Trumped up insanity

    Seriously, how nuts is The Donald? Does Trump really believe his own verbal spillage? Or is his embrace of batty birtherism nothing more than craven calculation, a marketing ploy to (a) gin up publicity for his latest brain-dead celebrity show, or (b) pander to the most willfully ignorant denizens of Republican crazyworld, just in case he decides to convert his presidential flirtation into something real?Actually, I vote for (c), which combines (a) and (b) and is grounded in the proposition that he and his hair are gluttons for the limelight. But since we talk politics around here, it’s worth quoting from the email that Trump adviser Roger Stone sent to Politico the other day. It’s also worth noting that Stone is a veteran Republican hardballer who made his bones during the Nixon dirty-tricks era; indeed, his Machiavellian defense of Trump’s birther talk is straight from the Nixon playbook, and would appear to validate (b).From Stone’s email: “A solid plurality of Republican primary voters agree with Trump (that Obama wasn’t born in America). In a split field with 5-6 candidates, they are a significant group. Personally I think (the tactic) is brilliant. It’s base building. It gives voice to a concern shared by many on the right.”Well, maybe that explains it. Maybe Trump is truly attempting to carve out his own crazy niche within the Republican race, by positioning himself as a pure birther – as opposed to all those GOP presidential aspirants who keep playing wink-wink on the non-issue. Stone’s email doesn’t tell us whether Trump actually believes what he’s saying, but that hardly matters. The fact that he’s saying what he’s saying is sufficiently pitiful – and it’s potentially damaging for the Republicans, as I’ll soon explain.In case you missed it, Trump went on a tear Monday morning in the Fox News friendly confines: “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.”I’m not going to waste time unpacking his whole rant (besides, the birther charge has long been conclusively refuted), but I do love his complaint about how “no doctors” and “no nurses” have ever come forward to say that they remember delivering a future president of the United States back in 1961. Surely there must be an aging retiree in Hawaii who remembers gazing at the time upon a mixed-race baby and declaring with confidence that this newborn would break the racial barrier and become president 50 years later. But since nobody has copped to such a memory, clearly it must mean that Obama is hiding something. Or so The Donald divines.But wait, hasn’t Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie stated publicly that he remembers Obama’s birth at the time? Abercrombie has said, “I knew his mom and dad. I was here when he was born.”Nah, Trump decreed, that guy’s memory doesn’t count. He told Fox News: “You know what I get a kick out of? The governor of Hawaii says oh, I remember when Obama was born. I doubt it! I think this guy should be investigated. He remembers when Obama was born? Give me a break!”Trump also spewed the other day on The View – “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like…If you go back to my first grade, my kindergarten, people remember me. Nobody from those early years remembers him. If you’re going to be president of the United States, it says very profoundly you have to be born in this country” – although I would have loved to hear his response to the fact that two Honolulu newspapers recorded Obama’s arrival in their 1961 birth announcements. (Crazyworld residents say that those birth announcements were retroactively faked. Or something like that.)Anyway, the big question is whether Trump’s two-fisted touting of a trumped-up charge will be good or bad for the GOP in general. One can argue that perhaps he’s doing the party a favor; by making such a spectacle of himself, on a faux issue that even Glenn Beck has called “the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” perhaps Trump is making the rest of the prospective candidates look sane. Heck, Trump makes even Karl Rove look like Cicero – because Rove has sensibly said of the birthers, “We’ve got to be very careful about allowing these people…to get too high a profile.”But Trump’s act is just as likely to create serious problems for the Republican field. Most of the would-be candidates are fine with winking at the birther issue, saying just enough (“I take the president at his word”) to tantalize the birthers who are poised to vote in the ’12 primaries. They would greatly prefer not to go full birther (sounding crazy is no way to win a November race), but they might be pulled that way if Trump wins grassroots applause for his marketed purity.On that scenario, I will yield the floor to David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter and prominent conservative commentator: “(I)f a putative Trump campaign gathers votes and momentum, compelling other contenders to veer to the extreme right to remain competitive, the toxic national fall-out would likely prove fatal to GOP chances in the general election. Republican credibility – and viability – would not recover from the self-inflicted wounds of a primary season dominated by candidates abandoning the political mainstream and attempting to out-crazy one another on fringe non-issues….Republicans should even now be pondering how best to insert a sanity clause into their campaign ’12 rulebook.”But with Trump mucking among the loons, I am reminded of what Chico Marx once said: “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, you can’t-a fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause!”

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