Is Birther Donald Trump a Democratic Sleeper Agent?

Who benefits from Trump's bull-birther embrace? Not serious GOP candidates.

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I’m becoming concerned that a certain political figure in the 2012 presidential field has a sinister, hidden agenda. We all like to laugh and be dismissive--but it’s increasingly hard to ignore the questions about his birth certificate. One has to ask: Is Donald Trump, seemingly a “birther” running for the GOP presidential nod, really an Obama sleeper agent?

[ See editorial cartoons about the Republican Party.]

Trump has been ratcheting up his embrace of birtherism--the spurious accusation that President Obama was born outside of the United States but has cleverly covered it up, in part by inducing the state of Hawaii to produce a fake birth certificate testifying to his U.S. origin. Trump upped the birther ante Monday morning on Fox News Channel:

This guy either has a birth certificate or he doesn't. I didn't think it was such a big deal, but I will tell you, it is turning out to be a very big deal. People are calling me from all over saying please don't give up on this issue. If you weren't born in this country, you cannot be president. You have no doctors that remember, you have no nurses -- this is the President of the United States -- that remember. Why can't he produce a birth certificate? I brought it up just routinely, and all of a sudden, a lot of facts are emerging and I'm starting to wonder myself whether he was born in this country?

(As an aside, I love the idea that in 1961, when doctors brought a half-white, half-black baby into the world, they should have committed the moment to memory because “this is the President of the United States.”

Trump’s comments are grabbing a great deal of attention. David Frum, for example, wants to know whether Trump is nuts or just thinks GOP primary voters are stupid. Like I said at the top, I’m wondering if perhaps the Donald is really an Obama catspaw.

[ See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

Republicans firmly grounded in reality have long groused that birtherism is a construct of Democrats, liberals, and the media, a--no pun intended--trumped up issue designed to make conservative look like nutty conspiracy theorists. Polls showing large numbers of GOPers doubting Obama’s origins seem to belie that, as do apparent dog-whistles by GOP leaders who dance around the birther question by treating it as something other than proven fact (“we should take the president at his word,” Michele Bachmann said last month) or refusing to call out the birthers (“it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think,” John Boehner demurred last month).

[ See political cartoons about the Tea Party.]

But with a GOP primary field composed of professional politicians who know better than to tread beyond winks, nods, and dog-whistles, who benefits the most from a GOP candidate willing to go full birther? With Trump in a presidential debate (the first one will be May 2) making birtherism his signature issue, the rest of the GOP field will be forced to weigh in definitively and either alienate the rabid base (the people who vote in Republican primaries and, according to one recent poll, are majority birther) or risk alienating centrist voters.
The Democratic National Committee’s opposition research department must be licking their collective chops. They couldn’t have invented a better sabotage candidate than Trump: Unserious enough to actually wave the bloody birth certificate, but wealthy and famous enough that he’s impossible to ignore.

Now, do I believe that Donald Trump is really a Democratic plant? It’s tempting to say that I’m just raising questions about the Donald in the same spirit that he is about the president. But I’d put it this way: This conspiracy theory requires as big a suspension of disbelief as does contemplating President Donald Trump.

[ See editorial cartoons about President Obama.]

Politico’s Ben Smith brings the kicker to the whole story. Trump made a big show Monday of releasing his own birth certificate in an effort to push the “issue.” One problem: He didn’t release a legally valid birth certificate, which would have the New York City Department of Health’s seal and the signature of the city registrar. Smith adds, tongue happily in cheek:

Trump's mother, it should be noted, was born in Scotland, which is not part of the United States. His plane is registered in the Bahamas, also a foreign country. This fact pattern -- along with the wave of new questions surrounding what he claims is a birth certificate -- raises serious doubts about his eligibility to serve as President of the United States.

Hmmm, makes you wonder...

Update:  Hot Air's Ed Morrissey notes that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was asked today about Trump and birtherirsm. Pawlenty gave a fairly straight dismissal of the whole non-issue.