Donald Trump Should Receive The Same Scrutiny He Sought For Barack Obama

O tempora, o mores, what a day, what a day, right? This morning's tilt-a-whirl news conference, in which President Barack Obama decided to release his long form birth certificate, to satiate some pure-bred American nutters in thrall to the President's most disingenuous -- or paranoid -- opponents, was an event I never thought would come, because I just figured that the White House had the eminent good sense to know that conspiracists should not be negotiated with - just like terrorists.

But here we are today. The President of the United States has brandished documentation that only proved that there was never a compelling reason to brandish it in the first place, seeing as it only proved what he and every relevant official and the documents that were publicly available had already confirmed: that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, a pure citizen of these United States.

Chances are it was a confluence of dumb events that brought the White House to this point. A nearly-enacted law in Arizona that wouldn't have been satisfied with the clear proof already available. A campaign season on the horizon. Ed Henry's idiotic questions, posed a day after his own network decided to actually debunk the nonsense once and for all. Franklin Graham's paranoid assertions going unchallenged on a Sunday Morning political show. I think I understand Obama's mindset when he said this:

We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve...We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other ... if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.

Of course, lately, the biggest barker in this barmy carny show has been Donald Trump. Admittedly, he's been the gift that keeps on giving -- the guy who's been telling America that he's going to stick it to China, even while his clothing line is manufactured there. He literally doesn't say much of anything. He rarely even tries: his campaign rhetoric is typically confined to empty bromides and tautological assertions of his great value. But if there's an issue Trump had exerted effort to put into the public square, it's this idiotic birtherism. And today, he claims to be "honored" by the fact that the nation was dragged into this trench.

Well, turnabout is fair play. And if members of the press actually want to end the sideshow, they have a choice: they can be the audience member, or they can be the critic. They can treat the carny barker as an object of ridicule, or better yet, start treating him as if he were a serious candidate. Either way works for me. But they have to quit the circus. They have to stop dancing Trump's dance, and stop performing to his beck and call.

George Stepanopoulos reminds us that he recently asked Trump in an interview if he'd release his tax returns if Obama released the birth certificate Trump has been demanding. Trump responded:

"Maybe I'm going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate. I may tie my tax returns. I'd love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama's birth certificate."

I've asked a Trump spokesperson whether he will now release his tax returns in light of this morning's development

The question of whether Trump will follow through no this suggestion goes directly to the heart of whether Trump's presidential flirtation has been a big fraud all along. Those who say it's a ruse argue that Trump will never run for president, because he'd have to reveal that his net worth is far less than he's claimed. Trump, who bristles at this suggestion, sought to dispel such talk by suggesting to Stephanopoulos that he'd release his tax returns if Obama released his birth certificate -- apparently thinking he was secure in the knowledge that Obama would never do this. Now Trump's bluff has been called.

Show us the money, Donald. Show us your grades. Show us the invoices from your crack team of birthernaut investigators that haven't delivered proof, that Obama was born elsewhere or of their existence. Show me a guy from your old neighborhood who even remembers you were around.

And memo to Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair and Justin Elliott at Salon: put those media criticism doodles you got from Trump up on eBay. Let's see what the real world value of Donald Trump's opinion is.

I'll leave you with the thoughts of The Onion's Baratunde Thurston, who basically just went off today when he heard what was happening. Of Trump's birther binge, Thurston says, "It's embarrassing to the entire nation that we would sit and let this happen. We have all been debased by this incident. By this charlatan, by this con man, by this mere promoter of himself."

"No one has ever asked [Trump] to prove anything," Thurston points out. That should change!


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