By DeWayne Wickham
Sadly, neither the release of Barack Obama’s original birth certificate, nor the verbal beat down the president dealt Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday will likely end the real estate mogul’s personal attacks on the president’s qualifications.
That’s because Trump is more of a ghostly cross between P.T. Barnum and James K. Vardaman, than a serious contender for this nation’s highest office. “There’s a sucker born every minute,” is the credo Barnum is widely believed to have given the world. Vardaman, the firebrand former Mississippi governor and senator — and unabashed racist — offered that blacks were unfit even to eat in the White House.
When Booker T. Washington dined with Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 as the first black ever so entertained in the presidential residence, Vardaman was not so guarded as Trump in showing his contempt for blacks. The White House, he said, was “so saturated with the odor of the nigger that the rats have taken refuge in the stable.”
Strapping an elephant to a plow, Barnum had the pachyderm till the soil of his Bridgeport , Conn. , farm every time a train passed by. The 1851 trick was employed to stoke interest in his American Museum , the flagship of Barnum’s entertainment empire. The stunt indeed got the American showman worldwide attention.
In his shameless shill, “The Donald” has hitched himself to the GOP elephant by holding out the possibility that he might seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. It’s far more likely that, instead of the White House, Trump is aiming at an even larger audience for his highly rated NBC show, The Apprentice.
When his “birther’s” challenge withered after the president proved his citizenship by release of his long-form birth certificate, Trump pivoted to question Obama’s academic acumen. The alleged billionaire seems determined to prove H.L. Mencken right when he said “enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed.”
When a reporter asked Trump if he is now willing to accept that the president “is who he says he is,” the reigning political huckster demanded that Obama produce his college transcript.
“I don’t know why he doesn’t release his (college) records,” Trump deadpanned. “The word is that he wasn’t a good student and he ended up getting into Columbia and Harvard. And I’d like to know how does he get into Harvard; how does he get into Columbia , if he wasn’t a good student,” Trump said, putting himself at the head of another scurrilous assault on this nation’s first black president.
As Vardaman was unconvinced that blacks were “fit to perform the supreme function of citizenship,” Trump now seems just as unconvinced that the first African-American president is qualified to occupy the White House.
If his factless assault on Obama’s citizenship isn’t proof enough of Trump’s racism then his attempt to brand the president as the undeserving beneficiary of affirmative action in higher education –— an old saw of modern-day bigots –— should remove all doubt.
Trump hopes to extend his time on the nation’s political stage by pandering to opponents of affirmative action — and by convincing the bigots he courts that his rolling personal attacks on Obama just might uncover something that would render him unworthy of re-election.
Trump, too, apparently believes there’s a sucker born every minute.