The Washington Post

Donald Trump (Birther-N.Y.) needs to get serious

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell doesn’t think much of what Donald Trump is doing with all this birther stuff and his fake run for the 2012 Republican nomination for president. And neither do I. We said as much on O’Donnell’s show “The Last Word” on Friday night. In fact, I went a step further and did something I’d done once before when talking about the persistent and long-debunked conspiracy theory that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen: I showed his birth certificate on live television.

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Questioning Obama’s citizenship by people who should know better is nothing more than a desperate cry for attention in a crowded field of “exploring” or perhaps-exploring aspirants. Well, Trump is getting all the attention he could ever want. And as we’re starting to see, he can expect a lot of it to be rather unflattering.

Both New York Times columnist Gail Collins on Saturday and Maureen Callahan at the New York Post on Sunday pointed out that we’ve been down this “Trump for President” road before. Many times before. And Jeremy Peters and Brian Stelter have this wonderfully tart quote in their Sunday New York Times story on Trump.

“Trump and the press have a symbiotic relationship, not unlike bees and flowers,” said William Grueskin, dean of academic affairs for the Columbia Journalism School. “At least in the natural world, you get honey out of it. Out of this campaign coverage, all you get are a lot of empty media moments about someone who is unlikely to run, more unlikely to be nominated, and utterly unlikely to win.”

The New York Post also highlights Trump’s dual image. The one New Yorkers know all too well and the one Middle America has chosen to embrace.

Living as we have with Trump all these years, most New Yorkers find him crass, gauche and self-aggrandizing. But to a large swath of Middle America, the Trump name is associated with a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps work ethic: He’s a man who made it, lost it, then made it again. He’s raised three children, none of whom has ever done anything publicly embarrassing. His penchant for obnoxious statements can also be read as refreshingly candid straight talk — a stark contrast against the professorial Obama.

Collins filled readers in on her personal experience with Trump’s crassness.

During one down period, I referred to him in print as a “financially embattled thousandaire” and he sent me a copy of the column with my picture circled and “The Face of a Dog!” written over it.

Hardly presidential. As that episode and countless others over the years show, Trump has an impulsive streak as big as his ego and skin as thin as Sarah Palin’s.

The longer Trump insists on playing the Republican faithful for chumps, the more he will be pressed to answer real questions on real issues. His gouging of Moammar Gaddafi during the tent controversy during the 2009 U.N. General Assembly — even though at the time he said he unknowingly rented the land to Gaddafi — won’t pass for a credible policy on Libya or bona fides in foreign affairs. Nor will his bluster on dealing with China. Then there are myriad domestic issues Trump has yet to touch.

There’s still time for the real estate and reality-television star to prove he’s serious about a run. As Collins suggested, Trump could release his tax returns. They’d provide a wealth of information on the man who thinks his private-sector success can be translated to public service. We might finally find out if the bank account matches the bravado. Most importantly, their release would show that Trump — like Obama when he released his birth certificate — has nothing to hide.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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