What Would Donald Do?
Hillary and Donald’s Wild Palm Beach Weekend
Bo Dietl (a former New York City Police Department detective) went to Donald Trump’s third wedding in January 2005 in Palm Beach, Florida, because he’s good friends with Trump and the wedding was “the wedding of weddings” and anybody who got an invitation and didn’t go had to have been “on crack.” So there was the ex-New York City homicide detective and Fox News contributor, in the gardenias-scented Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, when up walked Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary came running over,” Dietl said. “She was very nice. ‘Bo, how ya doin’?’ ‘Bo, I love you.’”
This, he thought, was strange, seeing as how they’re politically so at odds, a fact he has made public and plain. Voters now may feel a similar sense of befuddlement at the notion that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were once friendly enough that she attended his joyful nuptials.
The wonkish Clinton the front-runner for the Democrats. The bombastic Trump the front-runner for the Republicans. What exactly was she doing at his wedding? Why did Trump invite Clinton, who at the time was the junior senator from New York, and why was she there, along with her plus-one, former President Bill Clinton, who didn’t attend the actual ceremony but did arrive for later portions of the opulent soiree?
“As a contributor,” Trump said in a statement, referring to checks he’s written to her campaigns as well as the Clintons’ foundation, “I demanded that they be there—they had no choice and that’s what’s wrong with our country. Our country is run by and for donors, special interests and lobbyists, and that is not a good formula for our country’s success. With me, there are no lobbyists and special interests. My only special interest is the United States of America.
The common denominator of the A-list guest list: people who had become “personalities.” Oprah Winfrey. Katie Couric. Derek Jeter. Barbara Walters. Russell Simmons. Star Jones. Anna Wintour. Simon Cowell. Don King. Kelly Ripa. Chris Matthews. Sylvester Stallone. Stone Phillips. Shaquille O’Neal. Four hundred some-odd somebodies in a church to see Trump.
The groom had taken his place at the altar. The soloist was singing “Ave Maria.” And in the air at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Fla., the scent of gardenias and roses lent a heady sweetness. Then shortly after 7 p.m. Jan. 22, the doors at the back of the chapel opened, and some 450 guests were riveted by the sight of Melania Knauss, standing tall and serene in a custom-made Christian Dior gown. As she began to walk, she briefly faltered, her attendants struggling to hold her 13-ft. train and 16-ft. veil. And from the pews a cell phone rang. But nothing could spoil the moment for Knauss, and her beau of six years, Donald Trump. In a traditional ceremony, they knelt, they prayed, and in voices so low many guests could not hear them, they exchanged vows. “We had a little smile, but we were serious, because they are serious words,” says Melania. Then her new husband kissed her not once but three times. “We completely forgot everything around us,” she says. “It was just us two. It was beautiful.”
And so the billionaire lord of real estate and reality TV and his Slovenian bride began life together—with the help of 45 chefs, 28 seamstresses, 100 limousine drivers and the guys who drove dozens of refrigerated trucks with some 10,000 flowers from New York to Florida to provide the all-white roses, hydrangeas, gardenias and peonies the bride had her heart set on. “I love white and wanted [the look] clean,” says the new Mrs. Trump, who succeeds Ivana Trump, and Maria Maples, to the title. Though Knauss hired Manhattan event planner Preston Bailey, “a lot of it Melania took care of herself, She really was very clear with her vision.
Clinton sat in the front row of the pews.
“I think it was a respect thing,” Dietl said. “If I was a U.S. senator, I would’ve been seated in the front.” Instead, he was seated in the third row, he said, behind O’Neal, the basketball behemoth. “I couldn’t see much,” he said.
Trump, then 58, wed Slovenian model Melania Knauss, then 34, in a ceremony that lasted about half an hour. He wore a black Brioni tuxedo. She wore a $200,000 Christian Dior dress, replete with 300 feet of satin, 1,500 crystals and pearls and a 13-foot, 50-pound train. The strapless gown reportedly took 1,000 hours to make.
Joyce McLendon, the wife of a Palm Beach town councilman, called the wedding “lovely” and “simple.” After the ceremony, McLendon took an opportunity, she said, to talk to Clinton. Her daughter had been a student at Wellesley College at the same time as Clinton, nee Rodham, and “she was still sitting there, alone,” McLendon said. “She was obviously waiting until the press went away. We chatted awhile.”
Clinton wasn’t the only politician on hand. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, was there. Al D’Amato, the former New York senator, was there. Through an aide, D’Amato, said the wedding was “great” but doesn’t remember much other than that. Clinton wasn’t even the only future 2016 presidential candidate there. George Pataki, at the time the governor of New York, happily accepted the invitation to the Trump nuptials on account of Trump’s previous financial support and their generally amicable relationship.
The reception and after-party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago manse featured song and dance facilitated by Tony Bennett and Billy Joel; lobster, caviar and filet mignon; and a 5-foot-tall wedding cake covered with buttercream frosting and 3,000 roses made of white icing, according to New York City tabloids, Florida local papers and People magazine. The total bill for the festivities reached an estimated $1 million.
The image to contemplate today is of Hillary Clinton sitting in the front pew at Donald Trump’s third wedding in 2005.
“I didn’t know him that well,” she later said. “I mean, I knew him.”
She went on, “I happened to be in Florida, and I thought it was going to be fun to go to this wedding, because it’s always entertaining.”
Trump later told the press, “Hillary Clinton, I said, ‘Be at my wedding,’ and she came to my wedding. She had no choice because I gave to [the Clinton] foundation.”
While Bill Clinton skipped the church ceremony, he attended the reception afterward at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.
One actual truth is that Hillary Clinton did not likely attend Trump’s wedding because he had donated to the Clinton Foundation.
Hillary was almost certainly there because she is mesmerized by wealth. She and Bill look as happy as happy can be in the photos taken with Trump and his third bride, Melania Knauss, at the reception. Hillary looks less like someone on the make than someone who wants to have made it.
A hunger for cash that seems to have made her blind to future political consequences compelled Hillary to take several six-figure speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. She pocketed $225,000 for what has been described as a “rah-rah” speech in 2013, even as the bank was seeking a multibillion-dollar settlement with the government for allegedly fraudulent practices that helped nearly wreck the global economy.
After she and her husband had made more than $150 million from peddling their presence in one place for or another, Hillary described herself as “unlike a lot of people who are truly well off.”
In contrast, Trump began his presidential campaign by declaring “I’m REALLY rich.” That helped him present himself as somebody who “tells it like it is”
At first, Hillary failed to take Trump’s campaign seriously, using the same word to describe it that she had used to describe his wedding.
“It’s all entertainment,” she told a reporter. “I think he’s having the time of his life, saying what he wants to say, getting people excited both for and against him.”
Hillary found her outrage only when Trump became a serious contender and therefore a threat to her by further tapping into angers that extend beyond race into class. Trump was one person who intuitively understood the vehemence of the opposition to Obama had little to do with his actual performance.
Hillary Clinton Should Ask Herself: What Would Donald Trump Do?
Hillary has a lot to learn from The Donald about how to handle herself in the circus that has become politics. Trump could teach Clinton a thing or two about trust, risk-taking, and counter-punching. Instead of feeling embarrassed for celebrity-slumming at his wedding, she should ask herself every so often: WWDD. What Would Donald Do?