Nothing in American politics has made me angrier than Donald Trump’s faux campaign for the Republican nomination for president. For the sake of publicity and ratings, the real estate motor mouth embraced the birther lie that President Obama was not born in the United States and thus an illegitimate occupant of the White House. And in the process, he not only played Republican primary voters for fools but also debased American political discourse.
In this third “Inside Voice” anthology, I shed my usual quieter tone to reprise the pieces on Trump’s treachery. From the moment he burst onto the scene, you knew Trump couldn’t possibly be serious. But as he made all the motions of a bona fide candidate, you wondered just how far he’d really go with this charade. Today, the charade ended when MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said it would — today, May 16, the day NBC announced that “Celebrity Apprentice” would be a part of the 2011-2012 season.
CHAPTER ONE: Casting doubt on President Obama’s citizenship
It all started two months ago tomorrow with a question on “Good Morning America” on ABC. “The reason I have a little doubt — just a little — is because he grew up, and nobody knew him,” Trump said.
CHAPTER TWO: Embracing the birther conspiracy
By April, in back-to-back appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and NBC’s “Today” show, Trump doubled down on his disgusting and dangerous dance with birthers. It would be good for poll and television ratings but terrible for the nation and public discourse to have someone who claimed to be so smart so willing to perpetuate a lie.
CHAPTER THREE: Heightened scrutiny
With high poll numbers come heightened scrutiny. After weeks of indulging his less serious aspects, the media do what they always do once the initial euphoria of a new figure on the political stage wears off. They started taking Trump seriously.
CHAPTER FOUR: ‘The blacks’
In a radio interview, Trump declares, “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a very great relationship with the blacks.” If he really had one, he would know that questioning the educational qualifications of the nation’s first black president would be a far-reaching insult.
CHAPTER FIVE: Trump’s implosion
Trump went after Obama’s academic credentials after the president blew the birthers out of the water by releasing the long-form version of his birth certificate. The ugly spectacle happened on April 27. Almost immediately, the ranks of birthers and supporters of Trump plummeted. But not before he took a few deserved lumps from Obama and comedic host Seth Meyers at the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 30. Within 24 hours, the brickbats hurled Trump’s way would take on a whole new meaning with the president’s announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a daring raid in Pakistan that he authorized two days earlier.
Fifteen days later, to the shock and surprise of no one, Trump would pull the plug on his faux campaign for president.