Television personality Donald Trump is at it again. Discontent with the release of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, he now wants the president to release his college records and applications, as well as passport applications and records, to the public. If the president does this in full by 5 p.m. on Oct. 31, Trump claims he will donate $5 million to the charity of the president’s choosing.
OK, that doesn’t sound so terrible. But let’s take a closer look at this scenario.
A reality TV host and businessman is trying to force the commander in chief to release personal information by dangling a life-changing amount of money in front of charities.
There are two supposed ways this can go, each with repercussions. One, President Obama can release the records, pick a charity and appear to be a more transparent president. Unfortunately, if he does this, he shows that he is a weak president who is willing to cave to pressure from someone who isn’t even a politician, who has no power in this country other than being wealthy. That’s not something most people want in a leader.
On the flip side, if President Obama refuses the offer and keeps his records private, he’ll look like a strong president who doesn’t cave to meaningless pressure. But he’ll also look like a man who doesn’t care about charities and transparency. This is also something no sensible person would ever want in a leader.
What is he to do? There is no victory here for Obama, no way out of this that doesn’t reflect negatively on him. And with elections coming up in just one short week, any politician would cringe at this scenario.
Because there’s no way to get out unscathed, either he chooses the lesser of two evils or he makes his own option. The latter is what President Obama should choose.
President Obama should wait until 5:01 p.m. on Oct. 31(Trump never specifies which time zone in his proposal video, so we’ll assume he means Eastern Standard Time) to release the information. Afterward, Obama should donate $5 million or more to the charity of his choosing.
And, so that no one can say he isn’t a transparent president, he should release an official statement saying that this is what he is going to do before he does it.
Will he be complying with Trump’s demands? Yes, he will, but he’ll be doing it on his terms. Which, because there is no way for the president to make it out of this without looking bad to some group or another, is the best “screw you” to Trump that he can hope for.
If anyone tried this kind of political trick on presidential candidate Mitt Romney, it would still be a crappy thing to do. It doesn’t matter what party the victim belongs to. This isn’t a fair deal — it’s an underhanded lose-lose situation and political bullying.
Which is worse: Not being transparent enough, or blackmailing someone into doing what you want because you don’t think they are transparent enough?