WASHINGTON – President Trump on Friday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian commendation.
Babe Ruth. Elvis Presley. Roger Staubach, the former Navy and Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Alan Page, a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. Justice Antonin Scalia. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.
And Miriam Adelson.
Ms. Adelson, a physician and philanthropist, is hardly a household name. But she is the spouse of Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and multibillionaire. In 2016, the Adelsons provided badly needed backing for Mr. Trump, and in the recent midterm elections, more than $ 1
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established by President John F. Kennedy, has always been a president's staff tastes, biases and, sometimes, to be sure, political reward.
Kyle Kopko, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania who has written scholarly Mr. Trump had just followed in the tradition.
"In fairness, there have been a couple of recipients who were selected for their political dispositions – and I'm sure that was a factor here, "Mr. Kopko said. "But I'm sure it's not the only factor."
"We probably oversimplify because, oh, the Adelsons gave a lot of money," he said. "There are other factors that make Miriam Adelson an ideal candidate in Trump's mind."
Ms. Adelson and her husband established the Adelson Medical Research Foundation and specialize in addiction treatment. "As a committed member of the American Jewish community, it has supported Jewish schools, Holocaust memorial organizations, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and Birthright Israel," the White House said.
Still, it seems clear that Mr. Trump has taken the idea of rewarding a political supporter to new heights.
President Ronald Reagan selected Chief Justice Earl Warren, like him a former Republican governor of California, and one whose Liberal court was reviled by conservatives. President Reagan thus draped a medal around the neck of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. President Bill Clinton gave the medal to former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas a year after the president defeated him in the 1996 election. Mr. Obama honored President George H.W. Bush.
Most of Mr. Trump's choices – Justice Scalia, Mr. Hatch and Mr. Staubach, in addition to Ms. Adelson – are strong Republicans. Mr. Page has been aligned with the Democrat Farmer Labor Party in Minnesota but his election was considered nonpartisan. Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley were not successful in partisan leanings.
Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen are among recent winners. Robert De Niro was honored by Mr. Obama, a year before the actor had some unprintable words for Mr. Trump. Some recipients, like Mother Teresa and Norman Rockwell, are the safest of choices.
But the award does not always age well. Bill Cosby, who was recently convicted of sexual assault, was given the presidency by George W. Bush.
Mr. Trump chose to go back and forth in choosing Ruth, who said he had been dead longer. Mr. Trump was killed in 1948.
A man of many nicknames, "The Babe," "The Bambino," and "The Sultan of Swat," and perhaps the most famous baseball player, George Herman Ruth Jr. led the Yankees to seven American League pennants and four World Series championships. He was a prodigious fund-raiser for World War II causes.
Ruth was not notably active in politics but once famously defended his salary, which at the time was more than President Herbert Hoover was paid, by saying, "What the hell has Hoover got to do with this? Anyway, I had a better year than he did. "
Elvis Presley dominated American music and culture for decades, selling more than a billion records and starring in 31 films in a period of peak that coincided with Mr. Trump's teenage years and young adulthood. He wants to be linked to another Republican president, Richard Nixon, because of the famous picture of the two shaking hands in 1970.
Justice Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016, is frequently invoked by Mr. Trump as a model for a Supreme Court of justice, known as a forceful writer and strong-willed voice of judicial conservatism. The White House said.
Thanks to the stalling tactics of Senate Republicans, Justice Scalia's death gave Mr Justice Neil M. Gorsuch is in his presidency, Justice M. Kavanaugh, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Mr. Hatch is the senior Republican member of the Senate, with more than four decades in office, and is retiring when his term ends in January. Mr. Trump may be remembered as one of the finest in history. But he has also conceded that he did not even feel that way.
"Eight years ago to 10 years ago, Trump was not what I consider to be a pillar of virtue," Mr. Hatch said. "I think he has changed his life once he was elected. I think Trump is a better person today than he was then. "
Mr. Vikings defensive line were known as the Purple People Eaters. He played in four Super Bowls, and was named Most Valuable Player in 1971. He obtained his degree in 1981 while playing football and retiring in 1981, where he served for more than 20 years.
Mr. Staubach, a Naval Academy graduate and Heisman Trophy winner, played 11 seasons for the Cowboys, winning two Super Bowls. He was known for his scrambling style and ability to elude defenders. After his football career, Mr. Staubach had a successful career in commercial real estate.