Trump and "the Grades"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 28 2011 3:23 PM

Trump and "the Grades"

Maggie Haberman chased Donald Trump on the trail and New Hampshire and overheard this:

He was greeted by throngs everywhere he went, mobbed as he walked down Market Street in Portsmouth. One onlooker screamed, "You’re a bigot!" But most shouted their approval, with one man calling out, "Get the grades!"

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Ah, the grades! It's a reference to Trump's somewhat newfound interest in getting the college records of the young Barack Obama. This is the Trump obsession that Bob Schieffer called out as pretty obviously racist. But it's not just a Trump obsession. The Washington Times responded to Birther Day with an editorial asking for more Obama records.
What is there for this president to hide? Maybe he flunked government classes or got busted for dope. He has openly discussed his past drug use, but is there more to it? Secrecy breeds speculation.

The list of hidden Obama documents includes medical records from his annual physical - which other presidents have made public - and first lady Michelle Obama’s law-firm records. Is she covering up a Hillary Clinton-type Whitewater case? Who knows. Perhaps the biggest secret in the Obama administration: What is the president’s golf handicap? He’s played 65 rounds in two years, so is his swing improving? Or, does he force staff aides in his usual foursome to let him take presidential mulligans?

This is Just Askin' Questions journalism at its sleepiest. If Obama was "busted for dope" in California or New York, oppo researchers wouldn't have needed college records to prove it. (The assumption that oppo guys didn't dig into this, when Hillary Clinton's campaign raised questions about Obama's drug use, is blinkered.) There's no reason to speculate on a "Whitewater case" in Michelle Obama's past, but the use of the term is illustrative, because there never was any link found between the Clintons and Whitewater in investigations that spanned most of Clinton's presidency.

A popular conservative line about Obama is "he wasn't vetted." There's something to this. Obama's scandals, which were few, were absolutely dampened by the reluctance of the mainstream media to milk stories with racial overtones -- Mark Penn musing about Obama's cocaine use, Obama's friendship with Jeremiah Wright. (Even the Clinton campaign dumped Vincent Shaheen after he blathered to a reporter about Obama's old drug use.) But if there's one lesson to take from the birth certificate mess, it's that some Obama conspiracy theorists have been exposed as frauds who don't have the goods. Donald Trump speculated about material he heard might be in the document -- via Internet news, most likely -- and he was totally wrong. The burden of proof is really on Obama critics to prove there's some reason to demand more records from Obama.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.