Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made immigration reform and securing America’s borders a central part of his campaign platform, echoing the concerns of millions of Americans who feel they are paying the price for U.S. immigration policy run amok. A central part of that theme is to build a “big, beautiful wall” across the border with Mexico, through which legal immigrants would be welcomed with open arms, while ensuring the sovereignty of the United States via strict immigration controls.
But when he gave his final speech before the Iowa caucuses, the billionaire businessman renewed his promise to build something else — a lavish White House ballroom that he would pay for out of his own pocket. Trump stated:
Every time the top people come over from China … they put up a tent at the White House,” he said, during his final event Sunday in Sioux City, Iowa. “We’ll have a ballroom at the White House.”
The billionaire businessman has apparently been thinking about the concept for some time. He said he had long ago come up with a plan for the new facility, adding:
We’ll get the top people, the top everything, we’ll have the best ballroom. Because I notice they always put tents up on the lawn. Number one, it’s not a good security thing. Number two, the guy that owns the tents is making a fortune.”
Trump had previously approached the Obama administration about constructing a proper ball room for the White House. He contacted David Axelrod — the former senior adviser to President Obama –offering to build a ballroom worth “at least $100 million” for free. “We’ll put it someplace so it works contextually, magnificently,” Trump said of his construction offer, adding “I never heard back.”
Axelrod confirmed that Trump had indeed contacted the White House about a ballroom. “He did offer to build one,” Axelrod confirmed to TIME in an email, although he did not recall Trump saying he would pay for it.
In 2011, the real estate mogul floated the notion of a new White House ballroom on the Rush Limbaugh radio program. Trump — ever the salesman and the builder claimed:
We’ll go through committees. We’ll pick the one they like. We’ll pick the architect everybody likes. We’ll pick something that works. We’ll do 10 designs. You’ll pick the one that’s the greatest with the greatest architecture. I will build it free. So that’s anywhere from 50 to 100 million-dollar gift. I will give that, and I mean, I’m talking, Rush — it’s the first time I’ve said this. I’m talking to the biggest person, one of the biggest people at the White House. I’m not talking to a low-level person.”
The gift of a privately funded new ballroom for the White House is a grand gesture, but one of little consequence to the millions of Americans who remain mired in an economy in which many struggle to stay afloat and a country whose values have seemingly turned upside-down.
Let’s hope that if Trump prevails in his bid for the White House that his concept for addressing the issue of border security is as great a concern to him as the design of an American version of Versailles.