“I was a really good student at the best school. I’m like a smart guy, OK?” Donald Trump boasted on The View last week. “They make these birthers into the worst idiots.”
For a week now, Trump’s been all over TV going full-tilt, red-in-the-face birther—in order, he says, to defend the honor of those “who happen to think there’s a possibility this man [Obama] was not born in this country.” If Trump is smart, ergo, birthers aren’t stupid. It’s quite gallant of Donald, really, this offer to become the Birthers’ Brain. But as serious questions arise about his brain, some Republicans are increasingly worried that the battle for the GOP presidential nomination has become a contest between Dumb and Dumber. Because, you know, that might play into the hands of those terrible Dems.
“Do you ever think about the fact,” Gretchen Carlson wondered on Fox & Friends, “that maybe [Obama] is not showing [his birth certificate] because it keeps sort of stirring the pot about these other people discussing it, and it doesn’t make them look so good?” Without naming names, she meant people who tickle the tiger of birtherism, like Trump, Huckabee, Gingrich, Hannity, Bachmann, Lou Dobbs and other stars of the Fox box.
And Gretchen’s not alone. Glenn Beck has long been pushing this conspiracy theory about the birthers’ conspiracy theory: It posits that Obama is promoting the idea that he isn’t an American citizen and therefore shouldn’t be president in order to make all Republicans look like morons. Beck has even called the folks who unwittingly do Obama’s bidding “crazies,” “fringe,” and “birther idiot[s].” “One of the reasons why [Obama] doesn’t just come out [with his birth certificate] is because it is so great for him, because it immediately marginalizes anybody who says that kind of stuff,” Beck said on his radio show in 2009. “It makes them immediately look like they’re flat-earthers.”
If so, 51 percent of Republican primary voters have dropped off the edge, believing that Obama wasn’t born in the United States (while a teetering 21 percent say they’re not sure), according to a recent poll. Non-birther Bill O’Reilly doesn’t believe these numbers, but they give Karl Rove the willies.
"This is the White House strategy, they love this," Rove told O’Reilly. “We need the leaders of our party to say, ‘Look, stop falling into the trap of the White House.’ ”
Too late. The GOP leadership, by refusing to unambiguously disavow birther beliefs, has lent birtherism tons of cred. And now Trump is splashing in, making more noise in the shallow end of the celebrity pool than all the potential GOP candidates combined, thereby calling attention to the dingbattiness of the entire field. This cannot be good. Any more than it is good that Trump is offering himself as proof that not all birthers are, as Beck says, “idiots.”