Donald Trump will fit right in on Pennsylvania Avenue

Petula Dvorak
Columnist February 9, 2012

How is Donald Trump NOT perfect for D.C.?

He’s got the persistence of a lobbyist, the family money of a past president or two, the shamelessness of a scandal-plagued senator, the marital track record of at least one former House speaker (ahem) and the self-promotional drive that draws so many of America’s student council presidents to the nation’s capital.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive

He’s even had the Salahis to knock down the reality show stigma. Former congressman Jim Traficant long ago broke down the bad-hair barrier in this town, and House Speaker John A. Boehner paved the road for all slightly-orange Americans to have a place at the federal table.

Don’t let our somber memorials, granite monuments and marble staircases fool you, Washington is really pretty Atlantic City on the inside.

And that’s why The Donald will fit right in on Pennsylvania Avenue.

There was a collective gasp this week when Trump was picked to transform a federal landmark building — the Old Post Office Pavilion — into a luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Nooooooooooo,” cried at least one reader who saw the news.

The federal government, after a sad, ’80s-mall-looking effort to turn the Old Post Office into a food court and office building, realized that the stately, gorgeous building at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue was losing about $6 million a year. So the General Services Administration opened it up to all who think they can make money on it.

The Waldorf Astoria wanted in on the action but was elbowed out by The Donald.

I know, Waldorf Astoria sounds so old New York glammy. But get over it. That’s not for us.

For the city of political call girls, open marriages, rat infestations, Internet gambling and Oval Office intern sexicles, we really need something racier than a Waldorf Astoria.

We’ve got a rat problem so intense it calls for a Rat Summit. Of course we need a New Yorker here to help sort it all out. Maybe Trump can start by chairing the Rat Summit, “Apprentice”-style.

The postal pavilion is a beautiful building with a 315-foot-high tower, making it one of the tallest buildings in the nation’s capital. It houses the Bells of Congress. If you’ve ever heard them, they sound much better than the other ding-a-lings up the street, under the dome.

Don’t worry, there is no way that The Donald can Trump that.

The building is an official historic landmark and all plans will fall under heavy scrutiny by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, says the commission’s secretary, Thomas Luebke.

“The good news is that there is a fairly intense regulatory review process for federal historic properties . . . that may tone down what you might otherwise expect,” Luebke soothed me.

So it won’t be gold-plated, glass-enclosed or Taj Mahaled with neon onion domes atop the bell tower. The National Park Service will retain control of the tower and it will remain open for tours.

In fact, the construction of a luxury hotel inside this building will do far less damage to Pennsyvlania Avenue than all the nonsensical security bollards that have sprouted everywhere.

The hotel may spark a revival for a tired area of the city that’s prime real estate, but somehow still forlorn. There’s little more than federal facades, those bollards and the sad, still vacant storefront left after Les Halles decamped the avenue.

Plus, it’s about time that D.C. made it onto every developer’s must-have list. The fact that it’s The Donald should come as no surprise. Hasn’t the man been making noise about seeking another Pennsylvania Avenue address for quite some time?

Little by little, Trump has been getting a toehold here.

First, there was his chi-chi golf club. He calls it Trump National Golf Club Washington D.C., which is pretty funny, since it’s closer to Sterling than to the Senate.

Then, he bought the Kluge Estate Winery in Charlottesville, christening it Trump Winery last fall.

Do you see the pattern here?

Over the past few election cycles, Trump always seems to make some noise about running for office, then abandons the notion.

Now he’s taking a different approach, setting up shop closer and closer to the White House.

He tried to host a presidential debate, but that fizzled. Then he met with GOP candidates and eventually endorsed Mitt Romney. You think they talked about how they each tell employees, “You’re fired”?

Jon Huntsman doesn’t like Trump’s outsider approach to circling Washington.

“I just don’t have any respect for people who try to do that,” Huntsman said on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” this week. “If you want influence in politics, get in the arena, become a candidate. Get out there and fight and slug it out instead of trying to control it from the outside.”

Nah, buying a hotel is so much cheaper.

Dvorak will respond to your comments about this column at noon Friday at washingtonpost.com/dvorak. You can also see previous columns there.

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