The war of the surrogates has escalated after the presidential debates failed to put significant distance between the two major candidates. After much anticipation, Donald Trump has made the President an offer Trump imagines that Obama can't refuse. Trump has promised to donate $5,000,000 to the charity of Obama's choice if the President will release more records that Trump hopes will confirm beyond doubt (or, in his paranoid imagination, disprove) that the incumbent was born in the United States. The logic at work here assumes that Obama would only deny Trump's charity to a worthy cause because he, the President, has Something To Hide. If someone contends that Obama owes no more information to the Birther paranoids, and that only politically crazed idiots still doubt the President's legitimacy, the idiots can still ask what he has to lose by complying with Trump's generous request. But bribery does not legitimize paranoia, and paranoia alone, if not partisan cynicism, drives Trump's demands. In any event, Trump's stunt is sure to disappoint those who expected an actual revelation from the cartoon billionaire, Obamaphobes and news junkies alike.
Trump had already been upstaged by the celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the ex-wife of the founder of the Staples office-supply store chain, one of Bain Capital and Mitt Romney's great success stories. In most sweeping terms, the implication of their "surprise" is that Romney committed some sort of perjury during the couple's divorce trial. Specifically, they claim that Romney poormouthed Staples, claiming that the chain was overvalued and not a good long-term investment -- presumably to minimize the husband's potential wealth and the amount the wife could demand of him. If this is correct, I doubt whether it counts as criminal perjury, but given how Romney now points to Staples as one of the proofs of his savvy in capital investment, it seems profoundly dishonest. And as one analyst suggests, if Romney's opinion back then was honest and authentic, his lack of faith in Staples would belie his current image as a brilliant investor. Allred's blow may have struck more truly at its target, but I doubt whether either incident will change many minds at this late point. There can't be a body of "undecided" opinion on Birtherism at this point to be impressed either by Trump's offer or Obama's certain refusal of it, while Allred's revelation can be dismissed as trivial and will be dismissed as partisan. The official campaigns will most likely ignore both stories, but neither story started with an official campaign, so they may not end here either.