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Late Returns: Trump's Clown Show Rolls On

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What did real estate mogul Donald Trump intend his quasi-campaign for presidency to be: promotional tour, con job, a serious independent run? Regardless, he is learning some very painful lessons about what it's like to come to the table with little more than C-list celebrity and a pocketful of bluster.

His wild-eyed birtherism, juvenile spats with the press, and sub-Charlie Sheen level of self-awareness have been chewed up and spat out by the media, which is now in full-on backlash mode, with no end in sight. Salon's Alex Pareene expertly captures the state of play:

What was at first a horrible example of the political press's forced credulity is now an increasingly amusing example of a good old-fashioned pile-on. Politico is mocking him, Bill O'Reilly is mocking him, the New York Daily News put him in clown makeup on the front page, and now media outlets are purposefully printing his snippy letters to the editor, unedited, in order to publicly embarrass him. This kind of thing gets to Mr. Trump. He is a very sensitive soul.

Trump is giving every journalist in the country the opportunity to delve into his past financial troubles, his old political donations, his marriages, his horrid books, his failed business ventures, his defaulted loans -- everything that the viewers of "Celebrity Apprentice" and the purchasers of Trump-branded crap don't quite remember through the mists of time.

This is Trump undoing the years of public image rehabilitation that allowed him to host a show -- on network TV, in prime time -- in which he hires and fires people to begin with. He's politicizing his straight-talking billionaire persona, and soon only Free Republic commenters will have him. There's money in being a right-wing folk hero, as Ollie North could tell you, but it's not Macy's national ad campaign money. General-interest celebrity "business" books surely come with fatter advances than vanity right-wing publishing books, even with all that Scaife money still sloshing around.

And again, this is all nothing but good news for the grown-up candidates who continue to edge around the race. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney must salivate at the thought of debating this guy.

Go read the whole thing.

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Ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich looks like he's going to be a no-show in the first Republican presidential nominees' debate of the season. (Which is in May, for reasons that are beyond all understanding.) That means you'll have former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum, current Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former La. Gov. Buddy Roemer, and -- if the debate will have him -- gay political operative turned candidate Fred Karger. [Politico]

Various GOP 2012ers were asked for their opinion on sharia law. They are against it. [Ben Smith @ Politico]

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) thinks that Obama did not do enough to help Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stay in power against the wishes of demonstrators who wanted an actual democracy. [Politico]

The other brand of birtherism from the 2008 presidential campaign, Trig Palin birtherism, also refuses to go away. (Though I think Daily Dish blogger Andrew Sullivan is now a "reform" Trig birther, or something.) It is just as infuriatingly stupid as Obama-birth-certificate birtherism; it just lacks the same level of traction. [War Room @ Salon]

Jack Stuef reads Politico's exhausting fantasy by Roger Simon of an "Obama/Kucinich showdown" in the 2012 election so you don't have to. [Wonkette]

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