. Ready?
Mr. Senecal knows how to stroke his ego and lift his spirits, like the time years ago he received an urgent warning from Mr. Trump’s soon-to-land plane that the mogul was in a sour mood. Mr. Senecal quickly hired a bugler to play “Hail to the Chief” as Mr. Trump stepped out of his limousine to enter Mar-a-Lago.
Most days, though, he greeted Mr. Trump with little fanfare, taking the suit he arrived in to be pressed in the full-service laundry in the basement.
The next morning, before dawn and after about four hours’ sleep, Mr. Trump would meet him at the arched entrance of his private quarters to accept a bundle of newspapers including The New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post and the Palm Beach papers. Mr. Trump would emerge hours later, in khakis, a white golf shirt and baseball cap. If the cap was white, the staff noticed, the boss was in a good mood. If it was red, it was best to stay away.
On Sundays, Mr. Trump would drive himself to his nearby golf course, alternating each year between his black Bentley and his white Bentley.
Ah, where else might Trump go on a Sunday morning? His 2005 wedding took place in Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church (thumbnail image out front). That is not a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which is Trump's family flock, but it would certainly have fine services on Sunday mornings where he would be welcomed for a "cracker" and a sip of, I would assume, non-Trump brand wine.
So it's golf instead of church? Seriously?
In light of the role Trump's faith, or lack thereof, has played in this year's campaign, can you imagine a representative of the world's most powerful newspaper not asking the butler that Sunday-morning question?
As for me, I am shocked, shocked at this gap in the coverage.