SEOUL, South Korea – The world was watching as President Trump stepped to the microphone in the heart of South Korea's National Assembly to deliver a high-stakes speech to rally fellow leaders against North Korea. What better time for the president to talk about … his New Jersey golf course?
Not long after he began his remarks, broadcast live on television feeds from Tokyo to Seoul to Washington, Trump took a moment to praise South Korea on the nation's remarkable economic rise after the Korean War six decades ago. In doing so, he talked about the people's prowess in engineering, technology, medicine, music and education.
Then he got to golf. "Korean golfers are some of the best on Earth," he said, drawing applause. Waiting a beat, he smiled and added: "And you know what I'm going to say – the women's U.S. Open was held this year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey."
The president continued to note that Sung Hyun Park, a South Korean, won the tournament and seven more of her compatriots finished in the top 10.
"Congratulations. Now, that's something. That is really something," Trump said, enjoying more applause.
To Trump's critics, including Democrats and some journalists, the plug was more evidence that the former New York business mogul is determined to use the office of the presidency to promote his personal brand.
Critics have suggested that such behavior represents a misuse of power and opens the president up to charges of inappropriate influence. Many foreign government delegations, for example, have stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Trump has spent 95 out of the 277 days of his presidency at a Trump-branded property, according to the New York Times.
Reporters in the room for Trump's speech said his South Korean audience greeted the president's plug with enthusiasm, perhaps happy that he was lavishing praise on their country's female athletes at a time when there remains widespread uncertainty about Trump's relationship with President Moon Jae-in.
Continuing on with his prepared remarks, Trump then offered some well-wishes in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea.
"You will do a magnificent job," he said. "Good luck."