This was a jam-packed month. And much of what happened was so off-the-charts that I thought for sure that April would be remembered as the crazy month of 2011. For instance, this was the month that we learned “Jersey Shore” tele-butante Snooki was paid more to speak to students at Rutgers University than Pulitzer Prize-winning Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. We also found out about the high-speed police escort for Charlie Sheen from Dulles International Airport to a gig here in Washington. #Winning.
But there were more serious happenings. Scandal-scarred Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who had already said he would not seek reelection, would finally announce his resignation. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) announced he wouldn’t run for president, which allowed him to duck what would have been an uncomfortable speech on race. And Donald Trump continued his presidential flirtation by declaring he “always had a very great relationship with the blacks.” He would then compound the insult by questioning President Obama’s academic qualifications.
With the exception of Snooki-gate, all of these things happened within the last nine days of the month. There was the matter of the budget that made for a wild ride at April’s dawn. But nothing compared to its denoument.
With all the shenanigans going on in the U.S., it was a wonderful escape to watch the pageantry taking place in the U.K. with the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Her gown. His bashfulness. Pippa’s posterior. All captured the imagination as those two crazy kids literally drove off into matrimonial bliss. Their April 29 nuptials wouldn’t be the only dramatic event that weekend. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The long-term budget and deficit outlook of the United States was Topic A. Twice in March, a government shutdown had been averted. And it would be a third time with just minutes to spare before a deal was reached to finance the rest of the fiscal year. But the long-term fiscal trajectory of the nation needed to be dealt with.
In the days leading up to the showdown over the continuing resolution, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) unveiled his “Path to Prosperity.” An undeniably bold plan that whacked $6.2 trillion in federal spending, turned Medicaid and food stamps aid into block grants and reformed the tax code. But it was also a radical plan that proved an irresistible target for President Obama, who hammered away at it in a speech on the national debt. As for the debt, Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead a bipartisan effort to come up with a deficit reduction plan by the end of June. The machinations involved in averting the latest government shutdown was the tip-off that getting to yes on raising the debt ceiling would be no less difficult and dramatic.
And the birth certificate
There was serious debt discussion dominating political discourse and then there was Donald Trump. He continued his disgusting, dangerous dance with birthers as part of his flirtation with a run for the Republican nomination for president. On what seemed like a daily basis, the real-estate mogul and reality television star would flog the disproved conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States and, thus, an illegal occupant of the Oval Office.
Unfortunately, those clinging to this conspiracy theory weren’t just “the nutty right,” as Karl Rove delicately put it. They were the Republican Party. An astonishing PPP survey of likely Republican primary voters released in February revealed that 51 percent did not believe that Obama is American.
That racist view of the president and other more startling displays of contempt for him would go a long way to explaining why Obama 2012 campaign manager would say their fund-raising goal would be “north of $750 million.” Every dime of it will be needed to dispel persistent rumors and to repeat truths about the president and his policies in every corner of the country until the last vote is counted.
Trump’s persistence would ultimately lead to a sad and ugly split-screen day for the country. On one side was Obama in the White House briefing room announcing the release of the long form of his birth certificate. On the other was Trump taking credit for it during a press conference in New Hampshire. But the spectacle, including the presence of Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner, would obscure the ground work being laid for an unexpected and thrilling late-night announcement the next day, May 1.