America: Land of Nut Jobs

I'm talking to you, Joey Vento, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin

“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” the President said yesterday, somehow sporting a wry yet remarkably winning smile as he announced to the press the release of his 33 1/3 long-playing birth certificate.

In the process, of course, the President was also certifying something else: that a chilling percentage of this country’s citizenry is nuttier than his mother-in-law’s holiday fruitcake. All you have to do is look at the number of people who believe he was born elsewhere. Or Donald Trump’s recent poll numbers. Seriously, he seemed to be thinking. Look at me up here. I was born black. No choice there. But I wasn’t born President. I could be back in Chicago right now, writing books, going to Sox games, organizing people that need and would appreciate real life services. And I wanted this? [SIGNUP]

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t thinking that. Maybe he was thinking about the NBA playoffs and whether the Lakers were going to get knocked off early. Or how he could get his shot to drop smoothly from the corner like Ray Allen’s. Be nice to think it so; it would be a far better use of his considerable mental capacity than focusing on short- and long-form birth certificates.

The man, we should not forget, was elected to govern in an age of war and terrorism; to create jobs when all that’s left to manufacture are smartphones and tablet computers; to improve education when there are fewer dollars in school district budgets than pauses in a Charlie Rose question; to make certain the country stands for democracy and human values when the Arizona desert dwellers and their like-minded kin want to send anyone not toting papers to Honduras.

Given the real-world Herculean tasks that face the President, and all of us, daily, it’s long past time to chase the carnival barkers back to their grimy sideshow tents. The media needs to look up from their notebooks for once and begin to ask the kinds of questions that can’t be answered by rote.

How do you, Joey Vento, think you’ll be perceived in the future when Philadelphia is examined by historians for how it treated immigrants facing hard times in the early decades of this century?

How do you, Donald Trump (or Mike Huckabee, or Michelle Bachman, or Sarah Palin, etc.), think you’ll be remembered fifty years hence when school kids studying the Obama Administration get to the part where people in his own country questioned the legitimacy of the first president of color with statements they knew to be untrue?

Let’s hear those answers. If they revert to trash talk, walk away. There’s nothing there to report.

It’s time to shut the carnival barkers and the sideshows down. They were never entertaining. Now, though, they’ve become a serious hazard to our health.

Tim Whitaker ( is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.