I have been trying to figure out whether Donald Trump is a genius or a moron. Something about the amount of money the man has made coupled with his ability to manipulate the media, though, incline me to think he’s more of the former than the latter. 

And speaking purely as a rhetorician, I have to say that the image he has served up on the Internet  is a magnificent piece of political rhetoric:



It’s cute. Quaint. Nostalgic. Hearkens back to a more innocent, more honest, even more noble age. When documents were real, and they actually meant something because of what they were. Why, it even looks authentic!

What matters now is not what old original documents say, but what the government says. What matters legally is not where a piece of paper says you were born, but where the government says you were born. Similarly, if you buy a house, it is not the physical deed that counts (you can throw that away after it’s been recorded), but whether the government records say it is yours.

I don’t know where my original hospital birth certificate is, so I’m stuck with the same minimalistically Orwellian type of official state certification as Barack Obama. It’s what you now have to have in order to apply for a drivers license or passport.

Here’s what Barack Obama’s looks like:


And here’s what mine looks like.



I miss the old days when there were such things as real birth certificates, and I think a lot of people do. Seen this way, the people we call “Birthers” are like people who want to see real words in a real book and not some floating and officially editable text on Kindle. They want originality.

And by catering to their emotional needs, Donald Trump becomes an originalist. By saying, “Look, I have this piece of paper” he is saying that he is real. And that Barack Obama is not. Why doesn’t he seem to have the same piece of paper that most people of his age have tucked away somewhere?

Personally, I think he does, or he can get it. As I have said since the beginning of this nonsense, I think Obama is the one behind the birth certificate controversy, and I think it is an unacknowledged but very masterful tactic in a game of psychological warfare. Just as there is no question in my mind that he was born in Hawaii, there is also no question that wants it to be a question in the minds of his enemies.

To understand what he is doing, simply put yourself in his position. There you are, the worst president in U.S. history, you have worked overtime to bankrupt the country, impose a very unpopular health care scheme intended to bankrupt the health insurance industry and socialize health care, and a lot more. Naturally, you would rather not have your enemies discussing and challenging your administration on its merits. But — if you could string them along with a bogus yet very simple issue unrelated to the merits, and calculated to make them look unreasonable, wouldn’t you do it?

The marvelous thing about this strategy is that Obama has not had to lie about anything. All he has had to do is make it look as if he has something to hide. Where the Birthers make their error in my view is to fail to take into account the very real possibility that he was born in Hawaii and he is deliberately playing a game with them. Instead, they put all their eggs in a very questionable basket — and if he was in fact born in Hawaii and can produce the documentation the State of Hawaii has in its files, they’re going to look very foolish, and they will have wasted a lot of time.

Their mistake is in assuming that the reason he is not producing the documents is because he has something to hide, when the reason might be precisely the opposite — that he is not producing the documents because he has nothing to hide!

By resorting to common sense originalism, though, Trump is calling his bluff, and appealing to the little people’s sense of decency and fair play. 

He is making Barack Obama seem arrogant and aloof, like Leona Helmsley.

This is not a reflection on what documents are either produced and provided by the government or demanded by the government. As I have pointed out in countless posts, the State of Hawaii has certified he was born there, and in the legal sense, that means he was. To deny that is less than sane.

But Trump (who is a gamer par excellence) has laid his own cards on the table and is saying,

“OK, come on. Show your hand, and let’s see what you have!” 

The left is not getting it when they point out (however correctly) that Trump can’t get a passport with that 1946 hospital document. (See Weigel, AOL News, The Smoking Gun, Wonkette, ThinkProgress, etc.) Like everybody else, he would have to go to the government and get a modern piece of goverment paper in which the State of New York says he was born there. Blah blah blah.

This position (which is legally correct) amounts to government documentarianism.

But this is politics, and people are emotional.

Fascinatingly, there is no requirement in the Constitution that anyone have or show a birth certificate or any other record as proof of eligibility to run for president. I doubt that very many presidents ever did. It was just assumed in those days that their mothers probably didn’t sneak across the border to have a baby in another country. Obama’s Hawaiian short form (the only form the state offers) says he was born in Hawaii — which I think it’s obvious he was. But the Birthers demand more, and he is just flipping them the bird. It’s deliberate and calculated, and Trump has called him on it in a highly theatrical manner. So much so that even I (with my long record of finding the Birthers extremely tedious) am entertained.

By waving that charming little hospital certificate, Trump has shifted the issue from whether Obama was born in Hawaii to whether he is a real person, or an elitist game-playing snot.

As to what “ism” should be bestowed on Trump’s rhetorical strategy, I don’t know.

Originalist Anti-Documentarianism? Anti-Documentarian Originalism? (Or is “documentationalism” the right ism?)

Birth Certificate Trumperism? 

Hey, at least someone has finally made this amusing while cutting through the never-neverland fantasies to get to the heart of the issue.

You could almost say it’s clarifying.

I predict that it will lead to more and better Obamafuscation.

MORE: About Trump, Dr. Helen said,

“He may be a media savvy pimp but what’s wrong with that? Apparently, being media savvy is what it takes to get elected President these days.”

And one of Glenn’s readers called the birth certificate Trumperism “great political theater.”

Which it is, because most people have not yet caught up with the reality that a real birth certificate is not necessarily an official birth certificate.