October surpri...zzzzz: Donald Trump's Obama 'bombshell' fizzles

Trump's news-less announcement was preceded by an attempt to unseal testimony Mitt Romney gave in a decades-old divorce proceeding. So far, these October surprises aren't living up to their billing.

Courtesy of Reuters
Donald Trump offers to pay $5 million to the charity of President Obama's choice if Obama releases his college and passport records, in this still image taken from video released on YouTube by Trump on October 24.

Is Donald Trump a secret Obama supporter?

That may be the only logical explanation for Mr. Trump’s snooze-worthy, instantly irrelevant “announcement” concerning the president, which he’d nevertheless hyped for several days as really, really big and certain to change the entire course of the campaign.

Turns out, we were correct in surmising that it would have something to do with the “birther” conspiracy theory claiming President Obama may not have been born in the United States. But even we underestimated how totally news-less and uninteresting Trump’s “big reveal” would actually be.

In case you missed it (and, trust us, don’t worry if you did), the announcement amounted to nothing more than Trump offering to give $5 million to the charity of Mr. Obama’s choice – inner-city children in Chicago, Trump helpfully suggested – in return for the president releasing all of his college records and applications and passport records and applications.

It was so utterly banal that it actually felt almost like a joke – we wondered, briefly, if it could be a piece of performance art. As if Trump was really telling reporters: The joke’s on you for being willing to chase even the remote possibility of a scandal here! But that would probably be giving Trump too much credit.

It did, however, lead us to wonder: When did October surprises get so, well, pathetic? And how, exactly, did we get to this point – where the final weeks of the campaign inevitably seem to bring out a host of ridiculous non-scandal “scandals,” in the search for something new and game-changing to talk about?

The other “surprise” getting attention Wednesday is the effort to unseal the 1991 testimony given by Mitt Romney in the divorce of Tom and Maureen Stemberg. Mr. Stemberg is the founder of Staples, a company Mr. Romney has often touted as one of Bain Capital’s big success stories. The Boston Globe has been seeking access to Romney’s testimony, and Mrs. Stemberg appeared in court Wednesday with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred to say she supported unsealing the documents.

It’s less clear what will emerge from this particular storyline, but we still feel relatively confident in saying that it would have to be something pretty huge – reflecting directly on Romney himself – to actually affect the presidential race. Right now, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that it will rise to that level.

Of course, in a very close race, even small things can matter. The uncovering of George W. Bush’s 1976 DUI in the final days of the 2000 campaign did not affect how most voters felt about the candidates, according to polls, with just seven percent saying it raised serious questions about Mr. Bush’s qualifications for the presidency (and most of those voters were already supporting Al Gore, anyway). But in a race that wound up being a virtual tie, it’s possible that news may well have handed Mr. Gore the popular vote.

Still, that was a relatively serious, albeit decades-old, revelation about the candidate himself. Which made it far more relevant – and worth covering – than this year’s crop of gossipy October distractions.

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