Sarasota Republicans give ‘Statesman of the Year’ award to non-statesman

On July 9, Republicans in Sarasota County announced that they would honor Donald Trump as their 2012 “Statesman of the Year” at a fundraiser dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here on Aug. 26, the eve of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

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This annual award has been in existence since 2000, Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters said in a telephone interview. The 2011 honoree was Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.  Charlie Crist, before he quit the Republican Party, received the award in 2010.

To be a statesman, the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright observed, you must first get elected.  Unlike Barbour or Crist, Trump has never held elective office. He is principally known as a celebrity real estate developer, television personality (The Apprentice); and author (with Tony Schwartz) of Trump: The Art of the Deal.

Gruters said the party organization had reached out to Donald (“You’re fired!”) Trump because of “his proven record as a creator of jobs.” Trump, he said, is a highly successful businessman.

And so he may be, depending on your definition of success. Keep in mind that Trump’s job creation claims are unsubstantiated and that he has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times. Several of his projects, such as Trump Tower Tampa, are unbuilt and languish in various stages of litigation.

Asked whether the choice of Trump to receive the award should be understood as an endorsement by Sarasota Republicans of Trump as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate, Gruters answered that it should not.

“Statesman of the Year” is not Trump’s first award. He has a commemorative star (television) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was given him in 2007 by the Hollywood (California) Chamber of Commerce.  There are more than 2,400 stars along the Walk of Fame.

The Apprentice was twice nominated for an Emmy but lost on both occasions to The Amazing Race. Trump did win a 1991 Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor in the 1989 film Ghosts Can’t Do It, in a cameo role in which he played himself.

The money raised at Trump’s award dinner will be used to support Romney’s campaign.  One former Reagan Administration official acknowledged – off the record – that the money will be appreciated. He added that given Sarasota’s beginnings as a circus town, the selection of the clownish Trump for the award is perhaps forgivable.