Hillary Clinton, the ultimate Birther!

Donald Trump.  My, oh, my.  Sorry, but I don’t see how it can possibly be good for his campaign to re-draw attention to the fact that he was once the most prominent birther.  Among his dumber moves since Conway took over.  And, just to add insult to injury, he blames it on Hillary?!  Interesting times indeed.  On the bright side, some media organizations have at least figured out how to cover this.  Most noticeably, the Post headline (including on the WP.com frontpage):

Trump admits Obama was born in U.S., but falsely blames Clinton for starting rumors

That’s how you do it.  Pretty good from NYT, too:

Trump Drops Claim but Falsely Accuses Clinton of Starting It

CNN does not impress with the headline,

Trump finally admits it: ‘President Barack Obama was born in the United States’

But gets to it in the story:

But the issue isn’t likely to die down any time soon — especially as Trump continues to falsely blame Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for starting the “birtherism” controversy.

As for Fox news, nothing, of course, in the headline, and their story (far into it) does as much to obfuscate as anything:

The Trump campaign’s statement late Thursday claimed that Clinton launched the “birther” movement during her unsuccessful primary run against Obama in 2008.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President,” the statement said. “This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer.”

Clinton has long denied the claim, and fact-checkers have found no public evidence that she or her campaign pushed the issue. Rather, Trump’s comments appear to refer to reports that Clinton supporters circulated an email during the bitter 2008 primary race questioning Obama’s citizenship.

And super take from Paul Waldman:

Though every day of this campaign has seemed to bring some new stunning development, there are a few moments that will stand out when we look back on 2016 to try to understand exactly what happened and what it says about us and our political system. One of those moments happened today, when Donald Trump held an event at his new hotel in Washington to address his long effort to convince people that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Almost everything Trump is about and what he represents could be seen in his brief statement and what led up to it. To put it simply:

* He skillfully manipulated the media to maximize attention to himself.

* He told an obvious, indisputable lie about Hillary Clinton.

* He falsely took credit for something he didn’t do.

* He tried to evade responsibility for his successful efforts to foment and exploit racism.

And all in 30 seconds. It’s hard to imagine a more succinct summary of the Trump campaign than that…

The birther issue itself is Trump’s campaign in microcosm. He looked at the Republican electorate, identified their ugliest feelings, and understood that those feelings were not being validated and promoted sufficiently by other Republican politicians. Those politicians might use implication, winks and nods, or subtle insinuation to communicate to voters that they felt the same way they did. They’d say “I take Obama at his word” that he isn’t a secret Muslim, as though it were in dispute and they were doing him a favor by believing him, or they’d talk about Obama not having the same patriotic feelings as the rest of us. It was reasonably satisfying to Republican voters, but Trump knew he could go a lot farther.

He knew that on this issue as on so many other issues, there was a space to be occupied where other Republicans feared to go, if you just took the ugly thing the Republican base was thinking and echoed it back at them, explicitly and plainly. Mexicans are rapists and criminals, we have to keep out all the Muslims,bomb the s–t out of ’em and knock the crap out of ’em, he’d say. And the base would cheer.

We can’t mince words about this. Trump’s entire birther effort was racist in its intent and racist in its execution. He didn’t keep pounding this myth because he’s so stupid he actually believed there was some question about where Obama was born. He didn’t have his doubts raised by the investigators he claimed to have sent to Hawaii to ferret out the truth — indeed, there’s no evidence he actually ever sent anyone there, even though he said, “They cannot believe what they are finding.” He didn’t have doubts about Obama’s birthplace when he expressed them in 2011, or 2012, or 2013, or 2014, or 2015, or 2016. He kept up the birtherism all this time because he saw that he could use racism to his advantage.  [emphasis mine]

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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