There’s no more hiding for Republicans. The wolf is no longer at the door. He has actually been invited in for tea and crumpets and is now sitting primly in the parlor chatting amiably while he plots mayhem and destruction for the party that once stood for prudence and probity.
Now it is in danger of standing for paranoid kookiness. As responsible adults in the party wring their hands in worry and frustration, a smiling Donald Trump unleashes the crazies, bringing them into the light and showering them with respectability dust. The Hofstadter Brigade of birthers, conspiracists, racists, and born again Birchers — people who give right wing wackos a bad name — have been given permission by at least one adult to go roll around in the mud and mess themselves without having to clean up before dinner. Giving this crew their heads by joining them in their fantasies is either the most irresponsible move ever made by a serious candidate for president, or a brilliant stroke of self-promotion that will pay big dividends for Trump when all the excitement about his candidacy dies down.
I suspect the latter. Trump, for all his bluster, can’t seriously believe that the certification of live birth issued by the Obama campaign in 2008 and confirmed as authentic by the state of Hawaii is a forgery, or was planted by Communists, or was altered in some way. There is not one scintilla of evidence for any of those possibilities — at least, evidence that would be accepted by someone with more than two brain cells working.
If altered or a forgery, then a conspiracy of gigantic proportions involving many members of the government of Hawaii has been hidden from all of us, except those few who have been vouchsafed the ability to see what isn’t there. Members of the conspiracy that has aided Obama would include former Republican Governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle and former Republican Lt. Governor James Aiona. Why they would want to hide the origins of Obama’s birth can only be guessed at. Maybe they’re closet commies or something.
Equally puzzling is the question of who might have planted fake birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers. Trump believes it was Obama’s grandparents:
TRUMP: The grandparents put that [birth announcement] in [the newspaper] because obviously they want him to be a United States citizen because in those days, people were much more proud than they are today unfortunately for being a United States citizen.
So they wanted him to be a citizen of the United States, for that purpose, and also for hospitalization, for welfare, for this, for that, for all the other assets you get from being a United States citizen. So there are a lot of very smart people who say that is routinely done and that was done by his grandparents.
The welfare state was only a twinkle in LBJ’s eye in 1961 so one might wonder what kind of “assets” Obama and his family would be eligible for if they faked his birth announcement in a newspaper — a piece of “evidence” that wouldn’t be acceptable for identification purposes at any government agency in the first place.
But who are we to question a scam artist calling out other scam artists? For the record, however, please name just one of these “very smart people” who claim that this kind of scam was routine in 1961. An appeal to authority using “very smart people” isn’t even employed in high school debating much less by someone supposedly running for the leader of the free world. It’s statements like these that make one think that The Donald isn’t very serious about running.
By latching on to the birther movement, Donald Trump has accomplished more than just giving his possible presidential campaign a rocket-powered boost in publicity. He has also inadvertently revealed the Republican Party to be singularly unserious about governing the country. A party that features a large mass of voters who view questions about Obama’s origins with an uncritical eye and contempt for logic and reason is a party that can’t be trusted with the privy seal.
How many Republicans actually doubt Obama’s origins? A recent Public Policy Polling survey found 42% of likely New Hampshire primary voters believing that Barack Obama was not born in America. Another 35% aren’t sure. And a recent CNN poll found 27% of Republicans nationwide saying Obama was probably not born in America with another 14% saying he definitely was born elsewhere.
That same CNN poll showed Trump in a tie with Mike Huckabee at 19% for the Republican nominee for president. In New Hampshire, Trump beats Mitt Romney among the Tea Party 23-21, but trails the former Massachusetts governor overall by 7 points. And only 56% of Republicans want to see Trump run. This suggests a media boomlet for Trump — the result of his wildly increased visibility in playing to the birthers.
Trump will not be able to ride the fringe for very long and expect to be taken seriously by a majority of Republicans. The question is, what else does he have to offer in the way of policy proposals that would attract Republican primary voters?
His views on foreign policy would have little to recommend him to GOP voters looking for a responsible leader:
As for foreign policy, Mr. Trump said he is “only interested in Libya if we take the oil,” and that if he were President, “I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take over the oil.” He remains sharply critical of the Chinese, asserting that as President, “I would tell China that you’re either going to shape up, or I’m going to tax you at 25% for all the products you send into this country.”
It’s hard to tell sometimes whether Trump’s bombast is sincere or whether he is making provocative statements like taking Libya’s oil as a means to keep his media irons white hot. Every reporter likes a quotable subject and The Donald never disappoints in that respect.
What attracts the conservative base to Trump besides his questions about Obama’s origins is that he appears to have opened up an emotionally satisfying line of attack against the president. He is attacking the president “head on,” as Rush Limbaugh points out:
There’s a mythology that has been created about Obama that unnecessarily makes people afraid, and Trump is illustrating the way to do this, and Paul Ryan’s budget, just go right after him. You just go right after him, instead of pussyfooting around, worrying about what the independents are gonna say or worried about what the people that pay attention to politics two days a year are gonna say, just go after it.
Trump’s going “right after him” is what the conservative base believes John McCain didn’t do in the 2008 campaign. Despite running an extremely negative campaign, McCain’s failure was that he didn’t make an issue of Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, Father Pfleger, or any of the other radical associations in Obama’s past and present. Nor did McCain refer to Obama as a “Marxist” or a “socialist” often enough. This is what the conservative base means when they want GOP candidates to “go after” Obama. And it’s what Rush Limbaugh means when he says that the GOP should forget about what independents might think and attack the president in a far more personal way than they have previously. The irony is that the harder Obama is hit, the more sympathy he garners and legitimate criticisms of his disastrous policies are given less weight.
Trump is obliging the base — with a vengeance. If he was using the truth rather than old, debunked myths about Obama’s origins — including the ridiculous story about Obama’s grandmother claiming he was born in Kenya — he might have made an impact on the race. As it is, he has given legitimacy to a bunch of right-wing extremists who are unswayed by reason, logic, or the truth that lies right in front of their noses.