Archive for the ‘Birthers’ Category

My thoughts here on POLITICO about a strange week in politics, here in North Carolina and elsewhere. We’re already getting bombarded by political advertising here in Tar Heel country, as a vital swing state and the host of the Democratic National Convention. The state party has been rocked by scandal, and our recent vote on same-sex marriage equality put us on the national agenda. The past week not only saw the strange re-emergence of birther-in-chief Donald Trump, but also the sad spectacle of John Edwards’ trial here in Greensboro.

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Cross posting from thetrumpwatch:

Well, it’s official: Trump is out. As I wrote in POLITICO today, there are two questions now even more pressing for the GOP: Will a moreinteresting and colorful candidate get in the race, and will Trump continue his political bomb-throwing from the sidelines.

I agree with my U.Va. pal Larry Sabato that Chris Christie would make an interesting replacement for Trump on the GOP stage (Trump Lite? Trump PG?). And although he’s said he won’t run, people in this business are known to change their minds. From my own experience in Jersey politics, I agree with those who think he would be a formidable candidate.

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Donald Trump has pulled it off: President Obama was forced to release his “long form” birth certificate. As I wrote in POLITICO today, there’s going to be a new Trump talking point: I play hardball. I faced down the President and I won. I can beat him.

Even though it was a “phony issue,” Obama’s no-drama instinct to act “the grownup in the room” (White House language, not mine) is repeatedly producing poor political results. The rowdy kids and carnival hucksters are stealing the show. And winning midterm elections. And driving the dialog. While I’m not alone in thinking there’s a good chance this whole birther issue was exploited by Trump without any of the sincerity of a true believer, the fact is that he is the story now. We’ll see if he can pivot.

Read my full article, published in POLITICO on April 27, 2012.

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Just crossing the wire is news that former Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour’s trial balloon has popped, and he will not be a candidate for president in 2012. While plagued with baggage, some of it tinged with racism, Barbour could have been a viable candidate. As I wrote on POLITICO today, however, there is a new force on the right — Donald Trump. Trump is relentlessly pursuing free media opportunities, even if that means fueling feuds with actors and stand up comedians. His exploitation of birtherism (most popular in Barbour’s deep south) may well be strategic alone — even Machiavellian — but we are witnessing the results, and Trump knows how to close a deal.

One viable candidate is out. Trump will continue to capture people’s attention and imagination, as David Brooks put it, while recycled pols like Barbour and Romney struggle for attention.

Read my complete article, published by POLITICO on April 25, 2012.

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A cross-posting here from TheTrumpWatch, where we keep track of The Donald:

A fascinating contrast jumped out at me on the op-ed page of our local paper, The Raleigh News & Observer. The screamer goes to The Donald, with David Brooks’ column on the possibility of a Trump candidacy in which he colorfully describes the person in question as having “entered the realm of Upper Blowhardia.” Brooks treads his typically coy line of acknowledging Trump’s undeniable embodiment of the quintessential American “Gospel of Success,” while also painting him as a juvenile showoff, a “perpetual boy.”

Next to Brooks’ “We Do Like Our Blowhards,” on the far left of the same page and with a notably smaller headline we find an op-ed from Froma Harrop, a syndicated writer based in that most liberal bastion of Providence, R.I. The header chosen by the N&O is “Looking Like a Poor Country” (papers get to choose their own titles for syndicated columns like these two examples). Her hometown paper went with “The GOP’s Third World Vision for the U.S.” To Harrop, this means the growing income disparity between rich and poor: The Donald Trumps and everyone else.

What’s interesting here is that a central element of Trump’s emerging talking points, and his stump speech, uses this same language:America is turning into a third world country. But to Trump the idea means something totallydifferent, a populist appeal not a progressive liberal one. Over and over again he has been using this third world language, particularly when speaking about airports — LaGuardia in particular. Our airports are tumbled down (the director of LaGuardia was even forced to go public and agree with Trump). People go to airports. They see it. I see it here in Raleigh, where landing in Terminal A does have the feel of a traveling back in time to a struggling Soviet satellite state.

“If you look at what China is doing, they’re stealing our jobs, they’re taking our money,”Trump says. “They’re building bridges. They’re building airports. They’re building cities, brand new cities,” he continued. “When was the last time you saw a bridge being built in the United States?”

This version of the third world argument will resonate far beyond the radical fringe and is not Upper Blowhardia. It is a co-opting of the liberal/income disparity rhetoric to serve a populist message with broad appeal, especially coming from a man (as Brooks acknowledges) who has built things and reshaped entire city skylines. We’ve been hearing about “shovel ready jobs” for years, to little effect, and commentators like Chris Matthews have been clamoring for us to Start Building Things for just as long.

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In response to popular demand I’m launching a new blog dedicated to the political story of the moment, and possibly the story of the 2012 campaign: The new king of the Birthers, Donald Trump. I think The Donald’s going to run, and at TheTrumpWatch.com we’ll be monitoring his path to a possible reality-show campaign.

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It’s a cardinal role of politics: There is a huge advantage when you’re able to characterize your opponent before they’ve been able to characterize themselves. Obama showed a mastery of this in 2008 when he framed the election as being about Bush and Cheney and Rove rather than John McCain. McCain was on the defensive constantly, having to make embarrassing statements about the fact that he was not George W. Bush. Obama’s at it again now, welcoming Donald Trump and his birtherism in an interview with ABC News.

Whoever the eventual nominee is (and I’m not willing to say it will not be Trump) Obama is consciously setting up a guilt-by-association argument. Obama is legitimizing Trump by responding to him, while also gently mocking him. When the President acknowledges someone like this, it raises the stakes. It is a savvy move and take my word for it, we’ll be hearing more. The Donald loves a duel. Just ask Rosie O’Donnell.

As Jon Stewart pointed out last night, Bill O’Reilly probably sees this coming, and is trying to do rhetorical triage from the right. And in a lovely ironic twist, The Donald took to Fox News yesterday to declare Barack Obama the worst president ever. Another piece of tape that the man Trump called “the little minion,” David Plouffe, is likely cuing up for campaign season is one of The Donald declaring George W. Bush the worst president ever — in contrast to what he told Sean Hannity yesterday (he said that honor had previously gone to Jimmy Carter). Let’s go to the videotape:

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Donald won’t quit. Today on NBC he played up his Birther politics even higher, and some — but not enough — critics are pouncing on him. The right is allowing his inflammatory nonsense to continue, and apparently loving every minute, as Speaker Boehner announces there is “no daylight” between himself and the Tea Party. And the Donald’s numbers keep going up. Would-be Presidential candidate Joe Scarborough, who is toying with a moderate GOP pairup with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, recently put Trump forward as a stalking horse for his own candidacy in a florid column filled with rhetorically deceptive references to Ronald Reagan.

I was born outside of the USA, in San Jose, Costa Rica, while my mother, a US citizen, was Associate Director of the Peace Corps. I have elaborate State Department documents showing I am nonetheless a United States Citizen. John McCain was born outside the United States, while his father was on duty with the Navy in the Canal Zone. He is nonetheless a United States citizen (though his birth certificate, like mine, looks rather different than most). Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. There is no question, no ambiguity even as exists in the case of McCain, or myself. That tea party panderers like Trump flame up  anti-Obama sentiment based on this canard is offensive, and the responsible adults in the GOP continue to let it go on.

Trump’s offensive plays part-and-parcel into the anti-government rhetoric from the radical right, which wants to undo the Progressive legacy of FDR, JFK, and LBJ — as well as moderate republicans like (gasp) Richard Nixon, who believed that Government could and should be part of the solution to our problems in communities across America. Trump’s latest salvos are aimed at reigniting the racial, social, and ideological wars that this country spent the last century getting over, to arrive at the status we now hold as the world’s lone superpower.

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Here’s an excerpt from my interview last night with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, discussing Donald Trump and his recent joining-up with the birthers.

Donald Trump throws his lot in with ‘Birthers’ – ABC Radio Australia (audio)

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In the latest news from birther-land, a new spokesman has arrived: The Donald. The man is a salesman of the Atlantic City boardwalk variety (same place where the late Billy Mays got his start) and he sees that casting aspersions on the president’s legitimacy as “one of us” is what sells right now, at least with the know-nothing tea party conservative base. So he’s out there hawking.

It’s a story I’ve been writing for several years now mostly in the pages of POLITICO, a story about how the current leadership of the conservative movement cannot or will not shut down this racially laden pandering. Trump is the latest case in point. My editor at POLITICO posed the question in terms of whether or not the media should cut Trump off because of his birtherism; my counter was that it’s really the duty of the leaders of the conservative movement to do this — the media’s job is to report, and as long as the right keeps spewing this nonsense, it deserves to be covered. This was my response to Brad Smith, a bona fide conservative intellectual of the Federalist Society mold, who has tried to blame the media and the left for “keeping the story alive.” The birther story is kept alive because of people like Huckabee and now Trump, and the failure of responsible conservatives to shut them down.

Read my full article, published in POLITICO on March 29, 2011.

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