It’s the last two weeks of a presidential campaign: a time for suspense, for intrigue, for plot twists and…well, a whole lot of silliness.
We’re not just talking horses and bayonets here.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump is back. Surely you missed the days when he was demanding Barack Obama’s birth certificate and threatening to run for president—that is, before re-upping on Celebrity Apprentice.
With a vaguely menacing expression topped by unusually orange hair, The Donald declared Wednesday in a YouTube video that if Obama releases his college and passport records, “I will give immediately a check for five million dollars” to a charity of the president’s choice.
Why does he want these records? Trump doesn’t say. A secret plan to expose that Obama was a lousy student secretly wiring money to his Kenyan masters? Trump proclaims that such a document dump “will end the question and indeed the anger of many Americans.” Um, angry about what? That they don’t know whether the president aced freshman English? According to Trump, they will be overjoyed that “their president will become transparent.”
But it’s Trump, the shrewd businessman, who seems transparent, pulling this stunt knowing full well he’ll never have to get out the checkbook. I will say this for the MSM crowd: they have largely shrugged off the Romney supporter’s bit of theater, with folks like CNBC’s John Harwood tweeting that Trump is “a very big clown.”
What, then, should we call Ann Coulter, who tweeted after the third debate that the president of the United States is a “retard”? An attention-obsessed bomb-thrower, perhaps? Enough said.
On CNN's Starting Point, Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn debate whether the campaigns and their media coverage have devolved into a three-ring circus.
For a few brief moments it seemed the flap of the day would revolve around Mitt Romney, a divorce, Gloria Allred and TMZ. (I know, the very thought is enough to make you dizzy.) The gossip site says that Romney testified years ago in a divorce case and “screwed the friend’s wife out of a lot of money.” Notice the delicate wording.
In the case, involving Staples founder Tom Stemberg—Staples was one of Bain Capital’s success stories—Romney is said to have testified that the company’s stock was overvalued, which would mean a smaller settlement for the ex. You will not be stunned to hear that Allred, the celebrity lawyer, represents the ex-wife. Stemberg spoke on Romney’s behalf at the Republican convention, though you might have blinked and missed it.
A BuzzFeed report on Romney’s spray-tanning threatens to blow the lid off the campaign.
That story, in turn, led to this breathless headline: “EXCLUSIVE: Gloria Allred Met with Obama Before ‘October Surprise.’” This appeared on Fox Nation, which is kind of like Fox on steroids.
Turns out Allred, a Democratic convention delegate, went to a fundraiser in L.A. and told a Fox producer that she “had a few words with the president” backstage. Leading Fox Nation to this conspiratorial whisper: “Many are wondering if there is any coordination between the Obama campaign and Gloria Allred, considering the relationship involved…” No proof, just a sneaky formulation, many are wondering. Many at Fox, I suppose.
But that’s a mere sideshow compared to this BuzzFeed report that threatens to blow the lid off the Romney campaign:
“The Republican nominee has made a habit of spray tanning before major speeches, debates, interviews, and other events that have a chance of getting wide TV coverage.”
Wow. If a man can’t be honest about his skin tone, how can America trust him? On the other hand, he did tell us he liked Snooki.
Every time the campaign debate threatens to focus on something like Libya or Afghanistan, bizarre events have a way of intervening. That’s what happened when Richard Mourdock, the GOP Senate candidate in Indiana, said during a debate: “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” (What is it, after the Todd Akin uproar, about Republicans and rape this year?) Romney put out a statement saying he disagreed with the comments but has not withdrawn his support for Mourdock, kicking the Democratic outrage machine into high gear.
And then there’s the usual media sniping that has become so much a part of the political landscape. Fox’s Sean Hannity has accused MSNBC of “playing the race card” in the campaign. He was reacting to Chris Matthews defending Obama by announcing that Republicans “want him out of the White House more than they want to destroy al Qaeda,” and attributing this to “racial hatred in many cases.” What would we do without cable to elevate the national debate?
Perhaps the day’s weirdest development was one that should have been utterly routine. Obama gave a half-hour interview to the Des Moines Register's editorial board, the kind of thing candidates do when a newspaper is getting ready to make an endorsement. But the president’s folks bizarrely insisted that the phone conversation be off the record.
Say wha'? Wouldn’t the Democratic nominee want to make his case to Iowa voters? Okay, newspapers aren’t the force they once were—though the Register’s endorsement is gold in the Iowa caucuses—but people still read them, right?
Here’s what Obama got for his trouble: a spanking from the paper’s editor, Rick Green:
“What the president shared with us this morning—and the manner, depth, and quality of his presentation—would have been well-received by not only his base, but also undecideds. From a voter standpoint, keeping it off-the-record was a disservice.”
The campaign quickly caved and put the whole thing on the record. And it contained such scintillating responses as:
“I said that I’d cut taxes for middle-class families—I did. I said that we would make sure to make college more affordable—we have. I said…”
Zzzz. Well, you get the idea.
Hey, the president is leaving no stone unturned in the hunt for votes. That’s why on Wednesday night he went on Leno, after stopping by The View, and is headed to MTV on Friday. Romney, meanwhile, canceled on Whoopi Goldberg and company and is ignoring David Letterman’s taunts about coming on the show:
“You’ve gotta prove that I’m a dumbass punk and you’ve gotta come here and do it now.”
Given the tenor of the campaign at the moment, perhaps Mitt should do just that. Or maybe mud-wrestle Big Bird.