When Donald Trump started making noise about running for president, I knew next to nothing about him.  Since I don’t watch television, I’m not sure whether I could even have identified him in a lineup.  I knew only that he was a New York-based real-estate mogul and had a series of beautiful wives.  So it was of great interest to me when the Friends of Abe (FOA) announced that the group’s next dinner would have Donald Trump as the featured speaker.

At previous FOA events I had listened to Antonin Scalia, Rush Limbaugh, Joe Arpaio, and Ted Cruz, among others.  Attendance is by membership only, and the events are not only not publicized but kept confidential.  This is not because FOA members are engaged in nefarious activities, but because they are conservatives who work in Hollywood.  Most fear that if their politics are revealed, they will be blacklisted.  This goes for actors, writers, directors, producers, and others who are all too familiar with the leftist ideology and intolerance of dissenting opinions that pervade the industry.

Gary Sinise was the principal mover in organizing FOA.  He and some other conservatives thought they needed a less than obvious way of revealing their politics to one another.  Recalling that in the 1930’s and 40’s in Hollywood, gays identified one another by asking if they were a friend of Dorothy or a friend of Judy, referring to Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, Sinise and company thought of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.  Moreover, a friend of Abe would sound innocuous in Hollywood.  As many have joked, isn’t he a producer with Paramount, or an agent at William Morris?

That conservatives have to go to such extremes to hide their political inclinations reveals much about the totalitarian nature of leftist ideology.  All members of FOA are requested to respect the privacy of other members.  No filming, photographing, or recording is allowed at the events.  The Daily Beast has called FOA “a secretive group of Hollywood right-wingers,” which operates under “the same PR rules as Fight Club.”  Still, a few members of FOA have either come out of the closet on their own or been outed, including Gary Sinise, Lionel Chetwynd, Jon Voight, Clint Eastwood, James Caviezel, Pat Boone, Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, and Bo Derek.  From a few-dozen members seven or eight years ago, there are now more than 2,000.

Scheduled for Friday evening, July 10, at the Luxe Hotel in Brentwood, the dinner with Donald Trump was another confidential FOA affair.  Somehow, though, word of Trump’s appearance was leaked several days before the event.  Rumor has it that a disaffected former FOA member was the informer.  The Daily Beast immediately ran with the headline The Super Secretive Hollywood Gang That Loves Trump.  The Daily Kos was equally hyperbolic: Hollywood GOP Group “Friends of Abe” Lauds Racist Trump.  LA Weekly proclaimed, L.A. Latinos Are Sharpening Their Pitchforks for Trump’s Arrival.  The Hollywood Reporter was considerably more restrained: Donald Trump to Address Hollywood’s Secret Conservative Group.

A spokesman for something called the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said, “If Mr. Trump is coming to L.A., he should be prepared to know that L.A. will not be welcoming him with open arms.  There will be some social media campaigning that will call on the hotel to rescind their invitation to Mr. Trump.”  Of course, the hotel didn’t invite Trump, and the general manager of the Luxe, when asked to comment, replied, “Events occur at our hotels regularly.  The organizations who book these events are solely responsible for their speakers and their content.”  LA Weekly had earlier advised Donald Trump not to come to Los Angeles and now said, “We predict that the hotel, facing pressure from Latino groups, will cave before Trump even steps on his private jet.  But you never know.”

Apparently accepting the inevitability of the event, the Daily Kos thought a massive protest was the answer.  “The banquet room will be closed to the public,” said Kos,

but not the lobby, bar, and patio outside the banquet room, nor the sidewalk on Sunset Blvd. off of which all cars entering the hotel must turn. . . . Why not take a page from the catchphrase book of Friends of Abe leader Clint Eastwood and tell racist, xenophobic, immigrant-bashing Trump to “get off our lawn” (and take the Friends of Abe with him)?

LA Weekly suggested Trump’s visit would be met with a dangerous level of protest.  “If you recently said that Mexican immigrants are criminals and ‘rapists,’ we wouldn’t advise coming to Los Angeles.  About one of every two people in the county is Latino, mostly of Mexican descent.  We wouldn’t suggest it for our worst enemy.”

Ignoring the veiled threats, Trump arrived on schedule.  He met first with the family of Jamiel Shaw, Jr., a star football player at Los Angeles High School who was shot to death by illegal alien Pedro Espinoza.  The Mexican Espinoza had been released from jail after serving time for assault with a deadly weapon only the day before he killed Shaw.  Trump and the rest of us among the unwashed masses asked why Espinoza hadn’t been handed over to ICE for deportation upon his release.

I’m old enough to remember a time when legal immigrants worried about getting too many traffic tickets for fear of deportation.

Trump later held a press conference at the Beverly Wilshire.  Standing behind him were the parents of Jamiel Shaw as well as the relatives of several other people who had been killed by illegal aliens.  Asked about Trump’s remarks concerning illegal immigrants, Jamiel Shaw, Sr., said they made him “happy for the first time” since his son’s death.  The mother, Anita Shaw, said the family endorses Donald Trump for President.  Her sister declared, “We love Mr. Trump.  We’re happy because we know he spoke up and he said something.”

While Trump was holding his press conference, my wife and I were battling Friday-evening traffic to reach the Luxe.  I was prepared for a nightmarish traffic jam surrounding the hotel.  Instead, I found a large LAPD presence, and traffic was moving reasonably well.  The anticipated massive protest didn’t materialize.  There may have been 200 people gathered around the Luxe, chanting and waving signs, but probably a quarter of them were Trump supporters.  Moreover, the boys in blue kept the entrance to the hotel wide open, and once we were identified we rolled in.  Both police and private-security personnel were everywhere on the hotel grounds, and the “lobby, bar, and patio outside the banquet room” had nary a protester but were crowded with FOA members.

After locating our assigned table and socializing for an hour, I stepped out onto the patio for a stretch and some fresh air.  At that very moment, approaching the door I had just exited were what looked like four or five linebackers and tight ends.  (Think Clay Matthews and Rob Gronkow ski.)  All were wearing earpieces, and all were on high alert.  In the middle of them, with a couple of assistants, was Donald Trump.  He was a bigger guy than I had anticipated, a good 6’1″ or better with a large frame.  For a 69-year-old he looked solid and robust.  His stride and posture exuded confidence.  Like him or hate him, he had a commanding presence.  He took his seat at a table not far from us.  Also at his table were Ann Coulter and several actors I’m not at liberty to mention.

When it came time for him to speak, he took control of the room immediately.  He said he hated being described again and again as sucking the oxygen out of a room, but that’s exactly what he did.  He’s a powerful figure who by the very force of his own nature becomes a cynosure.  He spoke clearly, directly, and extemporaneously.  One subject would quickly lead to another and to a digression or two before returning to his original point.  It was obvious that ideas popped into his mind with lightning quickness and then popped, unedited, out of his mouth.  His bold, brash, and aggressive style has probably led many people to underestimate his intellect.  Do so at your own peril.  The guy is far sharper and far quicker, and has a far greater appreciation of the issues, than the left or the Republican Party bosses would like you to believe.  Moreover, Trump can be funny.

It also seemed to me that Donald Trump’s biggest fan is Donald Trump.  He’s not above singing his own praises—regularly.  For some strange reason, it’s not entirely off-putting.  He seems to promote his own achievements with a guileless boyish enthusiasm.  “Hey, I thought I was worth eight billion and the media didn’t think I’d ever dare reveal the value of my holdings.  So I had a team of accountants add things up and it turns out I’m worth more like ten billion.”  You could see he loved it like a kid who had just gotten a half-dozen new customers on his paper route.

Most importantly, throughout his talk to the FOA, Trump, again and again, addressed issues that the Republican establishment has been afraid to mention—the very issues that the Republican base has pleaded, again and again, to be brought to the fore.  Moreover, he didn’t pull his punches.  His candor, clear grasp of the issues, truth telling, and political incorrectness were not just refreshing but inspiring.  He was rewarded with a standing ovation.  I can see why people are willing to forgive him for whatever character flaws he may have or whatever transgressions he may have committed.  Finally—finally!—there is a Republican candidate who cares nothing for the sensibilities of the left or the media and delivers two or three blows for every one he takes.  All I can say to The Donald is, keep punching.