Donald Trump’s wretched $5-million gimmick

Donald Trump released his much-heralded “October Surprise” on Wednesday and the only surprise turned out to be how the reality TV star and business magnate continues to find new ways to embellish his special brand of media-centric depravity.

Since Monday, the cartoonish personality had claimed he had news that could change the course of the presidential election between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Instead, it inspired widespread mockery, as Trump merely rehashed tired old insinuations about President Obama’s national origin and college credentials.

The big “reveal” from the sneering New Yorker turned out to be merely this: He would offer to give $5 million to Obama’s favorite charity if the president would release his college applications and records and his “passport information.”

Trump’s gimmickry appeals to the legion of cranks and conspiracy mongers who congregate in particularly fetid corners of the Internet. There, they spin out their most fervent fantasies about Obama’s foreign birth and use of affirmative action (or similar dark arts) to connive his way into college(s).


PHOTOS: President Obama’s past

Trump called Obama “the least transparent president in the history of this country.” He parrots the sensationalists who claim Obama has blocked access to his records from Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School, along with his passport documents … and just about any other document they can think to mention.

These claims are, as Archie Bunker once might have said, entirely a pigment of their creators’ imaginations. The nonpartisan website thoroughly debunked them earlier this year. No president before Obama released such records. Few have even been asked.

And the few occasions when any academic records came out in the past, it was not by the politicians’ design. President George W. Bush’s grades at Yale came out when they were leaked to the New Yorker magazine. The Boston Globe published Sen. John Kerry’s Yale grades in the year after he ran for president. They were released as part of the 2004 presidential candidate’s Navy record, a release Kerry approved. (It showed he and Bush had similar -- mediocre -- records as undergrads.) went through each of the “hidden” records charges against Obama, showing the absurdity of each in great detail. Essentially, presidential candidates don’t release these sorts of records, though the press, understandably, keeps digging for more biographical information.

INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map

Trump’s little sideshow helps keep the insinuations about Obama alive, for those immune to common sense and fact-based reality. And in a country of 300 million people, that can amount to a pretty substantial minority. They will use Trump’s announcement to summon up high dudgeon about Obama. They will assert that any honest politician would give up the records, just because he would want to have $5 million sent to a worthy cause.

Trump offered the money, of course, because he can’t stand more than a week or two at a time outside the media spotlight. The vast majority of that attention now focuses on Obama and Romney. So the man with the million-dollar tricks plays another one on the public.


“Frankly, it’s a check I very much want to write,” Trump said in setting an Oct. 31 deadline for Obama to cough up the records. If he really wanted to prove something -- other than that he has a tiny, pecuniary heart -- the carnival barker would write his $5 million check and try to hitch on to the next passing show.

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