Donald Trump is not going to run for president. But let's pretend we don't know that, and are wondering what's next for him after emerging victorious from his pitched battle with Barack Obama, birth certificate hoisted triumphantly above his tri-corner hairhat. How do you top that?
Trump announced this morning at a press conference that he is "very proud" and "honored"—but not quite humbled—by his role in prodding Obama to make him look like a hapless lying buffoon. It's natural to wonder whether Trump can possibly recover from having the rug yanked so brutally from underneath him, but remember—he's always been a hapless lying buffoon, and he's done OK for himself.
Here are his options for moving forward.
1. Find Another Racist Thing to Talk About
Trump's birtherism wasn't organic or heartfelt. It was simply a line he stumbled on that resonated with two key constituencies—the racist base of the Republican Party and the outrage-courting, Drudge-baiting cable news establishment. The two audiences formed a positive feedback loop—as racist conservatives heard more racist comments from this racist reality TV presenter, his poll numbers edged up. And as his poll numbers edged up, cable news producers saw more opportunities to air more stories about his racist comments, which were seen by more racist conservatives, etc. The result was a firestorm of publicity for Trump and his reality TV show, culminating in the bizarre spectacle this morning of a Trump press conference sharing a split screen with the White House briefing room as reporters awaited Obama. All it took was a few weeks of quoting from random chain emails, and Trump was elevated to just short of presidential status.
By that measure, today's humiliation was a wild success. He just has to keep the spotlight going through May 22, the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice. So Trump would do well to search for another outrageous accusation that gives voice to the white rage boiling within the GOP base that he could ride for another month or so. He's already begun questioning Obama's academic record based largely on the notion that black people are too stupid and lazy to get into Columbia University, so how did Obama? But that one may not have wheels, since a little academic fraud thirty years doesn't seem really disqualifying. Don't be surprised if Trump starts talking about Obama's deep roots in the Islamic world or the fact that Bill Ayers admitted writing his memoir.
And if you think that, in the wake of Trump's latest humiliation, cable news producers won't let him creep back into the news cycle on the wings of a new lie, you're wrong.
2. Say the Birth Certificate's a Fake
That's what a lot of other birthers are doing. But the media probably wouldn't play along with that one.
3. Claim Victory and Gracefully Bow Out
Trump went to great lengths to take credit for the release, saying he's "accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish." Others on the right, including Sarah Palin, seem equally eager, for some reason, to make sure Trump gets credit. So he could be setting the stage for a statesmanlike speech after the Apprentice finale announcing that his work here is done and that, with the long-form certificate of live birth as a parting gift, he will leave the race to others. Some variant of this is what will actually happen, since Donald Trump will not actually run for president.
4. Focus on the Issues and Run an Actual Campaign
Trump claims to be happy Obama pulled in the football right as he was kicking it, because now we can start talking about the "very big problems in this country" and reporters will stop asking him about that damned birth certificate. Then he went on to talk about gas prices and how if you "look at resorts around this country, they're not doing any business because people don't drive." Two important takeaways: 1) Donald Trump is concerned about the resort business in this country. And 2) Donald Trump thinks that the reason people aren't going to resorts is that they can't afford the gas money to drive to resorts. If only gas were cheaper, they would no doubt be spending their money on resort stays.
So that would be a fun option, if it happens.
5. Try to Get a Job Stopping the Next Environmental Catastrophe
After the Gulf Oil spill, Donald Trump called David Axelrod and asked to be "put in charge of the operation in the gulf to seal the oil leak," according to Axelrod. That's intuitively so insane that it puts Trump's presidential "ambitions" in context—maybe he does actually mean it.
[Photos of Trump via AP]