Is Donald Trump actually a supporter of President Obama? We ask this question because the real estate mogul/reality show host continues to behave in a manner which does not help, or at least to those of us schooled in linear rationality does not appear to help, Mr. Trump’s avowed choice for president, Mitt Romney.
On Wednesday, the day after he hosted a Romney fundraiser in Las Vegas, Trump tripled down on his insistence that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. As evidence, he continued to cite an old Obama bio from a literary agency that listed the incumbent president as a Kenya native.
“In his own words, @BarackObama ‘was born in Kenya, and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.’ This statement was made, in writing, in the 1990s. Why does the press protect him? Is this another Watergate?” wrote Trump on his Twitter feed.
Now, the agency in question said that bio was a mistake, and wasn’t based on anything Obama told them. The assistant who drafted it said it was in error. More to the point, Obama has released his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii. Mitt Romney has said Obama is native-born.
But according to Trump, the press is protecting Obama, just like it protected Nixon from the Watergate allegations. Or something like that.
Now, the Watergate analogy is instructive, in that it proves the opposite of the point Trump is trying to make. It’s hard to manage conspiracies. People talk out of self-interest, evidence doesn’t get erased, and the next thing you know, there’s a grand jury. And that occurred over a period of months. For Obama to have successfully concealed his origins, the conspiracy would have to stretch over decades, from the US mainland to Hawaii to Kenya and back.
But we digress. The larger point is that Trump is acting like a big pain in the hairline for Romney. No, we don’t think candidates have to repudiate every whacky thing one of their supporters says, or that surrogates represent a candidate entirely, or some such. But Trump is stomping all over Romney’s message.
On Tuesday Romney clinched the nomination by winning the Texas primary. But “Trump,” not “clinch,” was the operative political GOP word of the day. By continuing to make noise about the president’s place of birth, Trump ensures that every Romney surrogate will get asked about it in every appearance. Just about.
Now, according to Byron York, the well-connected conservative political writer for the Washington Examiner, the Romney campaign is not going to play the repudiation game. If Romney denounces Trump, he’ll just get more calls to denounce other people with increasingly tangential links to the Romney campaign.
When John McCain disavowed the radical remarks of some of his supporters, “it contributed to an image of McCain in retreat,” writes York. “So the bottom line is, Romney is determined to stay away from anything that distracts him from the main issue of the campaign.”
OK, that’s a theory, and maybe it will work. But can we just say that at the moment the person who is doing the most to try and distract Romney has the initials “Donald Trump,” not “Barack Obama?”
“At this point, I suspect that Trump no longer believes in the Birther nonsense himself, and the only reason he keeps talking about it is to increase his publicity,” wrote Noah Glynn yesterday on the Corner blog of the conservative National Review.
Amen to that.