With his trademarked humility and circumspection, Donald Trump recently boasted he’s about to announce huge news about President Obama, and one rumor has already been reported: “Douglas Kass, a Florida-based investor who appears on CNBC’s talkshow ‘Squawkbox’ where Trump is often a commentator, tweeted to his 48,000 followers: ’High above the Alps my Gnome has heard that Donald Trump will announce that he has unearthed divorce papers between the Prez and his wife.’ “
The fact that the Obamas went through rough patches in their marriage, and contemplated divorce at one time, is not news. Most accounts of the Obamas’ lives attribute the marital stress to financial difficulties.
David Mendell discussed the Obamas’ surprisingly dicey personal finances in his 2007 biography of the then-senator, Obama: From Promise to Power:
He and Michelle were living a middle- to upper-middle-class, white collar existence, going home to a spacious town house in Hyde Park and employing a caregiver to help with child care. But despite their combined incomes, which topped $250,000 a year, Obama had personal debt. He had maxed out his credit card, partly on campaign expenses, and the couple were both repaying student loans from Harvard.
Those campaign expenses came from Obama’s 2000 Democratic-primary bid to unseat Representative Bobby Rush, a four-term incumbent with 90 percent name recognition and a 70 percent approval rating. Obama lost, garnering 30 percent to Rush’s 61 percent. Michelle reportedly thought the campaign was a bad idea, and a new book, Ed Klein’s The Amateur, claims that the stress of the defeat and resulting debt brought the couple to the brink of divorce.
In his book, Klein cites a friend of Michelle Obama who says, “Michelle actually had divorce papers drawn up.” Could those papers have been sitting in some file cabinet all these years? Could Trump’s people have somehow gotten a copy of them?
Unless there’s some sort of genuinely shocking information in that filing that would be pertinent to evaluating Obama today — Drinking? Drug use? Violent temper or mood swings — it’s hard to imagine these papers it would sway voters much in this year’s election. While it’s unlikely Trump’s latest publicity stunt could backfire sufficiently to jeopardize Romney’s standing in the polls, it’s hard to imagine the Romney campaign brain trust in Boston being thrilled with loose cannon Trump seizing the headlines and making the Obamas look like victims. (Clearly high-profile Clinton marital issues didn’t hurt Democrats in the 1998 midterms or Hillary Clinton’s 2000 bid for Senate.)
Having said that, if unflattering details about Obama are revealed to the public because of divorce papers, two men are likely to spend the day laughing: Obama’s 2004 Democratic primary rival Blair Hull and Obama’s short-lived 2004 general election rival, Jack Ryan. Both men had their divorce papers unsealed by suddenly nosy members of the Chicago media, a press corps that never was quite so dogged in pursuit of politicians’ divorce papers since.