Turning to the pure politics of President Obama's releasing his birth certificate, two winners emerge: Obama and the unendingly ludicrous Donald Trump.
Politico’s Ben Smith gets it exactly right: Both men used the release of the birth certificate to make crucial pivots. Obama used the issue to reinforce his message that he is the adult in a city full of adolescents, children, and wack-jobs, or as the president called them this morning, “sideshows and carnival barkers.” He added: “We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do.”
Trump, the main carnival barker of the moment, built his maybe-candidacy on birtherism, as recently as yesterday declaring that the Obama’s birth certificate was in fact “missing.” He also claimed that a “birth certificate is not a certificate of live birth, which is a much lower standard.” And, oh gee whiz, what was released today? A “certificate of live birth.” He also had previously suggested that he might release his tax returns when Obama released his birth certificate. Anyone want to hold their breath on that one? [Vote now: Will Trump seriously run for president?]
So, with the main pillar of his campaign blown out from under him, Trump predictably (if you’ve paid even a modicum of attention to Donald Trump) declared victory and, as Smith notes, moved on to the next round of weird anti-Obama conspiracy. Smith writes:
Then he pivoted, in a tour de force performance, to a tone that his 2012 rivals will have to reckon with: Raw, unadulterated anger, which began with calling Obama stupid and demanding his college transcripts, and continued to denouncing him in broad terms over his conduct of foreign and domestic policy.
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey sees this as a defeat for the Donald because he looks like a clown; but he looked like a clown anyway. It’s not like he was raising substantive complaints and was proven wrong. He was tapping a vein of inflamed irrationality that’s not going away just because the birth certificate has been released. That’s why he moved on to the college transcripts. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP 2012 candidates.]
And for the people who bought into his carnival act, he has, as he put it, “accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish”—and he got a rise out of the president to boot. He got plaudits from no less a figure than Sarah Palin. If anything, Trump has renewed cred with the crazies … who also happen to be a powerful voice in the GOP primary process.[See political editorial cartoons about Palin.]
In a separate post, Morrissey wondered why the White House chose to release the birth certificate now instead of waiting until after the GOP primary when they might have gotten more effect. But if one wanted to be really cynical, one would say that now is the moment of maximum effect, especially if it gives Trump a nudge both in the Republican primary and toward it (by feeding his ego). As Ezra Klein writes, “There’s only one explanation that makes sense to me in light of this morning’s events: The Obama administration wants Donald Trump to be the GOP’s nominee in 2012, and this is their effort to strengthen him in the primary.” [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]
Even if he’s not the nominee (and really, he won’t be), the longer Trump stays in or around the race, the worse for the GOP. As MSNBC’s First Read notes:
The question is no longer whether Donald Trump has disqualified himself from being a serious presidential candidate (because he has, a long time ago). Instead, it's whether he's staining the GOP by association. How much longer can serious Republicans stay silent as Trump—who visits New Hampshire today—hijacks this whole process? Simply put, what Trump is doing is the equivalent of a GOP presidential candidate in 1995 campaigning on the Vince Foster rumors, or a candidate in 1968 suggesting that LBJ was connected to the Kennedy assassination. It is crazy conspiracy talk that has gone mainstream. And while Republicans quietly dismiss Trump as a sideshow, they aren't saying a lot publicly. What are they afraid of?
That laughter you hear in the background is coming from the offices of the Obama re-election team. The weeping is from rational Americans embarrassed at this spectacle.