Reality-teevee candidate Donald Trump loves nothing more than the birthers who are sending him emails, so he's decided to ride that pony all the way to the political margins. So, despite the fact that the paranoid birther conspiracy has been debunked, re-debunked, and rent to itty bitty pieces, Trump has sent his own "investigators" to Hawaii.
On the "Today Show" Thursday, Trump explained:
"I am saying I want to see the birth certificate. It's very simple. I want to see the birth certificate. How come his own family doesn't know which hospital he was born in? How come -- forget about birth certificates. Let's say there's no birth certificate. How come in the hospital itself, okay? This is one of the...in the hospital itself, there's no records of his birth. In other words, it doesn't say how much they paid, where is the doctor, here's your room bill."
Meredith Vieira: "You've been privy to all of this, to know this?"
Donald Trump: "Well, I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're talking."
Vieira: "You have people now out there searching -- I mean, in Hawaii?"
Trump: "Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding. And I'm serious."
Trump went further down the rabbit hole on "Morning Joe" Thursday morning. Willie Geist, Ed Rendell, Donnie Deutsch and -- sweet fancy Moses -- even Pat Buchanan attempted to talk Trump down out of the tree, to no avail. They ended up basically staring slackjawed at each other and laughing as Trump went nuts.
This conversation is quite useful, actually, for gauging Donald Trump as a potential presidential candidate: His foreign policy strategy is primarily based on swindling people, he'd turn a blind eye to Wall Street forgers and he'd spend tons of money investigating bizarre claims instead of just using a computer to browse Politifact or search for "Obama kindergarten photo."
Trump will continue down this nonsensical road because he believes it's the key reason he's does occasionally well in the polls. He made headlines when the most recent Public Policy Polling pre-game result for the New Hampshire primary put Trump right behind front-runner Mitt Romney. But Trump didn't earn second place on birtherism alone. It's largely because there really isn't a "campaign" yet -- just a vacuum, which Trump is ably filling. As Steve Kornacki points out, you should expect Trump's appeal to decline once an actual competition begins:
Right now, he exists to Republicans as a universally known celebrity who lately has been in the news for saying things that resonate with them. If they're underwhelmed with their options and looking for a new choice, it stands to reason that a good chunk of them will tell pollsters that Trump is their man.
But what Trump is spectacularly ill-suited for is an actual campaign, one in which all of his dirty laundry, all of his (many) past ideological apostasies and all of his moral shortcomings are exposed and amplified, relentlessly. In an actual campaign, Trump's image as a Tea Party-friendly celebrity wouldn't hold up for long. Rudy Giuliani offered a demonstration of how this works in 2007 and 2008, when he began as the nominal front-runner -- essentially, a celebrity who said things Republican voters liked to hear -- and ended up with one delegate. This same process would play out with Trump, except it would be quicker and uglier.
By the way, do you think Mitt Romney is sweating Trump in New Hampshire, at all? Romney would probably love to get into a battle of business moguls. Romney ran Bain capital and shepherded the 2002 Winter Olympics into Salt Lake City. On the other hand, Trump licenses his last name to real estate deals and has a TV show where he shouts Successories at LaToya Jackson.
At any rate, as Jeremy Scahill quipped on "Morning Joe", "Donald Trump must have the most expensive tinfoil hat in the world." That's why I can't wait to see the reimbursement invoices Trump's "investigators" are sending back from Hawaii.