Commentary by CBSNews.com editor-in-chief Dan Farber
Donald Trump knows how to formulate story lines. His reality show stint has taught him that creating innuendo and suspense is integral to capturing the attention of an audience, in this case those seeking a Republican opponent to face off with President Obama in the 2012 election.
In his new role as a presidential aspirant, Trump is applying his tricks of the trade to question the integrity and origins of the incumbent president, grabbing headlines in the process.
The billionaire's () strategically aimed probes cast Mr. Obama as potentially a foreign-born poseur ( ) and an academic underachiever who somehow managed to enter prestigious Harvard Law School and capture the White House.
"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?". "I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."
One record for all to see is that Mr. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and was president of the Harvard Law Review. As undergraduate, he went to Columbia University and Occidental College (a highly-regarded, small liberal arts school in Los Angeles).
Trump, who is taking his "campaign" to states including New Hampshire this week, continued, "I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard. We don't know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president."
If the sons of his presumably wealthy friends couldn't get into Harvard with great credentials, then how could a person from Mr. Obama's humble background and academic achievements get into Harvard? Trump's inference is that Mr. Obama is a cipher, cannot be trusted and is concealing a dark secret.
Trump might want to read an 2003 article by Michael Kinsley in which he writes about George W. Bush, who managed to get into Yale without stellar academic credentials:
"If our President had the slightest sense of irony, he might have paused to ask himself, 'Wait a minute. How did I get into Yale?' It wasn't because of any academic achievement: his high school record was ordinary. It wasn't because of his life experience--prosperous family, fancy prep school--which was all too familiar at Yale. It wasn't his SAT scores: 566 verbal and 640 math.
"They may not have had an explicit point system at Yale in 1964, but Bush clearly got in because of affirmative action. Affirmative action for the son and grandson of alumni. Affirmative action for a member of a politically influential family. Affirmative action for a boy from a fancy prep school. These forms of affirmative action still go on."
If Trump is serious about running for president, as he says he is, it's time to talk more in detail about how he would do the job. That is: paring down a $3.4 trillion budget, dealing with the deficit, reforming tax codes, managing 2.8 million employees, dealing with several military battlefronts, sorting out Medicare, fighting hundreds of legislative battles simultaneously, perpetual fund raising, meet and greets plus all kinds of ceremonial duties that take time away from dealing with truly complex, momentous issues -- while also being on the hook for every natural disaster in the U.S., terrorist attack against the U.S. at home and abroad and each fallen soldier.
Does Trump really want the job of running America, or is he just caught up in the moment, having a good time riding a popularity wave?