Trump wins

Trump played on one of the oldest vulnerabilities of media: the “some say” rule

by Jaime Weinman

The big winner of the Obama birth certificate follies (and I do mean follies) is, of course, Donald Trump. Whether or not he even runs for President, let alone gets the nomination, he managed to make this “issue” so huge that the President of the United States felt he had to respond to it.

Trump played on one of the oldest vulnerabilities of media, the “some say” rule. If a prominent public figure is saying something, it is treated with respect. So if one Serious Person is saying something true, and the other is saying something false, many outlets – particularly cable news – will treat both statements as equally valid. (No, I don’t know who decides who and who isn’t a Serious Person, let alone why Trump counts. But he does, apparently, given the tone of much of the coverage on TV.) As ABC’s Jake Tapper just put it, “too many in the media have treated this crap as if it’s subject for debate and not just a a falsehood.” CNN provided the ultimate reducto ad absurdum of this principle recently with the announcement: “Trump says Obama wasn’t born here. We’ll show you the evidence and let you decide.”

Obviously, this announcement won’t change much. Those who are committed to believing that Obama was not born in the U.S. will continue to believe it, and point to today’s event as further evidence of the theory: Obama must be hiding something if he was worried enough to produce an elaborately faked birth certificate. The first rule of a conspiracy theory is that once you believe in it, everything is evidence for the theory – the fact that it can never be disproven is one of the things that separates conspiracy theories from regular theories anyway.

The real question is whether this is a tactical mistake by Obama when it comes to dealing with what we might call the birther-curious. These are people who don’t accept the theory that Obama was part of some 40-odd year conspiracy to install him in the White House, but just think that he’s “hiding something.” No real reason for it, just the old idea that where there’s smoke there’s fire, or that it wouldn’t be in the news all the time if there weren’t something to it. Another frequent tack is to argue that birtherism may or may not be true, but Obama was the one making it an issue for his own nefarious purposes.

My own cynical instincts are to think that today’s events make the issue worse in that sense, even if most birther-curious people believe that the certificate exists. Because the point of birtherism doesn’t have much to do with certificates; it has to do with defining Obama as a cultural alien and un-American – something that is believed and seriously argued by people who reject the literal theory of birtherism. So today just gives extra fuel to the idea that Obama is hiding his past, that he’s not One Of Us, and so on. Andrew Sullivan showed us how it’s done today by blaming Obama for “waiting so long,” and blaming the media for “piling on the Birthers.” You see? It wasn’t the Birthers who were really at fault here. Obama and the “MSM” were the ones keeping this issue alive. And when it continues to be alive, presumably it’ll still be their fault.

In other words, those email forwards you’ve been getting? Expect to get more of them. Not only that, expect them to be more elaborate than ever. Or as the headline on Fox News’s website put it today:

So yeah. Expect more of that.




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Trump wins

  1. The whole birther thing was incredibly silly to begin with. Americans have gone off the deep end.

    And Trump made hay out of it by boosting his ratings for his last show of the year.
    http://images.ucomics.com/comics/ta/2011/ta110426

  2. Nothing will be good enough for the birthers. They simply can’t believe one of “those people” could legally become president.

    Hey, isn’t Trump supposed to release his tax records now? Didn’t he make a promise to do so if Obama released the long form?

    Finally… this kind of pees all over Corsi’s new book, doesn’t it?

    • Win-Win for Trump. He gets the credit for Obama's cave in and also gets to brag about how rich he is.

  3. What an utterly garbage article. Chump wins nothing. He just looks like a bigger clown and the longer he is in the spotlight the better for Obama

  4. .
    Seriously, the confusion over 'Birth Certificate', 'Certificate of Birth', 'Certificate of Live Birth', long form, short form, is meaningless. The different terms for the Certificate vary, but different places use different terms. My own 'Certificate of Birth' is in fact two identical documents of which neither is an 'original'. There is no 'original' 'Birth Certificate' from my place and era. The certificates are EXTRACTS of the registration data, the latter being NOT a legally valid form of determining my birth credentials. If I got a signed copy of that information, I would not be able to use it for voting, licensing, or even top secret security clearance, etc. People would look at it and ask me what the hell it was. My certificates, made on the day of my birth, and extracts of the registration information, are the present valid certificates.

    If I needed new certificates, they could also be made from the registration data. It's conceivable that original registration data entered on paper on a document somewhere no longer exists. But wherever the official place of records is/will be, that's where I can get a fresh 'Birth Certificate'.

    Obama's short form, which he originally released, was sufficient for ALL legal purposes. So is the new one. The newly released item is no better than the short one. If people demand the release of one person's complete birth documentation from records, it will set a precedent for total confusion, and waste of valuable time of record clerks everywhere. It's my understanding getting the original record information is rather involved in the U.S. It should be. Obama has set a good example by NOT releasing the original data (if it exists). You can't have 100,000,000 people suddenly deciding they would just like to have a copy of their original birth records; and if (as some reports have suggested), Hawaiian original records have been completely replaced or computerized, the 'orginal' documentation does not exist.
    .

  5. the illuminati is watching us! Oh noes!

  6. Let's cut to the chase, shall we: Trump and Palin win if you are an idiot.

  7. Chump wins because all the media trip over each other to interview him. If the election were tomorrow DT would be the new Prez. The funny thing is that the former Republican candidate was NOT born in any U.S.A. state.

  8. Trump is an egotistical idiot,every time he opens his pie hole he supports this theory,next he will be seeing Russia front his penthouse.

  9. I still want to see a birth certificate for that squirrel Trump carries around on his head to cover the scar from his lobotomy.

    • Too funny….I just started laughing hysterically in my cubicle.

  10. The only thing Trunp wins is a "dog and pony" show in the circus

  11. Obama brought this controversy on himself. Obama has hidden his past – birth certificate, school records, other records – that all prior US presidents provided. All presidents released birth certificate Obama revealed today, for some reason Obama keeps his past secret and people are curious.

    • If you sit up straight, the drool won't stain the carpet quite so quickly.

    • I don't know who the winner is but I am certain the loser is Obama. How could Obama admin let numbers get so bad?

      A substantial number of independents and Democrats – people in his own party – think Obama is foreign born. Wonder why Obama thought keeping all these records secret in first place was good idea. Wonder what Obama is embarassed about.

      "In the latest New York Times-CBS News poll, 45 percent of adult Republicans said they believe Obama was born in another country, and 22 percent said they don't know. One-third of Republicans said they believe the president is native born.

      The same poll a year ago found considerably less suspicion among Republicans. A plurality of GOP adults then said Obama was U.S.-born, and 32 percent said they believed he was foreign-born.

      In the latest poll, about half of all independents said Obama was born in the United States. The other independents were about evenly split between those saying he is foreign-born, and those saying they don't know.

      Ten percent of Democrats said Obama was born overseas, and 9 percent were unsure." AP, April 23, 2011

      • Everyone lost. Any time you give in to trolls, you automatically lose.

        Wonder what Obama is embarassed about.

        He's probably embarrassed by the number of racists in the US. If I was an American, I would be.

  12. Not sure how trump wins. He just looks like a paranoid nut job.

  13. Donald Trump, not satisfied with the birth certificate, wants to see the placenta

  14. So when are we as Canadians going to start demanding we see our Candidates birth certificates, income tax info etc? Seriously Yanks are nuttier than a fruitcake and Trump is the head nut! Makes our politicos look almost sane by comparison.

  15. Holy Crap, look at all these new faces that exist to follow Trump on news feeds, just in order to throw insults at him.

    I didn't take Trump seriously before, but maybe I should. That's a little scary.

  16. I for one believe the Birther movement is pretty much without merit. But I do have to wonder…the constitution states you need to be over 35 and born in the USA to be eligible for president. A birth certificate provides conclusive evidence of both. I mean for the love of God…I have to show my kid's birth certificate just to get him onto a sports team. Is it really too much to ask candidates for the highest office in the land (world?) to be able to produce some official documentation of their eligibility for candidacy? Is an official birth certificate really too much to ask for?

    • I haven't followed this… but presumably Obama did produce proof of his American birth to officials in order to be able to run for American President. Making the piece of paper public solves absolutely nothing. Google "fake Obama birth certificate" and you will see the predictable reports of anomalous fonts, strange distortions etc. that conclusively prove "the science is not yet certain" wrt Obama's birth.

    • Obama posted the birth certificate–short form at least–online during the '08 campaign. That's more than I remember any other presidential candidate doing, or being asked to.

  17. Ok, so, why did he take so long? That's what was getting my interest. I strongly dislike his policies as well (just drill the oil already), but the longer he waited the most it seemed like he had something to hide. Why do that?

  18. Not really.

    If the birther issue can be put to rest, then finally his policies and politics can take centre-stage, and expose the real problems with Obama; it's not where he was born (though that would be an issue too).

  19. Obviously, this announcement won't change much.

    I completely disagree. The whole reason the birther issue grew and grew is because Obama refused to release the birth certificate. So of course people will start to wonder why. It got to the point where only 38% of Americans were willing to say he was "definitely" born in the USA. It was not a fringe issue.

    One thing is for sure, since the law states that you need to be American-born to be president, the law should also state that the president needs to produce the birth certificate. We all do it in order to get a passport. Why shouldn't he need to do it to be president?

    Now that he's finally released the birth certificate (why on earth did he not do this three years ago?), the issue will shrivel and will only be pursued by a small fringe. This changes everything. The issue is essentially dead.

    • His campaign released the short-form certificate years ago. This wasn't good enough for the birthers, who repeatedly claimed only the long-form certificate, held by the State of Hawaii, would be sufficient proof of his citizenship.

      Now that the long form is out, the Birther superstars are already moving the goalposts.

      • The short form certificate was a document created in 2007. It was not the original birth certificate.

    • Now that he's finally released the birth certificate (why on earth did he not do this three years ago?), the issue will shrivel and will only be pursued by a small fringe. This changes everything. The issue is essentially dead.

      Tell that to FOX

  20. To even become a candidate all this information would have been verified and he would have had to produce his certificate at that time. I don't remember any other President being asked to produce their certificate. Let's ask the next President to upload it to YouTube for the world to see – maybe video of the live birth should be in order – yes I'm being sarcastic. This whole thing is an exercise in futility and a platform for Trump and his ilk. It's kind of sad really.

  21. Trump wins… the subtly racist douche of the year award!!

    Lets face it, if Obama wasn't black this birth certificate thing never would have been an issue.

  22. Now that Obama has released the long form birth certificate, Trump is demanding to see college transcripts because he says that Obama didn't deserve to get into Columbia. He's moving from crypto-racist to blatantly racist. See how many persons of color are still interested in being on The Apprentice after this. He could very well reach the Charlie Sheen point of being too damaging to the network's brand, no matter how much money he's making them.

  23. Wow, America. I mean, really. WOW. I'm watching this from here in Australia, where it is generally the opinion that America has officially lost its mind. I used to want to visit America, I even wanted to try my luck in that visa lottery! Now, it just flat out frightens me. What the hell is happening there for a president to have to prove he is American in order to still conspiracy levels that can, amazingly enough, get to the level where that would even be needed?! I can't get my head around it. I know so many cool Americans, but how I feel for them more, with every "Check out how crazy and bigoted America is now" story we get/ Which is almost on a daily basis. So sad.

  24. Sounding more and more like a school yard argument between the supposed ‘adults’ on here, forget whether it was Obama or Trump who was wrong. The fact remains a very infantile President could have provented this from the get-go but chose not to with the reasons anywhere from his own adolescent behaviour to ego. Frankly I think this issue takes away from the focus of watching this administration flush the American economy quicker than anyone since the Revolution. Agreed Bush was a pathetic President. Unfortunately Obama is making old George look like an administrator with both hands on the controls. Sad huh. Trump is the only individual in memory that has actually accomplished something tangible and for that reason alone I wish im well. I am sick and tired of politicians of every politicial stripe who have done virtually nothing their whole lives except talk. We desperately need doers, not talkers. Hence lawyers, teachers, preachers government ‘wurkerz’ and, oh yea, media ‘personalities’ need not apply.

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