Combining official business with personal business is not the way to go.
President Donald Trump attracts controversy the way dogs draw fleas.
Some of it is unavoidable, the consequence of making decisions and taking official actions that can be subject to dispute. But there are avoidable controversies as well, the latest being Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to stay at a Trump-owned golf resort in Ireland.
A Pence spokesman said Trump “suggested” Pence and his entourage stay at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel, prompting Democrats to charge the president with using his office for personal gain.
True or not, that sort of allegation can be bypassed by avoiding at all costs any sort of government-related business at Trump properties.
Here’s another example of what Democrats are complaining about. They became incensed after Trump suggested his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., as a site for a G-7 meeting, to the point that Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster contends that Trump could be impeached and removed from office for his proposal.
That’s a little over the top.
Nonetheless, being seen as mixing personal business with official business looks bad and is easily avoidable.
Having said that, if anything is certain it’s that Trump will ignore any suggestions that he take a cautious approach on issues like this. Given his combative personality and irresistible instinct for doing the opposite of what his critics suggest — no matter what it is — Trump will continue to chart his own course and leave it to the public to decide what, if anything, to do about it.
As for the specifics of Pence’s stay at Trump’s Ireland golf resort, the issue is more complicated than what critics suggest.
Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, told reporters that Trump’s 120-room resort was “the one facility” that could accommodate the Pence delegation and that changes in Pence’s schedule were driven by Hurricane Dorian and a revision of his itinerary.
“When the hurricane arose and the president asked the vice president to go to Poland in his stead, our logistical challenge was how do we make all of that work. We took the Ireland component that was at the back end of the trip and moved it to the front, because it already had been secured by the Secret Service. They had done all the advance work. And the facility, we knew, was safe and protected,” he said.
Pence had meetings in Dublin, prompting some suggestions that he and his entourage should have stayed there. But Short said it was too late to do so because of Pence’s changing schedule.
So is that all a pack of lies designed to avoid the truth — that Pence intentionally stayed at a Trump property to boost its bottom line. Trump critics will respond to that query with an enthusiastic yes, and the drumbeat of negative publicity will reverberate from there.
Who needs that?
Certainly not the Trump administration.
As a multibillionaire real estate developer and hotel/resort magnate, Trump doesn’t need whatever income is generated by these controversial stays. More important, as a public official, he doesn’t need the aggravation, although it’s clear that his critics are more aggravated by Trump than he is by their complaints.
What’s most important, however, is what the country needs.
It needs a break from all the political back-and-forth that goes with a president who invites controversy by encouraging the official use of his properties in ways that can be construed as an effort to boost his personal businesses.