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9 November 2016

Is this the moment Donald Trump decided to run for president?

At the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Trump was blasted by Barack Obama. Since then, pundits have asked: did it unwittingly help create a monster?

By Media Mole

I know, I know, you’re still reeling. Over in this west London burrow, your mole is reeling, too. Donald Trump has clinched the 2016 presidential election, and who knows what might happen next.

As the future is so mysterious, inevitably one’s thoughts turn to the past. Specifically: could this have been averted? What about if the Clinton e-mails hadn’t been back in the news last week? If the Voter Rights Act hadn’t been repealed, possibly diminishing the number of people able to vote in key states like Florida? If Barack Obama hadn’t roasted Trump back in 2011?

Bear with me, here. Because while the last of those ideas doesn’t sound as feasible – and isn’t as immediate – as the first two, there may still be something in it.

2011 feels a long time ago right now, but I invite you to cast your mind back to that year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, when President Obama (already how bittersweet the title!) and comedian Seth Myers roasted a member of the audience, calling him a political charlatan and suggesting he had a “dead fox” on his head. 

Back then, Donald Trump was a noisy voice in the birther movement, repeatedly, and loudly, intimating that Obama was not born in the United States. Obama seized his moment in the traditionally-mocking speech of the Correspondents’ dinner to poke fun at this bizarre suggestion, joking about other conspiracy theories Trump might believe. Here’s the White House transcript of the moment:

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Donald Trump is here tonight!  (Laughter and applause.)  Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald.  (Laughter.)  And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter –- like, did we fake the moon landing?  (Laughter.)  What really happened in Roswell?  (Laughter.)  And where are Biggie and Tupac?  (Laughter and applause.)

But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience.  (Laughter.)  For example — no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice — (laughter) — at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks.  And there was a lot of blame to go around.  But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership.  And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf.  (Laughter.)  You fired Gary Busey.  (Laughter.)  And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.  (Laughter and applause.)  Well handled, sir.  (Laughter.)  Well handled. 

Say what you will about Mr. Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House.  Let’s see what we’ve got up there.  (Laughter.) 

(Screens show “Trump White House Resort and Casino.”)

Myers took that end bit – where Obama jokes about Trump in the White House – even further, saying:

Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke.

Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, which is great for Republicans, because it will streamline their search for a vice president.

Donald Trump said recently he’s got a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’ Unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.

It’s these takedowns that journalists have seized on. Back in March, the New York Times proposed that it might have been the moment when Trump’s swivelling eye drifted from reality TV to politics.

Of course, voices in other quarters have pooh-pooh’d the idea. In April, Roxanne Roberts of the Washington Post responded to the NYT’s tantalising suggestion by saying it “flies in the face of actual history“.

But who knows what a man like Trump thinks, or what motivates him? Decide for yourself with the clip below.