Real estate tycoon Donald Trump's talk about a presidential bid is take your pick: a bad joke, a cheap publicity stunt, or the delusional raving of a guy with too much money, too much ego, and way too much time on his hands to stroke both. But Trump did manage to figure out one angle that was a surefire way to get attention. That was to dredge up the birthers' lie about President Obama.
Trump knew it would get the tongues wagging and an invite on a popular talk show. Though one of the hosts tore into him on it, Trump was not moved and repeated the stock line, "I want him to show his birth certificate," not once but twice.
That was more than enough to get cheers from at least one Tea Party leader who gleefully said that Trump's revisit to the bogus issue instantly elevated his presidential stock. It didn't. But the horrid and appalling truth is that it did put a household name, quasi-public figure on record that the issue has enough merit to become a campaign issue. It won't, simply because it's now so discredited that it's joined the pantheon of politically correct no-no's for any of the pack of would-be GOP presidential contenders to raise. Trump knew that too, and that's partly why he blurted it out. But he also knew that while it's a taboo subject to raise in polite political circles, a significant number, if not majority of Republicans, actually believe or want to believe that Obama's birth is a legitimate issue to dump back on the political table.
This is not a small point. More than two dozen lawsuits and petitions have been filed in various state courts contesting Obama's U.S. citizenship. The Supreme Court's refusal to demand that Obama pony up his birth certificate has done absolutely nothing to dampen the movement. If anything, it probably added some juice to it, by convincing more that the Courts are in cahoots with the Obama White House to keep the real "truth" about his imagined foreign birth secret from the American people.
In the past year, eleven states have in one form or another taken up the cry for presidential candidates, and of course the president, to prove that they are bona fide U.S. citizens. The even scarier thing about the bogus controversy is that in each of the states that are trying to get a Birther law passed, the bill's sponsors have gotten dozens of legislators to sign onto to their bills.
Georgia is a good example of the popularity of the Birther line. GOP State Rep. Mark Hatfield got more than one-half of the Georgia legislature's 180 members (including one Democrat) to endorse the bill that flatly demands that President Obama produce his birth certificate to get on Georgia's 2012 presidential ballot. Hatfield and the other bunch of signers rejected Hawaii's repeated public exhibit of Obama's birth certificate as "not sufficient."
The Obama birth certificate clamorers kicked their rumor mongering campaign about Obama's birth into even higher gear when some mainstream papers found the birth certificate controversy good copy and grist for public chatter. Since then the Birthers have crudely cloaked themselves in the mantle of public spirited citizens and legal experts with no personal, political, let alone racial, ax to grind with Obama. Their sole goal, they claimed, was to ensure electoral truth and accuracy, to make sure that all the legal requirements for holding a presidential office are met, and to head off a constitutional crisis. They even promised that they would put the matter to rest if Obama simply produced the original.
The real value of the Birther movement is that it's a tailor-made backdoor way to destabilize the Obama administration on policy initiatives he's pushing on health care, the economy, and a softer foreign policy outreach. The GOP, and especially Tea Party leaders and activists, are ferocious opponents of that.
Trump latched onto the birth certificate issue in part to keep his screwy, media grabbing presidential tease alive and along the way to make mischief against Obama. Beyond that Trump doesn't have a single policy idea that anyone one stage before comatose would listen too. But then again he doesn't have to have anything worth listening too as long as there are millions out there that want to believe and think the worst about Obama. The fraudulent birth certificate controversy will always suit them, and so will the likes of a Trump.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on blogtalkradio.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com