article

05.31.11

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump's Pizza Summit

The presidential flirts met in Times Square for a family dinner under a phalanx of cellphone cameras, as Palin's bus tour hit New York. Shushannah Walshe reports on the nascent 2012 campaign's most surreal moment yet.

The presidential flirts met in Times Square for a family dinner under a phalanx of cellphone cameras, as Palin’s bus tour hit New York. Shushannah Walshe reports on the nascent 2012 campaign’s most surreal moment yet. Plus, Andrew Sullivan on Palin's evolving populism.

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, two of the country’s most famous reality-TV stars and presidential flirts, shared a pepperoni pie in Times Square Tuesday evening. It was a family dinner and a made-for-media spectacle that had New Yorkers gawking, in a city that doesn’t gawk at much.

Day 3 of the former Alaska governor’s bus tour went from the sublime to the ridiculous—from the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg to Trump Tower. And, even weirder, to Famous Famiglia Pizza, far from New York City’s most acclaimed pizza joint, but one that did feature prominently in this season’s premiere of Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.

Palin has said her family vacation/testing the waters tour is about getting in touch with American history with stops at such historic sites as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, which she visited earlier Tuesday. But at each stop, she’s been mobbed by both tourists and press. Not that she needed the extra attention, but dining at one of the busiest restaurants in Times Square was a good way to make sure she’d get noticed in New York. She’s consistently told the press and supporters following her on her One Nation bus tour that she is considering getting into the race. Still, Tuesday night’s dinner with Trump offers some fodder to detractors who say she’s just grabbing the spotlight to burnish her celebrity brand.

As the unlikely duo departed Trump Tower for dinner, Trump said he would “love for her to run.” When asked if he would back her, he said, “She didn’t ask me, but I will tell you she’s a great woman, a terrific woman, and a good friend.” Palin added, “We both agree that competition is good and more folks in that primary is better.”

Trump, in a blue suit, and Palin, in the same short-sleeved pink jacket she wore Tuesday morning at Gettysburg, both ate their pizza with a fork. They were joined by Palin’s parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, and Palin’s youngest daughter, Piper. Trump’s wife, Melania, was with them, wearing a white dress and diamonds.

Palin asked for the meeting with the real-estate mogul, she said, because “any time you’re in New York, you want to say hi to Donald Trump.”

Palin, who seemed comfortable at dinner with the Trumps, said the two share “a love for this country.”

Outside Trump Tower, Palin sounded a lot like a candidate, saying both she and Trump have “a desire to see our economy get put back on the right track, making sure that we have a balanced trade arrangement with other countries across this world so that Americans can have our jobs, our industries, our manufacturing again. That’s what built this country. It was manufacturing and exploiting responsibly our natural resources. We can do that again if we make sensible decisions.”

At the restaurant, the press was held back by yellow tape. At one point during the meal, Trump looked at the crush of journalists, tourists, and locals, and said to Palin’s daughter Piper, “See? Your mom is so popular!”

At the end of their dinner, which lasted about 40 minutes, Trump kissed Palin on the cheek. They both thanked staff and posed for pictures, with Palin complimenting the “real New York City pizza.”

Palin told The Daily Beast afterward that she and Trump chatted about their families and how important it is to keep American companies manufacturing in the United States. The two also spoke about politics, she said: “The lineup… the Republican bench, to try to kind of figure out who’s moving forward and what it may look like when it’s finalized.”

Palin asked for the meeting with the real-estate mogul, she said, because “any time you’re in New York, you want to say hi to Donald Trump.”

Earlier this spring, when Trump floated his presidential trial balloon, Palin had endeared herself to him when she said she supported Trump “getting to the bottom” of President Obama’s birth certificate. The president later released the long version of his Hawaii birth certificate.

As she left the restaurant, Palin was asked whether she believes Obama is beatable. “Definitely, I do,” she said.

On the sidewalk, dozens of people surrounded the former governor, many taking cellphone photos. Two yelled, “Obama!” Another urged her to run for president.

One woman, Janet Bernard, who described herself as a “union worker” and “diehard Democrat,” told Palin she thought Republicans only wanted to help people “with money” and not “working people.”

Palin handled the challenge with aplomb: “We have to make it about working people.” Bernard, who seemed satisfied, wished Palin “all the best.”

On Wednesday, Palin is expected to tour Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and ground zero in New York City before heading north to New Hampshire.

Reporters are sure to sweat as they scramble to follow the oddly elusive, spotlight-loving non-candidate. But it’s clear that Tuesday’s reality-star summit will go down as one of the more surreal moments of 2012 presidential politics. With apologies to Cindy Adams: “Only in New York kids, only in New York.”

Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.