Donald Trump Will Win News Cycles With Birtherism [UPDATED]
The big 2012 news today is, naturally, pure malarkey from Donald Trump, who has inexplicably decided to base his reality-teevee campaign solely on birtherism. Here's Politico's Andy Barr:
Seeking to pump more energy into the birther movement and quirky chase for the White House, Trump on Monday provided a copy of his birth certificate to the conservative website Newsmax - which has played a leading role in trumpeting birther mythology.
And in an interview on Fox News, Trump cast himself as something akin to the rebel leader of the birther movement.
"Now, this guy either has a birth certificate or he doesn't," Trump said. "And I didn't think this was such a big deal, but I will tell you, it's turning out to be a very big deal because people now are calling me from all over saying, please don't give up on this issue."
Yes, one can only imagine that Trump is receiving emails from the coterie of birther crackpots, because that's what birther crackpots do -- send emails whining about how no one pays attention to their elaborate conspiracy theories. As these are the only people in America with a unified cause of any kind that are likely to take Trump seriously, Trump's weather vane has been shifting inexorably in their direction. (Trump's day job is playing the main character in an entrepeneurial dumbshow named "The Apprentice," in which he pretends to mint executives from a wash of similarly socially-stunted people, so he likely sees these relationships as revenue-generating opportunities.)
Trump practices birtherism of a modified limited hang-out style -- rather than promote the idea that Obama has swindled people, he is just "raising the question" about why Obama doesn't just answer the question, and by the by, have you noticed that Obama seems to have shown up out of nowhere? The biggest problem with this is that it's been tried before:
I didn't just show up out of nowhere, after all -- America knows me. You know my strengths and my faults. You know my story and my convictions. ... And the same standards of clarity and candor must now be applied to my opponent. Even at this late hour in the campaign, there are essential things we don't know about Senator Obama or the record that he brings to this campaign. We have all heard what he has said, but it is less clear what he has done or what he will do. What Senator Obama says todady and what he has done in the past are often two different things. He has often changed his positions in this campaign, and the best way to determine where he would really take this country is to examine where he has tried to take it in the past. ...For a guy who's already authored two memoirs, he's not exactly an open book. . . . Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there's always a back story with Senator Obama.
Those are the relevant highlights of a speech Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave in Albuquerque, N.M., in October of 2008. Ana Marie Cox, who was present at the speech, noted that the "I didn't just show up out of nowhere" line got a "HUGE response from the audience." Trump is hearing the echoes of that response today, but it was a loser then and it's a loser now.
(Why McCain went there is, in itself, a good question. He had been the target of similar crackpots -- there were elaborate birther theories involving the Panama Exclusion Zone, as well as many idiots who thought McCain was just a straight-up "Manchurian candidate.")
Trawling in this wake is famous political trickster Roger Stone, who believes this to be a superb strategy for Trump because "It's base building. It gives voice to a concern shared by many on the right." There's little doubt that a GOP nominee needs to keep the birther vote in his or her pocket to be successful, but contra Stone, who believes that "No other potential candidate has dared to speak up on the issue," the rest of field has moved on to the intellectually-laundered version of birtherism produced by Dinesh D'Souza.
Stone's involvement in any potential Trump campaign, by the way, was wholly disavowed to me by Donald Trump himself, who had previously referred to Stone as "a stone-cold loser" who "always tries taking credit for things he never did." The problem here, of course, is that we're now afloat in the waters of reality-television celebrity, where "truth" has no fixed meaning, so there's no real way to know if you're being played.
But there you have it: Trump is willing to proffer a birth certificate. Of course, should we believe his birth certificate to be legit? If you wanted to fund a birth-certificate forgery conspiracy, you'd get a lot further if you had $600 million to spend on it. And is Trump a known swindler? Well, he says he is: swindling is the central tenet of his foreign policy plan. And hey, folks from Trump's own neighborhood don't seem to recall him ("I've been running this store for 28 years, and I don't remember him."), so who knows where he comes from, really.
Am I saying that Donald Trump is lying about being an American citizen? No, no! I'm just raising the question, speaking up on the issue that none have dared to so far.
UPDATE: So the "birth certificate" that Trump showily proffered? Not a real birth certificate. Here's Ben Smith:
Trump's mother, it should be noted, was born in Scotland, which is not part of the United States. His plane is registered in the Bahamas, also a foreign country. This fact pattern -- along with the wave of new questions surrounding what he claims is a birth certificate -- raises serious doubts about his eligibility to serve as President of the United States.
UPDATE, AGAIN: Since this is the hill Donald Trump apparently wants to die on, he has gone ahead and proffered another birth certificate.
Still missing: "A picture of the young Donald Trump and or/interviews with people who knew him." That's from Dave Weigel, who goes on to note:
One of the Orthodox birther* arguments that Obama can not be president is that his father was Kenyan, which made the son a citizen of the British Commonwealth at birth. If that held true for Trump, then obviously he would be ineligible.
That's because Trump's mother was born in Scotland. Clan Mac Leod, I believe.
Donald Trump is America's most famous birther now [War Room @ Salon]