Donald Trump, who appears at times to be flirting with the idea of a 2012 presidential run, is taking an enthusiastic spin around the block with the birther movement, demanding to see President Barack Obama's birth certificate and claiming that the president may have been born outside the United States. And no one seems to be quite sure why.
The Donald's birther media tour began on ABC's "The View" last week, when the New York real estate tycoon turned reality TV star questioned Obama's citizenship. "Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?" Trump asked, echoing a fringe movement of conspiracy theorists that have questioned for years whether Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore ineligible to be president of the United States.
Trump kicked the controversy up a notch Monday when he proudly announced that he had released his own birth certificate to the birther-friendly conservative website, Newsmax.com.
"It took me one hour to get my birth certificate. It's inconceivable that, after four years of questioning, the president still hasn't produced his birth certificate," Trump told Newsmax. "I'm just asking President Obama to show the public his birth certificate. Why's he making an issue out of this?"
Hours later, in an unexpected twist, officials in New York, where Trump was born, told Politico that the document Trump released wasn't issued by the Department of Health and therefore was unofficial.
Few observers think Trump seriously doubts Obama's citizenship, so his sudden gusto for the birther movement has them perplexed. And suspicious. A few takes on what The Donald is really up to:
He's Trying to Deflect Attention From His Own Shady, Scottish Origins. Politico makes some phone calls and concludes that the birth certificate Donald Trump released to prove he was born in the United States isn't official. And then, they go to town:
"Trump's mother, it should be noted, was born in Scotland, which is not part of the United States. His plane is registered in the Bahamas, also a foreign country. This fact pattern -- along with the wave of new questions surrounding what he claims is a birth certificate -- raises serious doubts about his eligibility to serve as president of the United States."
Is He a Democratic Sleeper Agent? The birther movement has been so discredited that U.S. News writer Robert Schlesinger is beginning to wonder if Trump is really functioning as an Obama plant, and is out to make the Republican Party look ridiculous. "One has to ask: Is Donald Trump, seemingly a 'birther' running for the GOP presidential nod, really an Obama sleeper agent?," Schlesinger writes.
Maybe He Really Is Running for President ... and He Thinks Republicans Are Stupid. David Frum wonders if Trump thinks birtherism is a rite of passage for potential GOP presidential candidates. "Question to discuss: Is Donald Trump crazy? Or does he just hold a very, very, very low opinion of the Republican primary voter?" Frum asks."The Democratic National Committee's opposition research department must be licking their collective chops. They couldn't have invented a better sabotage candidate than Trump: Unserious enough to actually wave the bloody birth certificate, but wealthy and famous enough that he's impossible to ignore."
Naw, He Just Can't Help Himself. Time Magazine's Joe Klein says the birther antics are Trump's latest marketing stunt, and nothing more. Trump, Klein writes at Time's Swampland blog, "will not run for president but is pretending to do so now because ... he ... just ... can't ...help ... himself."
"Trump has long believed a sucker is born every minute -- hence, the pretense that he's an actual real estate executive (as he once was), a master builder, instead of a franchiser who gets paid to put his name on other people's buildings in order to give them marketing cache (one wonders what sort of people would be more likely to buy or rent an apartment because it is called The Trump Dump, or whatever).
In any case, this unerring sense of marketing savvy has now led Trump to latch on to birtherism as his first move in his non-presidential campaign."