Linda Chavez

Certificate No. 151 1961-010641 issued by "The Department of Health, Hawaii, USA" says that a male child named Barack Hussein Obama II was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, at 7:24 p.m. The mother's maiden name, Stanley Ann Dunham, and race, Caucasian, are listed; as are the father's name, Barack Hussein Obama, and race, African. The paper on which the document is printed -- again easily discernible online -- is the type of special watermarked government stock that makes forgery difficult.

So why does Trump persist in spreading the false allegation that the president has never produced a valid copy of his birth certificate? It's hard to believe that a man smart enough to have accumulated an estimated $3 billion in wealth could be dumb enough to fall prey to the birthers' lies. He's doing it for the same reason he does most things -- to draw attention to himself.

In the world of reality television, there may be no such thing as bad publicity. But politics follows different rules. Trump leads the pack of mostly little-known Republican candidates in some polls. But his standing reflects name recognition, not political viability. And his chicanery is managing to suck all the oxygen out of the room for serious Republican candidates -- the best of whom have held elective office, balanced state budgets, run businesses that didn't end up in Chapter 11, and whose personal lives haven't been perpetual fodder for the tabloids.

As any smart businessperson knows, brand integrity is crucial. If you sully the brand, no one will buy what you're selling. And right now, Donald Trump is ruining the Republican brand. If he truly believes we need a new president in 2012, he'll bow out early and leave the field to those who'll run on serious ideas and real solutions, not thoroughly discredited conspiracy theories.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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