The Narcissist and the Columnist

As far as feuds go, the current one between Donald Trump and NYT columnist Gail Collins rocks. Last week, she wrote a hilarious column shredding Trump (he’s become an enthusiastic “birther”). That prompted him to respond in a letter to the editor, which included this gem:

I have great respect for Ms. Collins in that she has survived so long with so little talent. Her storytelling ability and word usage (coming from me, who has written many bestsellers), is not at a very high level.

Did he think he would get the last word? Today, Collins addresses Trump’s letter:

Mainly, it’s a list of alleged evidence that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Trump has made this the centerpiece of his faux presidential campaign, falling further and further into the land of the lunatic fringe. I find this a disturbing spectacle “” a little like seeing a guy you know from the neighborhood suddenly turn up in the middle of Times Square with his face painted blue and yelling about space aliens.

If you want to know what makes Trump tick, read this classic 1997 profile by Mark Singer in the The New Yorker. Here’s the money quote, delivered by Trump himself:

You want to know what total recognition is? I’ll tell you how you know you’ve got it. When the Nigerians on the street corners who don’t speak a word of English, who have no clue, who’re selling watches for some guy in New Jersey””when you walk by and those guys say, “˜Trump! Trump!’ That’s total recognition.

41 Responses to “The Narcissist and the Columnist”

  1. StuartR says:

    I think there should be a lesson learned here that every time we find we can laugh at right wingers forceful stupidity, we must pay homage to all those occasions where  we ignored leftwingers passive vapidity.

  2. lucia says:

    I’ve long had the impression that some people run for president merely to get more television coverage. I suspect this of Trump.  He can’t win. (I. Hope.)

  3. Dean says:

    I read that many of the supposedly serious Republican contenders are upset because he is sucking in all the free media attention. Maybe he wants Obama to win and thinks that bringing the birthers out in force will do that if other R contenders are pressured to also ask Obama for his birth cert.

  4. laursaurus says:

    Since Trump has been drawing a lot of attention to this issue, I have to wonder why doesn’t Obama just produce his “official” birth certificate. It’s probably not his birth place. Even if he was born abroad, his mother was a US citizen and he grew up in the US for the most part. IIRC, he would meet the criteria to be considered a citizen anyway.
    Ok, since it’s unlikely that where he was born is the issue, then what? Did his mom classify him as white? Was another man his biological father? There’s a reason he continues to decline to show it. Any other guesses?

  5. Trump is a despicable buffoon, and as such I hope he’s the GOP nominee in 2012.
    As for Obama not forking over the ‘official’ birth cert, I applaud this instance of him not letting right-wing kooks bully him into following their inane, insane script.  He’s telling them to more or less f*ck off.  I dearly wish there were more such instances.

  6. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Steven Sullivan, what are you talking about?  Obama made his birth certificate public in response to demands he do so.  The only birth certificate he hasn’t provided is one he doesn’t hold.  Hawaii’s Department of Health is responsible* for holding the “official” birth certificate.
    I won’t say Obama should be criticized for how he has handled the birth certificate, but he certainly doesn’t deserve praise for telling people “to more or less f*ck off.”
    *Amusingly enough, the governor of Hawaii said he would provide Obama’s “official” birth certificate in order to squash the issue.  It then turns out he was unable to find it.

  7. Sashka says:

    I propose Trump vs. Sharpton mud fight.

  8. Alexander Harvey says:

    Making stuff up comes is commonplace. What seems to be growth industry is telling everybody who will listen and thereafter for operationally rational people to believe stuff someone else has made up. Or do they? Is it just a pose?

    I had to google “birther” as I had no idea. Now I know, I am amused and amazed, but also deeply suspicious.

    Is birthering just a euphonistic cloak for racism? I mean seriously, is it code, am I expected to understand that “place of birth” is a stand in for “race of birth”, as a basis for being a fit and proper person.

    Just now I cannot think which would be better, that people are sad, mad or bad.

  9. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Alexander Harvey, I don’t see why one should assume race would be a factor.  There is a legitimate concern regarding a person’s birthplace when they are running for president.  Obama is just one of the few examples where there was any reason for this sort of issue to come up.
    A somewhat similar example can be found with Barry Goldwater (a white republican).

  10. Alexander Harvey says:

    “Alexander Harvey, I don’t see why one should assume race would be a factor.”
    I didn’t I queried. That he is coloured is a good enough reason for suspicion given that America chose not enjoy a good reputation for racial equality.
    “There is a legitimate concern regarding a person’s birthplace when they are running for president.”
    Nationality is one of those American things can seem quite bizarre and gets people excited but doesn’t bother us much at all.
    Well thanks for narrowing it down to sad or mad.

  11. Hannah says:

    I got curious and googled “birther” as well. There is an entire blog dedicated to this!
    Gail Collins writes about Trump: “He sent me a copy of the column with my picture circled and “The Face of a Dog!” written over it.” Excellent, no need to worry about his diplomacy skills then….he should at least get on excellent with this guy:

  12. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Alexander Harvey, I didn’t mean to imply you thought this was due to race (and I’m not sure I did).  My apologies for any confusion.  I simply meant I can’t think of any reason to think race is the cause here, so I wouldn’t assume it is the cause.
    As for nationality, I don’t think it would be that significant an issue except the Constitution explicitly lists it as a requirement for presidential candidates.  That’s the only position which cares about nationality, so it stands out.  This is especially true since the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger in politics drew the issue into the limelight.
    As the last vestige of unique rights for natural citizens, it probably is given more significance than it deserves.  On the other hand, the Constitution is what the Constitution is.  It should be upheld.  I think that’s an understandable position.
    I do have a question though.  From the little I’ve seen, the birth certificate provided by Obama doesn’t actually prove he was born in the United States.  It could have been generated afterward without Obama having actually been born in the United States.  Is that true?

  13. kdk33 says:

    “That he is coloured is a good enough reason for suspicion given that America chose not enjoy a good reputation for racial equality”

    This seems rather equivalent to “that you have money is reason enough to suspect you a thief, because a known thief lives in your neighborhood”.  So, I must say, I disagree.

    On the one hand, perhaps Trump (who will never be a serious candidate) should drop the birthing thing.  If BHO wasn’t born in the US – geez what a mess, and maybe best to not go there (does this invalidate all legislation he signed).  OTOH, Trump does seem to have one good point: the birthing thing should be so easily cleared up, what’s the problem?

    And if not clearing it up is an BHO political ploy (per Sullivan), well that says something.

    Don’t presidential candidates have to provide some proof of birth when they register?

  14. Keith Kloor says:

    “From the little I’ve seen”
    Brandon (12), your comment suggests that is quite little, indeed.
    kdk33 writes, “OTOH, Trump does seem to have one good point: the birthing thing should be so easily cleared up, what’s the problem?”
    Really? Gail Collins accurately summed up the sewer that Trump is swimming in. Are you swimming right alongside him? Do those of you who can seemingly talk seriously about this not realize how utterly loon the whole birther issue is? It’s also pretty obvious that the whole birther nonsense is just a proxy for anti-Obama sentiment.

  15. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Keith Kloor, if you’re going to say my remarks indicate little knowledge in an area, you should offer some sort of explanation as to how they do so.  As it stands, your response to me is little more than a slap in the face.
    As it happens, I tried to find something to show I was wrong.  Wikipedia never addresses the issue.  The dozen or so Google results I read didn’t address it.  The Urban Legends website (third result) obliquely addressed it by saying there was only one type of birth certificate in Hawaii, so the long form/short form topic was a non-issue.  It is contradicted by multiple other results (including pictures of long form birth certificates from the same time period).
    I’ve also found results which say privacy laws prevent officials from releasing or even talking about any individual’s birth certificate without their authorization.  If this is true, it raises a rather serious question.  If officials cannot discuss such a certificate, why did the Director of Hawaii State Department of Health say she had personally seen it?  Does this mean the official position is officials can break the law if it suits popular political aims?
    So forth and so on.  In half an hour of reading, I couldn’t find a single source which addressed the issue I raised (aside from those making the claim).  Maybe there are answers out there, but I think half an hour is enough time spent to merit more than a snide dismissal.
    Is there some extremely obvious rebuttal to the point I raised?  If so, I’d be glad to read it.  Enough of what I’ve found has been non-responsive or contradictory, so I’d be glad to have someone point me to a clear source.

  16. Alexander Harvey says:


    I do not think the two cases are equivalent.

    In b) the person is known to have money, in a) the president is not known not to be naturally born as American. Case a) would be similar to suspecting someone was a thief, proclaiming that they have money that they deny having and demanding that they produce records to show otherwise. If they were also Jewish, Muslim or Mormon, one might have cause for a suspicion as to a religious motivation. The key being that there is no evidence of the allegation in case a).

    I think that you have an amendment that covers such cases, even if the person were guilty.

    I also think that there is formal legal redress should a president be a liar or fraudster. Bring on the Starr chamber, impeach him, your call not mine,

    Regarding his natural born status, I simply have to confess that I do not know what your constitutional authors had in mind. One must have some regard that it was considered to be an important distinction at that time as it draws a sharp line between rights as a citizen and rights as a natural born American.
    FWIW we do it the other way around, citizenry and residence are the decisive tests not nationality, for offices other than Head of State; for which case being neither citizen, resident, nor national is often a boon. So perhaps it is repugnance of such that guided your constitutionalists, perhaps they held the consequeneces of Empire in mind and chose not to do as the Romans do. My point being, was it such as your President that the authors were minded to bar, or was it tyrants and despots.

    Brandon brought up the subject of Arnold Schwarzenegger. What would there be to fear from his accident of birth? Why should he be second class in America of all places? Why also the many millions of foreign born US citizens? Is it such widespread prejudice by birth that the authors had in mind? Not rhetoric but my affectionate curiousity.

    Note: As some of the above may seem baffling. We distinquish between foreigners, about 3/4 of the world (those countries that send Ambassadors), citizens the remaining 1/4 (those that send High Commisioners) and nationals (we few).

  17. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Sashka, only one paragraph in that link deals with what I said in any manner.  Unfortunately, nothing in that paragraph answers my question.  However, it does include the highly questionable sentence, “The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details.”  It seems hard to believe a second database would be used just to hold less information.  The exact same task could be accomplished with a single database and the state only pulling down the information it needed.  I doubt the authors inquired after details about database management so it seems strange they would assert something like that as fact (but strange things do happen).
    I think part of the trouble is “short form birth certificate” covers many things, and people are often being unclear about what they are referring to.

  18. Alexander Harvey says:


    Thank you for your considerate response.

    Sadly I would be automatically suspicious, that is my burden. Our history taught us to remember lest others are encouraged to forget.

    As a watcher from afar I have always supported America when I can. That watching stretches back to when many black and coloured Americans were (commonly legally?) disenfranchised at a state level.

    We can thank Sashka for the link above that does seem to indicate that your president is natural born and verifiably so.

    At that root of my previous comment was my wondering as to whether people believed an issue existed or whether is was understood to be a proxy for a racism that dare not speak its name.

    I understand that for you it is a legitimate concern and that is an end of it.

    Similarly I ponder whether the climate debate is often a proxy for a political divide being rent into the body civil by the callous wrenching of globalisation, a symptom of a growing unease, not feeling happy within ones national skin. I cannot recall a time when so many Americans seem so miserable and lacking in confidence and optimism.

    If read correctly I convey a grudging respect. I could never see America as a shinig city on a hill, but sometime a great nation.


  19. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Honestly, I think the idea Obama was born outside of the country is ludicrous.  I have many issues with Obama, but his place of birth isn’t one of them.  However, I am curious about the question I raised, and I’m intrigued by the way the entire controversy has been handled (very poorly).  I’m no “birther,” but I think it is still worth looking into some things.
    Another thing I’m curious about is Obama has made efforts to do things which were rather radical (his healthcare plan being the most obvious).  Does this help fuel the notion of him being a foreigner?  Maybe some people think him being born in another country would explain why his views are so divergent from theirs…?
    To me, it seems like this is a case of many people believing the same thing for different reasons.  I wouldn’t dream of trying to guess which people had which reasons.  I will say this though.  The response to the issue has been so poor, it is hardly surprising this topic hasn’t died out.

  20. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Perhaps a brief digression would help explain my interest in this subject.  Some years ago, I read about a strange situation.  I’ve never been able to find information on it again (in part due to poor memory), and I can’t be positive it happened.  However, at the time I first heard about it, it checked out well enough.
    In Congress, all bills have to pass both chambers.  The bill passed in each must be identical.  If there are any differences, they have to get resolved before the bill can be delivered to the president.
    As I recall, the story was basically this.  The House and Senate voted on different versions of a bill.  Negotiations happened, and a final version was agreed upon.  This version was voted on by the House.  However, due to a clerical error, the Senate voted on a different version.  After the vote, someone noticed the error and switched in the correct version.  The correct version was identical to that voted on by the House, so it was sent to the president (Bush) to sign.
    The difference in the versions was minor, and it is unlikely the members of the Senate were even aware of them.  Even so, the idea of a bill becoming law after something like that has always stuck with me.  Absurd things can and do happen, and I am intrigued by them.
    If somebody could get a birth certificate and run for president without having been born in the Untied States, that would be an fascinating thing to know.  That’s the main reason I am interested in this topic.

  21. Alexander Harvey says:

    Brandon, this is different but equally puzzling:

    From wiki here:

    “The Act was passed on the last day before Congress adjourned for the 2006 elections. Though a bill with the gambling wording was previously debated and passed by the House of Representatives,[6][7][8] the SAFE Port Act (H.R. 4954) as passed by the House on May 4th (by a vote of 421-2) and the United States Senate on September 14th (98-0),[9] bore no traces of the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act that was included in the SAFE Port Act signed into law by George W. Bush on October 13th, 2006.”


  22. kdk33 says:

    Seems like this is one of KK’s demons.  Anyway…

    Asking about birth place isn’t racist.  Suspecting it to be so reflects on the receiver not the sender.  That’s seriously not meant to be rude.  I think we will be beyond race when we can talk about stuff without worrying it might possibly be interpreted by someone to be kinda maybe about race.

    Keith, I expressed no opinion about BHO’s birth place, just asked why it wasn’t cleared up.  BTW, Sullivan (clearly a BHO supporter) claims BHO is withholding his ‘official’ birth certificate; is he a birther? 

    Anyway, I’m not sure what you found sinister about my question.  OTOH your (over?) reaction is… odd.

  23. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Alexander Harvey, that one isn’t too confusing, though the link makes it sound like it is.  All that happened is the House passed a bill, the Senate passed it (with minor differences), and a conference committee was formed to resolve the differences.  In the process of resolving those differences, the conference committee added a previously proposed bill to the bill being discussed.  This final version was then sent to the House and Senate, both of whom passed it.
    In that sense, it was perfectly “normal.”  The full House and Senate both approved the same bill before it was sent to the president.  However, there is a rather severe oddity.  The House members of a conference committee are obligated by House rules to object to any addition of material not directed to them by either house.  This means the added section should not have been admitted.  However, the committee was able to bypass this by first passing a different resolution, one which forbade anyone from raising points of order (which is how one would object as required by the rules).
    In other words, they passed a rule which made it impossible to follow another rule which would have prevented the text from being added.  It’s stupid, absurd, and it should never have been allowed.  However, it was legal and it did create a valid law.
    By the way kdk33, I think I can tell you why it hasn’t been resolved yet.  Obama seems to be applying the, “If you ignore it, it’ll go away” rule.  The basic idea is the more he addresses it, the more attention people will pay to it.  Unfortunately, he is simultaneously using the follow-up rule which should only be implemented if the first rule fails, “If anyone mentions it, ridicule them.”  Using the two rules together defeats the concept of the first rule while causing the second rule to backfire.
    It’s basically a strategic blunder in which Obama refuses to take a strong stand.  That he has chosen not to make public his full birth certificate while saying his partial birth certificate counts makes him look suspicious.  That, combined with the ridicule he has directed at people asking legitimate questions, is largely what fuels the controversy.

  24. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Also kdk33, the article in that link is somewhat misleading.  The two newspapers which ran the announcement of Obama’s birth just publish whatever information the hospital gives them.  It certainly shows Obama’s birth certificate wasn’t drafted in the 21st century, but it doesn’t do anything to address what should be the primary question:  Did Obama get his birth certificate from that hospital by virtue of being born in it?  All the newspapers tell us is he got a birth certificate from the hospital; they don’t speak to the how or why.
    This is the sort of thing which raises people’s hackles.  If you respond to a person questioning evidence by saying you have “independent” confirmation of the evidence, it better be independent.  Giving them evidence which is just the evidence they questioned in a different form makes you look suspicious.  And I’ve seen it done in at least half a dozen newspapers.
    Here’s a question.  If people dismiss birthers because they’re “loony” and wind up doing shoddy work because of it, can you really blame the birthers for becoming more sure of themselves?  If there is nothing to hide, and this is a simple issue, why is there so much nonsense being told to the crazy people?

  25. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    I just listened to a radio interview with Donald Trump by Dana Loesch (available on YouTube) in which he discussed the birther issue.  I have to say, I agree with him.  The issues he raised are valid issues, and they should be addressed.  In no way does he deserve to be mocked over his position on the subject.

  26. Keith Kloor says:

    The truth is out there, Brandon. By all means, let Trump be your guide.

  27. kdk33 says:

    Wow, Keith, what a compelling argument.

  28. Keith Kloor says:

    I can’t think of anything more compelling to say to someone who takes Trump seriously, and on the birther stuff, no less.

    I think I read it on Andrew Sullivan, who mentioned that even Ann coulter isn’t a birther. And she’s as whacked and clownish as they come.

  29. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Keith Kloor, do you know what Trump said?  Do you have a rebuttal for what he said?  If you can answer “yes” to both of those questions, why don’t you actually say something meaningful?
    I’ve made a serious effort to look into these things and discuss them.  You’ve mocked me instead of answering anything.  That’s rude and stupid.  Even if you were right, there is no chance you would convince anyone of it.  All your bullying can do is alienate those who disagree with you and provide chuckles for those who like cheap laughs.
    I’m a reasonable person.  I change my mind when I am given reason to do so.  I don’t change my mind when I’m mocked.  If this is so absurd, why don’t you show me?  Do you hate me and hope I hold crazy beliefs?  Do you think I’m so stupid you’d just be wasting your time?  Do you secretly want me to be a “birther” so I’m more likely to vote Republican?
    I can’t think of a single legitimate reason for the responses you have given me Keith Kloor.  Next time, why don’t you just tell me not to bother posting?

  30. Keith Kloor says:

    I’m sorry you feel the way you do, especially since you take the time to read my blog. Perhaps I should be more polite. Ordinarily, I try to avoid mocking.
    But in this case, I’m quite perplexed by your position and your inability to find out the truth about Obama’s birth certificate on your own. So I see it as some sort of blinder on your part. I honestly can’t be bothered to engage in a debate over this–it’s that nonsensical to me. It’s akin to having a rational debate with a 9/11 truther.
    I also think that anyone who is a birther is already solidly anti-obama and not really open to persuasion.
    All this said, none of this reflects any opinion I have of you (esp since I don’t know you), but my opinion of Trump and the whole birther lunacy.

  31. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Keith Kloor, I’m a little annoyed, so I’ll be blunt.  If you can’t be bothered to put any effort into telling me why I’m wrong, next time keep your mouth shut.
    I’ve put effort into examining the situation.  I put more effort into examining it when you said it seemed I hadn’t put enough into it.  Even after that, I hold a different view than you.  Now then, I am obviously willing to discuss why I hold the view I hold.  Despite this fact, I would be a considered a “birther,” meaning you think I’m not open to persuasion.  In other words, you are refusing to hold a discussion while claiming those who disagree with you are not open to persuasion.
    Do you really think that makes any sense?  Any fair reading of this topic would have you labeled as the close-minded person.  Due to your behavior, anyone (who hadn’t been exposed to the subject) would be given the impression “birthers” are rational, and those disagreeing with them are “not really open to persuasion.”
    Rudeness aside, you’re being stupid.  You are basically doing everything you can to make people side with the “birthers.”

  32. PDA says:

    I do look forward to seeing the “birther” reaction to the release. If WND is any bellwether, it could very well be to move the goal posts (“it also could prove his ineligibility because of its references to his father”).
    Though, clearly, “birther” ≠ “truther” ≠ “whatever the politically correct word is to describe people who question the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change,” it might be instructive to see if there is any limitation to the oft-repeated assertion that if you just release the code and data, all this controversy will go away.

  33. lucia says:

    Brandon Shollenberger
    Did Obama get his birth certificate from that hospital by virtue of being born in it?  All the newspapers tell us is he got a birth certificate from the hospital; they don’t speak to the how or why.
    Do hospitals issue birth certificates for kids not born in the hospital? If a hospital reports it issued the birth certificate why would a reporter follow that up with a  a question like “How and why did you issue the birth certificate?”

  34. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    PDA, I don’t think it is fair to say they are “moving the goalposts.”  The issue of Obama’s father’s citizenship, and whether or not it made Obama ineligible for president, had been raised before.  If a group makes multiple arguments then later drops some of them, that is not “moving the goalposts.”
    lucia, I’m not sure if hospitals do now, or if they did when Obama was born (and it may vary by location).  I do know it is possible to get a birth certificate without being born in a hospital, and I know people claim the hospital in Hawaii could have done it.  I could find out about current policies in Hawaii if it mattered, but I don’t know how I would do so for a time decades past.
    For everyone else, I feel it’s worth pointing out nothing I said is really affected by Obama’s actions.  I’ve never believed Obama was born outside of the country, and I still say his handling of the issue has been horrible (as in, incompetent).  That his answer was “right” doesn’t justify the poor methods he used.  I also question the behavior of some Hawaii state officials (both present and past), but nobody really cares about that topic.
    And I’ll conclude with an irrelevant point because it irks me.  The MSNBC article linked to with that YouTube video has an error.  It’s missing the word “her” in the sentence mentioning Loretta Fuddy.  That sort of error should not slip by an editor.

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