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Like most people, I enjoy a good joke. But Donald Trump for president? With apologies to Karl Rove, it’s not really that funny.

The Trump candidacy is not a joke; it’s a scam. But its success with millions of voters shows us we are a nation very susceptible to scams if they are done on a grand enough scale. The successful Obama campaign taught us that, but maybe it’s the Republican Party’s turn to follow the pied piper.

In Donald Trump we have a liberal billionaire with a long record of supporting Democratic candidates who is willing to spend unlimited amounts of money to reinvent himself as a populist conservative. Ordinarily, that would be an impossible, even laughable undertaking. Yet Trump is doing well in the polls. Evidently, a lot of people are buying his snake oil.

A cynic might suggest the fact that Trump has filed for bankruptcy three times and then rebuilt a real-estate empire has some attraction for citizens of a country with mounting trillions in public debt. However, we have yet to hear Trump ask Social Security retirees to take 30 cents on the dollar in promised benefits. He has recently attacked Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare reform, saying Republicans should avoid that issue.

There are at least three big obstacles to a Trump nomination in Tampa in August of 2012. The first two obstacles are Trump’s record and Trump’s ego. Trump doesn’t have the self-discipline to “stay on message,” often reverting to the leftist ideas he has absorbed from the New York Times and Manhattan cocktail parties. He recently admonished Republicans to “rethink” opposition to a single-payer health-care system “like the one that works so well for Canadians.”

On policy matters, Trump’s record makes him about as credible as a conservative candidate as I would be running for the presidency of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

Over the past decade, Trump has given massive amounts of money not only to Democrats but the most liberal and most corrupt Democrats, such as Charles Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Charlie Rangel. He has given $116,000 in recent years to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He supported John Kerry in 2004 and was a vocal critic of Bush’s Iraq policy, even opposing the surge that turned the tide of war. On immigration, the NumbersUSA organization rates him at a “D minus,” barely ahead of Obama.

Trump enthusiasts say that since Reagan was a Democrat much of his early adult life, we can’t condemn Trump for supporting Democrats in the past. But Reagan “got religion” a decade before he ran for office in 1966, and by the time he ran for president in 1980, everyone knew exactly where he stood on a hundred issues. Trump supported Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008, and we don’t know where he really stands on anything but Obama’s birth certificate.

Trump has made the question of Obama’s birth certificate the centerpiece of his campaign, and that has led many conservatives to cheer him on. What material facts his investigators in Hawaii will uncover on that matter remains to be seen, but we have to ask two questions about Trump’s advocacy of this issue. First, if Trump can suddenly champion an issue he ignored for two years, how confident can conservatives be that he won’t abandon it when it is convenient to do so? More importantly, even if he is sincere about pursuing the matter, is it enough to warrant conservative support for his campaign? No, not by a long shot.

How is it that a man with so much heavy political and personal baggage and no record of public service whatsoever can be taken seriously by so many Republicans as a candidate for the highest office in the nation?

That Trump has so far attracted surprising numbers of supporters is testimony to only two things, neither of which tells us anything about what kind of president he would make. It demonstrates the power of celebrity politics, and it tells us that rank and file Republicans are desperate – really desperate– for new leadership.

Obama will not be defeated easily in 2012. He will raise a full $1 billion to spend on his campaign, and he will have a unified Democratic Party and several million campaign workers from the public sector unions to help him.

Republicans need a fully vetted and experienced conservative leader who can challenge Obama on his dismal, dangerous record and on issues ordinary Americans care about. Any conservative who thinks Donald Trump is that candidate needs to join a 12-step program for celebrity addiction.

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