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It's Judgment Day for birthers

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Smart v. Stupid

It's Judgment Day for birthers

  • Pete Souza/White House Photo

When I heard the rumbling that the president would be releasing his original birth document, I cringed. It was very late on April 25 and I spent the hours until his morning news conference thinking he was making, well, a dumb mistake. Even presidents—despite having roomfuls of strategists—do occasionally pull a boner. This seemed like a big one.

Bombastic bigmouth Donald Trump will be crowing about it all day, I thought. Politically, it is too early to play the hole card, went my imaginary conversation with the president. Let Republicans sink even further into the racist bile of birtherism first. Or let a mook like Trump win their nomination. Then throw down in the last days of the election, dragging dozens of coattail Democrats into office.

But I was wrong to think about the birth certificate just in political terms. Obama, more wisely, decided to be a leader. Not that he completely forgot the politics...

The president’s press conference was operatic in its theatricality, fantastic in its humor, and brilliant in its political punch. Obama was a relaxed and confident. He was an adult lecturing the children in the room, and also the children in the hall. He told us that fixing the economy is more important than fighting about the headline in Weekly World News. Settle down and be serious, he inveighed. There is real work to do. So don’t be silly.

If Weekly World News is true by the way, model Brooklyn Decker—who may be the best looking woman in the history of man—is missing. She was kidnapped, they report, by another model who is a Russian spy. Now that’s serious journalism! (You looked, didn’t you?)

The President also managed to give his lecture without demonizing the congressional Republicans he’ll have to work with. Obama complimented them, explaining that they too were being drowned out by hucksterism. He didn’t take the opportunity to point out their complicity, even though it’s clear. Mainstream Republicans have regularly stoked the fires of birtherism, at least by innuendo. John Boehner famously said it was not his place to tell his constituents not to believe this lie.

With the Paul Ryan Plan going up in flames in town halls everywhere, Obama chose to let Republicans keep the last of their dignity. He even complimented congressional Republicans for their seriousness. I wouldn’t have been so generous.

But to a political junkie, it was the atmospherics of the news conference were awe inspiring. Obama said this:

We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.

That last sentence—brilliant by the way it drove news content—was featured in almost every story. On television it was followed—near universally—by a cut to the big head of Donald Trump. Sometimes his mug appeared without audio. When he could be heard, he was bragging about himself. Trump made the perfect poster child—emphasis on child—for a certain kind of Republican. All evening, at 5, 6 and 11 it was “…carnival barkers.” [Cut to Trump.] Political strategists all over this town wish they’d programmed that sound bite. They’ll be talking about it over drinks for months.

For the rest of the day—one that Trump had planned to be his—the perennial loudmouth tried to put a bright face on his own knockout. Like a leaky balloon, he shrunk in size with every passing hour.

Birtherism won’t go away. It’ll still be the parlor talk of idiot-bigots. It is the nature of bigots to be idiots. It is the nature of idiots to ignore the obvious. But Trump-the-Bloviater will go away. That alone is worth a celebratory donation to your favorite charity, don’t you think?

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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