By Chris Stigall

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Call me corny but I still appreciate good, old-fashioned hospitality. A good host or hostess is the hallmark of conscientiousness, attention to detail, and dependability. While the left blathers on about Russia, and tax returns, and tweets from President Trump – his unbeatable secret weapons are hospitality and relationships.

In truth, it was a trait I chided in 2015 when he’d declared his candidacy. It seemed as though the media – particularly in New York – was obsessed with having him on their shows. In terms of sheer media attention during the Republican primary – nobody could touch the volume of free media Trump amassed compared to every other candidate.

The reasons were both obvious and not so obvious. The obvious reason to host Trump on your show as often as he was willing to appear was for ratings. Every time the man called into a show, sat down live, or pre-taped an interview for a show – tune-in was through the roof.

You’ll not find a news network in operation that wouldn’t have walked over hot coals for time with “The Donald” back then. Assuming they’re honest about it, that is.

But that all changed after he became the nominee. Then he became “scary” and someone Hillary Clinton had to stop before the country made a horrible mistake! Yet, some of the same people who proclaim him repugnant today once licked his boots for a visit to their set.

Take Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. The media socialites – more known for their bizarre brother/sister, Ross/Rachel, nerd prom love affair than for ratings – virtually drooled over Trump when he appeared on their show prior to becoming the GOP nominee. In a particularly embarrassing moment for the pair, the gossip blog “Gawker” leaked voicemails from Trump’s phone providing audio proof of their former fandom.

BRZEZINSKI: Hi, Donald. It’s Mika and Joe calling. Say hi, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: Hey there, Donald. How you doing?

BRZEZINSKI: We’re just leaving you a message because we’re trying to get in touch with you, but you must be, like, on your jet or something. We’d love to talk to you, so call one of us. What’s your other number, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH: I’m at [REDACTED]. And the kids want to scream “Thank you,” to you, Donald. Say, “Thank you, Donald.”

CHILDREN: Thank you!

SCARBOROUGH: We are so, so grateful for everything, Donald, and we just want to call you and tell you how much it means to us.

BRZEZINSKI: It was amazing. Thank you, Donald. Hope to talk to you soon. Bye.

A pretty far cry from their show today where they shriek in terror about the “danger” he poses to the country and the world, no?

But the Sam and Dianne of cable news weren’t the only media friends of Trump’s when he was considered the entertaining dark horse in a field of sixteen candidates. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity spoke regularly of their long friendships with Trump and his family. Glenn Beck shared with me personally a time when Trump hosted him and his family at what’s now referred to as the southern White House, Mar-a-Lago. Bill O’Reilly talked about Yankees games and dinners, etc. with Trump. Megyn Kelly shared instances of kind notes he’d send her after reading a profile of her work as a former Fox News anchor.

The media relationship list is long and exhaustive.

In short – between his show business acumen and his penchant for being a New York man about town – there was nary a high profile media player in front of or behind the camera who didn’t interact with Trump and have a favorable view of him personally.

It was Limbaugh who said not long after Trump announced he was running for President that he had been obviously toying with the idea for some time. Rush talked about political conversations Trump would solicit during rounds of golf years before he ran. Then it all clicked.

Donald Trump had been laying the groundwork to run for office for quite some time, and it was pretty brilliant.

Before so many of the media knew what hit them, this guy they liked but didn’t think stood a shot at the biggest office in the world capitalized on years of groundwork and goodwill. Goodwill gesture after goodwill gesture endeared Trump to so many liberal media folks who were happy to invite him in for their ratings, never imagining they were feeding a national movement. By they time their politics kicked in it was too late. Trump won.

Since then, Trump’s charm offensive with allies, adversaries, and political agnostics has been impressive. Have you seen the videos of the President surprising visitors on a tour of the White House? How about the regular sight of various political groups from law enforcement, business, education, unions, etc. gathered around him in the Oval Office for a photo op? Pizza and bowling over Obamacare? Don’t forget Mar-a-lago and the famous rounds of golf with “the most beautiful chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” served up to world leaders like President Xi of China.

Yes, a good host makes a lasting impression. Donald Trump plays that long game better than anyone I can name. Some of his fiercest critics find themselves disarmed, even proving helpful to the President before they even realize it’s happened.

There’s a reason hospitality is studied in school. Trump’s mastered it.

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