This week, Donald Trump released his much-hyped “October surprise” in the form of a YouTube video. In it, he states that if President Barack Obama “opens up and gives his college records and applications, and if he gives his passport applications and records” to Mr. Trump, the multimillionaire businessman will donate $5-million to the charity of Mr. Obama’s choice.
“Inner-city children in Chicago, American Cancer Society, AIDS research, anything he wants,” Mr. Trump offered.
Yeah, you heard me, his tone insinuated. I said AIDS research. Do your worst, Mr. President. I will still write that cheque.
Calling Mr. Obama “the least transparent president in the history of the country,” Mr. Trump spoke directly into the camera, loudly, slowly and with great emphasis on each word – sounding for all the world like Captain Kirk in his dotage.
“Many, many people have questions, and very serious questions,” he insisted. While it’s not clear whether this was true to begin with, Mr. Trump’s video certainly raised some. Perhaps the two biggest being: How does a man that stupid get to be that rich, and how does a man that rich make a video that looks that bad?
It’s unlikely that Mr. Obama will demean the office of the presidency by caving to Mr. Trump’s Bond-villain-esque extortion. (Is Mr. Trump going to start mailing the toes of underprivileged children to the White House? Promising to release one urchin for each semester of college records unveiled?)
But I do think that if he had promised to donate $4,997,000 of the $5-million to charity and to use the rest to hire a competent crew of freelance videographers, there might have been some public pressure brought to bear on the President.
In the video, Mr. Trump congratulated himself on the fact that, after a great deal of badgering, much of it orchestrated by him, Mr. Obama released his long-form birth certificate, “or whatever it may be.”
His demands that the President release his college applications are an extension of the “birther” movement. Several of my American friends have mentioned the underground news network that is E-mails Forwarded By Your Grandparents Daily. These are often about how the President was born in Kenya, and therefore cannot legally be president.
Demands for college transcripts are not made in the hope that they will discredit Mr. Obama by revealing that while at Harvard University, he made a series of embarrassing course selections and is, in fact, fluent in Elvish – or even that Mr. Obama, who graduated magna cum laude, was a poor student.
The hope is that, if revealed, they will show that Mr. Obama secretly attended university on a foreign-student scholarship, and was admitted only as a result of affirmative action.
I’m not sure how the U.S. medical system works, but, as far as I can tell, Americans become eligible for Medicare as soon as they forward one of these e-mails. I receive a few every time I write about the U.S. presidential election. One day, my computer will spontaneously create a Debunked folder.
Mr. Trump’s video followed closely a debate during which Mitt Romney brought his positions so closely in line with Mr. Obama’s that the mercurial Republican candidate’s new platform might as well be, “I’m exactly like him, but louder” – and of course, not black. It’s no coincidence that Mr. Trump chose to plump up this race-based conspiracy theory now.
What exactly does he mean when he says of Mr. Obama that he is “the least-transparent president in the history of the country”?
While it is true that they said Abraham Lincoln was so transparent that in the spring they would lay him over a planter box until the seedlings got started, no president has ever been asked to release his educational records before. Short of Windowpane Lincoln and Jello Johnson, no president has ever been asked to be this transparent before.
And who even has their old passport applications? By this standard, the next president of the United States will undoubtedly be selected from participants of the show Hoarders.
Except of course that you have to send your passport applications in. So perhaps what we’re learning here is that the ideal leader of a great democracy is a hopeless procrastinator.
In which case (I glance over at the stack of unopened mail on my desk), I might just have a shot.