Eleven years ago, the re-elected George W. Bush was president, and Hillary Clinton was both the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from New York and the first spouse of a president in U.S. history to have won election to any public office. In the Senate — by her thorough preparation and unpretentious manner, by her faithful attendance at tedious Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee meetings, by regularly declining a standing invitation to appear on Sunday TV talk shows and by assiduously sharing all credit and press coverage with her less famous colleagues — she had successfully overcome initial skepticism and earned respect from a big majority of both Republican and Democratic senators.
This was 2005 — when Donald J. Trump was still only a celebrity real estate developer in New York widely known for his romantic escapades, documented in the city's tabloid press, and for his voluntary and controversial quotes. Here is a representative sample of the latter — then already on the record: "You know, it doesn't really matter what (the media) write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass." "I've got ... black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes." "When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass — a good one! — there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left."
That year, Sen. Clinton, busy making 130 trips to meet and listen to her New York constituents in their hometowns, was already leading all other potential challengers for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination by 25 percent in the Gallup Poll. She was named — for the fourth consecutive year, Gallup reported — the nation's most admired woman. Her office was uninterruptedly inundated with invitations and entreaties to honor her from hundreds of major educational, civic, charitable, professional and political groups. Scheduling personal time for family and rest was always a challenge for her.
So please explain why on Jan. 22, 2005, in the front pew of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, for Donald Trump's third wedding, to Melania Knauss, we saw Sen. Hillary Clinton — to be joined at the lavish Mar-a-Lago reception by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The non-blushing groom later explained the Clintons' acceptance of his invitation on "Fox & Friends": "I'm a businessman. I contribute to everybody. That's part of the problem of the system, as an example. I contribute to everybody. When I need Hillary, she was there. If I say 'go to my wedding,' they go to my wedding." To Trump, every human relationship — outside of his immediate family — is transactional, never really personal. What's in it for me? Trump has bragged repeatedly about all the famous people who know him. The wedding photos of the two couples suggest good friends celebrating a joyous occasion.
Earlier in this campaign, Hillary Clinton tried to explain why she chose to travel on a rare free weekend to Florida to attend the wedding of the man who has since repeatedly called her "evil," called her "the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States" and charged, before the nation, that she has "tremendous hate in her heart." Clinton "thought it'd be fun." That's just not good enough.
I understand why Donald Trump invited Hillary Clinton to his wedding — along with Matt Lauer and Barbara Walters and Katie Couric — but what I cannot understand is why Hillary Clinton would accept. Was it, like her attachment to faithless political consultant Dick Morris, just bad judgment — or was it the money? We deserve an answer.
To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.