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Kathleen Parker: Trump’s birther buzz may backfire

NEW YORK ó As presidential sweepstakes go, one couldnít find an odder ó and yet more predictable ó candidate than Donald Trump, whose name needs no burnishing. One can hardly walk a block in this city without stumbling into an edifice bearing his name. He towers over all others on the Monopoly game board.
Trump is inevitable in the same way that Barack Obama was. That is to say, each president tends to be a reaction to the previous commander in chief. George W. Bush was the opposite of Bill Clinton, and Obama was certainly nothing like Bush. At least not as a candidate.
This presidential formula, largely consistent through the years, has become exaggerated recently owing to cultural developments unique to our times, including our infatuation with celebrity and our attraction to extreme forms of expression. From movies to sports to politics and punditry, everything is big, loud and over the top.
If people have wearied of Obamaís cerebral serenity and an approach to governance that seems overconsidered, then who better than The Donald to seize the alternative? Trump, live-and-in-living-color, is a Muhammad Ali of Main Street ó bombastic and boastful, a provocateur with money to put where his mouth is. In a poll-driven punditocracy, the mind spoken so freely offers a tonic to toxicity.
Except when it doesnít. About that birther thing.
Trump entered the presidential fray with the headline-snatching pronouncement that Obama should produce proof of his birth on U.S. turf. This same olí same olí nonsense, which has been amply resolved by nonpartisan entities, nonetheless received the requisite attention.
Trying to convince birthers that Obama is a legitimate citizen rather than a closet jihadist is like trying to convince a terrified child that thereís no monster under the bed. No amount of reasoning will do, though there is one bit of logic that seems to have escaped mention and that ought to provide relief to the most-fevered minds.
Herewith: If there were even one iota of evidence suggesting that Obama was not born in this country, does anyone really think that Hillary Clinton wouldnít have raised it during the campaign? Really?
The Clintons donít just have people; they have armadas of political machinery. If Obama were born anywhere but where he says he was born, weíd all be saying, ěMadame President.î
A cynic might ponder the possibility that Team Obama keeps the birther meme in circulation. As the president told ABC Newsí George Stephan-opoulos, Republicans who embrace the birther movement are hurting themselves.
In saner times, weíd recognize and dismiss the ravings of madmen, self-promoters and false prophets. Today, thanks to the democratization of the megaphone, any old canard can enjoy 15 minutes of credibility.
Sure enough, Trumpís challenge to Obamaís natural-born citizenship has gained traction among a disturbing number of believe-anythingers, outscoring others in GOP presidential preference polls.
While the new head of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, is urging birthers to take their meds, some have wondered whether Trumpís rant is mere stunt. In the age of celebrity, it doesnít matter what people are saying about you as long as theyíre talking about you, goes the ěthinking.î
By this calculus, the more ridiculous one is, the more likely one is to benefit from buzz. And then, who knows, one may become a sensation in the Twitterverse, and then pop goes the weasel, and th-th-th-thatís all, folks!
Until the next cycle begins, even sooner than the last.

Kathleen Parkerís email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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