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April 28, 2011

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Thursday, April 28, 2011 Free Press Page 5 GUEST COMMENTARY Trump, Birthers and the truth Is Donald Trump a closet Obama supporter? That's the only logical conclusion to draw from the Donald's recent foray into presidential politics. If he keeps up his kooky bid for the GOP nomination, he'll damage the party and its chances to win the White House in 2012. And if he's seriously considering run- ning as an Independent - as he's hinted he would if he fails to win the Republican nomina- tion -- he virtually guarantees Barack Obama's re-election. Trump may be entertaining - millions of fans of his reality television shows seem to think so, though the appeal eludes me. But it's one thing for Trump to play rich bully for rat- ings and an- Linda Chavez other to use his celebrity status to peddle wacky conspiracy theories that harm political discourse. Trump single-handedly has given the "birther" issue new legs. In an advertisement this week in USA Today, Trump asks Obama "to be transparent with the American people and provide his birth certificate for forensic review." "Birthers" - and Trump seems to have joined their ranks - claim that Obama is not eli- gible to be president because he isn't a "natural born citizen" as required by Article II of the Constitution. They base their theories on the false charge that Obama has never produced a valid copy of his birth certificate and therefore must be hiding something, namely that he was born someplac e other than Ha- waii, as he maintains. During the 2008 election, people sometimes sent me news- paper articles that "proved" Obama was born in Kenya. When I'd point out the fake dateline or incorrect style head- ings attributed to the Associ- ated Press or other newswires and numerous misspellings and grammatical errors that even a high school editor would have caught, they'd just send me more "evidence." I soon found that there's no convincing peo- ple whose ideas are based on hatred, not facts. The facts are these: Obama produced a valid copy of his Hawaiian certificate of live birth before the 2008 election. The document-with its proper, three-dimensional seal and attestation by the state regis- trar that it is "a true copy and abstract of the records on file" clearly visible - is readily available for viewing online at, among other places. Certificate No. 151 1961- 010641 issued by "The Depart- ment of Health, Hawaii, USA" says that a male child named Barack Hussein Obama II was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Hono- lulu, on the island of Oahu, at 7:24 p.m. The mother's maiden name, Stanley Ann Dunham, and race, Caucasian, are listed; as are the father's name, Barack Hussein Obama, and race, Af- rican. The paper on which the document is printed - again easily discernible online - is the type of special watermarked government stock that makes forgery difficult. So why does Trump persist in spreading the false allega- tion that the president has never produced a valid copy of his birth certificate? It's hard to believe that a man smart enough to have accumulated an estimated $3 billion in wealth could be dumb enough to fall prey to the birthers" lies. He's doing it for the same reason he does most things - to draw at- tention to himself. In the world of reality televi- sion, there may be no such thing as bad publicity. But politics follows different rules. Trump leads the pack of mostly little- known Republican candidates in some polls. But his standing reflects name recognition, not political viability. And his chi- canery is managing to suck all the oxygen out of the room for serious Republican candidates - the best of whom have held elective office, balanced ' state budgets, run businesses that didn't end up in Chapter 11, and whose personal lives haven't been perpetual fodder for the tabloids. As any smart businessper- son knows, brand integrity is crucial. If you sully the brand, no one will buy what you're selling. And right now, Donald Trump is ruining the Republi- can brand. If he truly believes we need a new president in 2012, he'll bow out early and leave the field to those who'll run on serious ideas and real solutions, not thoroughly dis- credited conspiracy theories. Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syn- dicate web page at www.creators. com. THEY SAY HAVE But without housing and insurance it doesn't really feel like a choice. Pregnant? You have options. Free and Confidential Services. iCHOICE S0,q-235-4873 Something to say? Something to ask? Send all your letters, comments and questions to cfp@cheneyfreepress.corn Holiday Ham Salmon Spending trillions abroad while pinching pennies here at home What is all this crazy talk about the United States govern- ment spending too much money and running up huge bills it cannot pay? Why all this shriek- ing and hair-pulling on Capitol Hill over deficit reduction and increasing the debt limit? Talk about a tempest in a tea bag. The United States is rolling in dough. We have so much of it, in fact, that we are dropping it on foreign countries. In the form of bombs and missiles. We are so rich, we Roger Simon are financing our third war, this one in Libya, and picking up not only our own costs, but much of NATO's costs, as well. On March 18, President Obama said the United States would be actively involved in any military action against Libya for "days, not weeks." Libya was going to be our abet-it-and-forget-it war. But here it is more than a month later, and we are still actively involved. The official Pentagon estimate is that the war in Libya cost us $608 million for the first 17 days. Some think that is a laughable underestimate, however, except that nobody is laughing. Forbes reported at the end Of March that "what looks like an inexpensive military operation in Libya is actually costing taxpayers about $2 billion per day." Remember how Democrats and Republicans in Congress wrestled back and forth recently, nearly shutting down the govern- ment over a lousy $38 billion? Heck, we've burned through that already in Libya already, and Moammar Gadhafi is still thumb- ing his nose at us from Tripoli. Technically, the air war in Libya is being fought by NATO. But the United States, in addition to paying for our own forces, pays about a quarter of NATO's budget. The numbers get kind of daz- zling, but according to the Fiscal Times: The United States now pays NATO $90.2 million for its civil budget, $462.5 million for its military budget and $259 million for NATO's Security Investment Program, which covers radar bases, airfields, fuel pipelines, etc. That is about $811.7 million per year. And how is NATO do- ing in Libya, by the way? Not all that well. According to a NATO spokes- man: "Gadhafi is fighting a war on several fronts. What's still not clear a month into the fight is whether the rebels have the abil- ity to exploit Gadhafi's weakness by mounting a new offensive, taking ground, holding it all while continuing to their march toward Tripoli." Oh, is that all? Not all of NATO is engaged in Libya. Germany says it supports NATO's goals but doesn't want any part of the fighting. Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, says the German decision not to join in the mis- sion reflects the divisions within NATO. "Nobody attacked any NATO country, so I don't know why NATO is involved," Wheeler said. "The German decision is a more appropriate one than the American decision. They don't see the rest of the world as their problem." But we do. President Obama appears to conflate the civil war in Libya with the Rwanda geno- cide of 1994, in which 500,000 to 1 million people were mur- dered. The numbers in Libya are nothing like that, but I suppose Obama can claim they would have been if the United States had not acted. The United States and NATO were hoping airpower alone would be enough to defeat Gad- hafi, but this no longer seems likely, and Britain, France and Italy are now moving military "advisers" into Libya to try to organize the rebels and perhaps stop them from firing their guns into the air all the time. "The big question is, how long does Gadhafi hold out?" asks Ray Dubois, a senior advi- sor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "He's got a lot of gold bullion buried in the desert and lots of hun- dred-dollar bills hidden in suit- cases. He's not about to retire to the south of France." The European press is full of ominous references to "mis- sion creep" and "Vietnam" and "exit strategies." The NATO countries are not exactly roll- ing in euros these days - only 14 of the 28 NATO members are even participating in the Libyan war -- and there is talk that the fighting is already too expensive to be sustained for very long. But Europe should take a page from the U.S. playbook: War is never too expensive. Heck, we are fighting three of them. Remember Iraq and Af- ghanistan? They haven't gone away, we're still paying for them, and according to an arti- cle in Stars and Stripes: "Joseph Stiglitz, who received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Economics, and Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard Univer- sity, predict that the combined costs (including health care of vets) will likely push the true long-term cost of the wars over the $4 trillion mark." Which worries me a little: A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon we are talking about real money. 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