Trump Doing His “Own Thing” Means Trump Doing His Birther Thing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 29 2012 1:40 PM

Trump Doing His “Own Thing” Means Trump Doing His Birther Thing

Ann Romney looks on as Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shake hands during a news conference.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Thanks for the generous intro, Dave, and for kindly inviting me to contribute to this space while you’re putting together what is going to be the rockingest Fresca in Slate history. Would you please ask Keith Emerson what his opinion of the keytar is for me?

Considering my Truther writing, it’s only appropriate that my first post be about this morning’s Donald Trump Birther story. Trump chose the same day that he is hosting a Vegas fundraiser for Mitt Romney as the day to reiterate his Birther opinions in the strongest terms since Obama released his longform birth certificate in response to Donald’s national Birther tour last year.


Trump’s latest rationale is the “Born in Kenya” story broke last week. The purpose of the story, which was about a 1991 literary brochure that described Obama as having been “born in Kenya,” was not to invoke Birtherism, but to show that “Obama's public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times" and that the media had not vetted this fact properly. But of course, that was never what the Birther-inclined were going to get out of it.

“He’s a young man doing a book and he said what he believed to be the truth,” Trump told CNBC this morning. “It all wouldn’t matter, except if you’re born in a foreign country, you’re not allowed to be president, so you know this is a minor detail.” (The inaccuracy of this minor detail is also a minor detail.)

The only reason Trump matters again is Romney’s decision to embrace him as a campaign booster. That, and Trump’s statement earlier in the CNBC interview that he was going to be starting his own Super PAC with $5 or $10 million of his own money to do his “own thing.”

Obviously, it seems unlikely that Trump’s “own Super PAC thing” will include more Birther-friendly talk. As with the Joe Ricketts’ Jeremiah Wright blow-up two weeks ago, Romney’s team would likely do whatever necessary (short of official co-ordination) in order to signal that it wanted no part of that type of support.

The problem is that Romney has accepted Trump’s non-Birther campaigning and that comes with whatever batshit thing Trump says in any given week. At some point very soon, Romney is going to have to realize that Trump’s support is not worth what he does to the campaign narrative. Romney’s decision to host a fundraiser with Trump has created multiple news cycles where the media has been talking about anti-Obama nuttiness in the Republican Party, rather than substance. (Romney gave a big speech about education policy last week. Anyone notice that?)

Romney responded yesterday to the reemergence of the Trump Birther thread with a meek statement that he doesn’t agree with all of his supporters, but he’ll take whatever help he can to get to 50.1 percent. Obama’s campaign has already pounced on this with a web video comparing John McCain’s vocal public rejection of anti-Obama racism at a town hall meeting in 2008 to Romney’s passive response to Trump’s nonsense. This same type of distraction happened two weeks ago with the nixed Jeremiah Wright ad pitch. These are not the things that Team Romney needs to be answering questions about, and every day they do is a day that David Axelrod is happy.

At some point the Romney campaign is going to have to realize this and either throw Trump overboard, or completely marginalize him as a surrogate.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.



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