By DeWayne Wickham
Donald Trump isn’t a birther, he’s just pimping off of them.
Recently the surreality show host and billionaire blowhard has been making the rounds of TV talk shows parroting the long ago debunked assertion that President Obama was born in the African nation of Kenya — not the state of Hawaii.
If true, which it isn’t, that would make Obama ineligible to be president. To give this stale “odor of mendacity” a fresh whiff, Trump announced with a straight face on NBC’s “Today” that he’s dispatched his own investigators to Hawaii to ferret out his version of the truth about Obama’s birthplace.
“I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they are finding,” he said about the birth records Hawaii officials have for Obama. Trump, who hosts Celebrity Apprentice — the Peacock network’s top rated show — got away with that conspiracy theorist tease during an interview with NBC’s Today show host Meredith Vieira without being asked what his sleuths found.
Nevermind that both Hawaii’s current governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, and his predecessor, Republican Linda Lingle, have said state records show Obama was born in Hawaii. Trump persists in demanding that the president personally satisfy him that he was born in America.
“If he weren’t lying why wouldn’t he just solve it?” Trump said on the Today show. “I would like to have him show his birth certificate.”
Why Trump is doing this is unclear. He wraps his questions about the authenticity of Obama’s official birth record with chest-thumping talk of how he might run for president to save us from Obama’s mismanagement of the nation’s affairs. But that decision won’t come before this season’s final episode of his TV show airs in late May. To enter the race sooner wouldn’t be fair to NBC, which has to take his TV show off the air once he becomes a presidential candidate. Now that’s a guy who has his priorities in the right order. Right?
Of course, the other possibility is that by fanning the flames of the birther movement, Trump is using this issue to build an even larger audience for his NBC show with appearances on other broadcast and cable networks that are being duped into treating what he says as something that is newsworthy.
However, Trump’s harangue about Obama’s birth record appears to have made him the darling of a sizeable chunk of would-be Republican Party primary voters. He’s tied for second place (17%) with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey of GOP voters who were asked who they favored for the party’s presidential nomination. Mitt Romney, the ex-Massachusetts governor, finished first with the support of 21% of the respondents.
I suspect Trump is, at heart, neither a Republican nor a birther. He’s a mountebank — a flamboyant and deceptive hawker of his own interests. He’s a guy who has managed to amass enormous wealth while attaching his name to multimillion dollar real estate deals that went bad and billion-dollar casinos that ended up in bankruptcy.
In a recent letter to The New York Times, Trump accused the media of shielding Obama from the charge that he is not an American citizen. “What they don’t realize is that if he was not born in the United States ,” he said, “they would have uncovered the greatest ‘scam’ in the history of our country.”
But, in truth, the great scam journalists and others in the media have yet to uncover is the one that keeps Donald Trump in the national spotlight.