Donald Trump Can't Take a Joke, Even If His 2012 Campaign Is One

The Donald couldn't laugh at himself when he was roasted at the White House Correspondents' Dinner--how would he handle the presidency?

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You know a candidate is done for when people start to feel sorry for him or her. There was Ed Muskie, apparently choking up in tears (or near tears) in New Hampshire during the 1972 primary, upset about attacks in a local paper. There are the scores of candidates for president and statewide office who continue to show up at campaign events, believing they can win, despite the fact that fewer and fewer voters are showing up to see them. There was Adm. James Stockdale, looking as perplexed as anyone else when he appeared as the Reform Party candidate at the 1992 vice presidential debate. "Who am I? Why am I here?" Stockdale asked rhetorically, seemingly unaware that his was a serious question.

[Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP 2012 candidates.]

And now, it’s possible even to feel sorry for Donald Trump, who was appropriately skewered at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner Saturday night. President Obama made fun of Trump’s ridiculous skepticism about the fact that the president was born in Hawaii. Obama’s best line:

I know that he's taken some flak lately, but nobody is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like: Did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?

Comedian Seth Myers was more biting, noting: "Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising because I just assumed that he was running as a joke."

Trump—more accustomed to saying "you’re fired" to his Celebrity Apprentice guests and to having the hired help tell him how wonderful he is—sat uncomfortably in the audience, occasionally smirking but clearly unable to laugh at himself. Perhaps that’s because he’s the only one who doesn’t understand that his potential candidacy for the presidency is a joke. [Vote now: Will Trump seriously run for president?]

What does Trump think it would be like if he actually became president? Saturday night was tame and kind compared to the sort of criticism and questioning Trump would endure if he actually ran for office. And as for documentation, the birth certificate is nothing—Trump would be expected to release all kinds of financial information and background documents he might prefer to keep to himself. You can order people around in private industry, especially if you’re the one who owns the company. But the president of the United States, despite the power of the office, has to play defense with the press, the voters, and the world community. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s the president who is on the receiving end of the "you’re fired" message.