Just when you thought the presidential campaign was about to get boring, along comes Donald Trump.
To most Americans, Trump is a joke. He's a one-man reality show, a talkative real estate mogul with a comb-over hairstyle and enough wives to make a Mormon blush. To late night comedians, he's the gift that keeps on giving. But to Mitt Romney, Trump is a debit card to unlock an ATM machine filled with GOP cash.
The Romney campaign is blatantly using The Donald's name, his limo and his hotel to get people to donate to the presumptive Republican nominee. They're offering airport transportation in the "Trump vehicle," a stay at the Trump International Hotel in New York, a tour of Trump Tower and a dinner with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. They're even hosting a swanky Las Vegas fundraiser with Trump to raise big bucks.
All this raises lots of questions about Romney's judgment. As the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza put it, "Why is Romney associating himself with a man who is the public face of the debunked idea that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and, perhaps more importantly, a man whose sole principle in life is self-promotion?"
There's a lot of reasons why Romney should stay away from Trump, but the former Massachusetts governor is so desperate to be liked by his base that he's willing to do or say anything to get their support. Still, The Donald is not the answer to his problems.
First, Trump is a really rich guy whose more known for his gilded excess than his concern for struggling workers or the middle-class. Every photo op with Trump provides one more opportunity to remind voters about Romney's car elevator at his mansion in California or that famous picture of Romney posing with money literally falling out of his pockets.
Second, Trump is best known for firing people, as he does on his TV show The Apprentice. Romney, on the other hand, is a former Bain Capital executive who probably wants to forget that memorable line he uttered during the primary season that he likes being able to fire people.
Third, Trump is a gambler who builds casinos and places big bets. Going to Vegas to hang out with Trump is just another reminder of Mitt Romney's infamous debate gaffe where he wagered a $10,000 bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Trump is the principal spokesman for the "birther" campaign conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States. Even though the White House released the president's long-form birth certificate last year, Trump didn't back down Tuesday morning on CNBC when he repeated his claim that Obama may not be born in America and demanded to see the president's college transcripts.
Asked about Trump's incendiary claims, a spokesman for Romney simply claimed the candidate can't be responsible for everything his supporters say. That's a curiously hypocritical message from the party that's tried to make Barack Obama responsible for the words of everyone from Hilary Rosen to Jeremiah Wright, neither of whom Obama sought for an endorsement. Yet Romney won't take responsibility for his own connections with people like Trump and Ted Nugent, both of whom he explicitly sought for endorsements.
The Obama campaign quickly responded to Romney's failure of integrity with a video that contrasted the Romney campaign's response to the birth certificate question with Sen. John McCain's repeated efforts to dismiss the silly birther arguments in the 2008 campaign. Yet even after the Obama video was released, Trump would not leave well enough alone, posting a statement on Twitter on Tuesday urging Romney not to follow McCain's path of decency. McCain "lost the election. Don’t let it happen again," Trump tweeted.
And this is the guy Romney wants to have over for dinner.
Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes political commentary for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Mitt Romney Campaign)