The Trump Effect on Birtherism

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 1 2011 12:37 PM

The Trump Effect on Birtherism

Chris Barron, chairman of GOProud, writes at length about Donald Trump's newfound obsession with Barack Obama's citizenship. You'll recall that GOProud was at least partly responsible for Trump's buzzy appearance at CPAC; the tycoon/pundit/punchline's slow descent into birtherism had been raising questions about the gay group.

Let me be 100% clear – I am not a birther. I have never said I don’t believe Barack Obama was born in this country. Quite honestly, I haven’t spent much time worrying about or thinking about this issue, because I just don’t care about it. But there are a lot of issues that I don’t particularly care about that lots of other people do (take soccer for instance, for whatever reasons billions of people around the globe love it, I couldn’t give a rats ass about it).

On the question of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, while its not an issue I care about, clearly there are large segments of the population – and the Republican primary electorate in particular – that do care about this issue. Just because I don’t care about the issue or just because the press has decided that the issue is 'off limits’ doesn’t mean that a potential Presidential candidate can’t legitimately raise questions about the issue.

I do believe that Mr. Trump’s approach to this issue, like his approach to almost every issue he has spoken on, has been a "common sense" approach. If there are those who question President Obama’s birthplace, then why not just produce the birth certificate (not the certificate of live birth – there is a difference) and be done with it? To me, that sounds pretty common sense.

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I tried to get at this in my piece about the "birther primary." The problem for Republicans, who are still slow-walking their entry into the race, is that they've got a media lightning rod who's reintroducing an issue that they'd hoped would either 1) go away or 2) come up only in town halls where they could dispatch it. And they would not save themselves with the Barron defense. In 2007, some conspiracy theorists gravitated to Ron Paul's presidential campaign, partly because when asked an open-ended question about 9/11, he didn't say outright that there was no need to investigate it again. That led to this:

(Gotta love the "many" line -- did someone poll them?) The comparison between trutherism and birtherism is so obvious, and truthers were such an annoyance for Paul, that Republicans can't possibly enjoy the new prominence of the birth "issue."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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