To recap quickly: Donald Trump is offering to donate 5 million dollars to a charity of Obama's choice if Obama releases his college and passport records to the public by October 31st.
Naturally, and predictably, the initial response has been general disgust at what's obviously another publicity stunt. The overall "ugh" on twitter, from both sides, isn't a big surprise. We all know it's a publicity stunt....but that's exactly what it was intended to be. Remember, Mr. Trump rarely does anything by accident. Sure, write off his birther stuff, but again to assume that this man doesn't know his own reputation in the public eye, and how to exploit it, would be folly.
Here's the brilliance: It gets traction. Using his own reputation, he's created a huge media buzz over it. People, whether they like him or not, will talk about it - even if just disparagingly. It'll get the word out. So in one nearly 3 minute video, Trump has done the following:
- Directly calls out Obama's hypocrisy about being the "most transparent president ever" by showing the whole country a man who touts transparency, but makes an exception for himself when it comes to his own past - which is fair game for any politician.
- Underscores the hypocrisy of Obama's redistributionist rhetoric and his support of Occupy's 99% vs 1% meme. Here Obama has a chance to redistribute 5 million dollars of Donald Trump's wealth, who's easily part of the 1%. Surely 5 million dollars to help the struggling middle class that Obama is supposedly fighting for would be worth releasing some meaningless college and passport records, right?
- It cuts directly through the media filter. There's no media to stop him from getting his message out. He's not on an interview where he can be interrupted and distracted. The video, up on Youtube for all to see, cannot be selectively edited without it being obvious by everyone. It's brazenly out there for everyone to see.
- It's short and to the point, making it easy to consume for the general public. There's no huge brain trust issues here, it's quite simple.
- This will compete with whatever Gloria Allred has cooking up with the Boston Globe. This is so obvious that Allred's "October Surprise" originally scheduled for this morning was pushed back to tomorrow (as to not let Trump steal her thunder). Even then, Trump's ultimatum will still compete with whatever Allred is able to dig up, which is good.
- Lastly it takes a page out of the Chicago political machine's own playbook and uses it against them. Make a big outlandish claim to tie up news cycles - particularly anticipated news cycles that are designed to smear Romney.
In a fair and balanced media world, stuff like this wouldn't be necessary. But when you have a media all too happy to make big deals about Romney cutting some classmate's hair 50 years ago, selectively editing his talking about a convenience store chain to make him look out of touch, then push Big Bird, Bindes, and Bayonets while ignoring real issues like Fast and Furious, Libya, the economy, Obama's initial forays into coercing religious (read: Christians and Catholics) institutions into doing things against their religion, then there's an unfortunate need for someone to be so ridiculously grandiose in order to get the attention of the American people.
People will ask - people who may not follow the political scene so closely - why Obama's records are importnat. They will ask what's the harm in releasing them. They will wonder why Donald Trump made this a big deal - a 5 million dollar big deal. It'll get people wondering. And that's exactly what it's meant to do.