We'll get to this juicy leftover from last week's return of Birther Mania and the resulting media-trolling episode in a moment, but first, a word of context about how audacious it is for Trump's camp to attempt the construction of this equivalency. When it comes to conspiracies about Barack Obama's provenance and eligibility to be president (he was born a US citizen in Hawaii, rendering him fully eligible), Donald Trump is Obama's Birther-in-Chief. There may have been more marginal obsessives with nuttier views, but none enjoyed even a fraction of Trump's public profile. The reality star talked a big game, but always came up empty. Now the Republican Party's presidential nominee, Trump has finally admitted the truth: Obama was always a natural born citizen. He did so after multiple refusals to discuss the issue that he'd so loudly raised for years, and after he had again balked over the question in an interview with the Washington Post. Trump's unwillingness to state unequivocally what his own campaign had claimed was his new position touched off another round of controversy, which he then doused by offering a short statement, having first baited the media into covering a lengthy campaign event at which he was praised by a parade of military veterans. He offered no explanation for why he'd fixated on Obama's roots for so long, nor what changed his mind. His camp's official statement was breathtakingly shameless:
In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.
Critics quickly identified two problems: First, the fact that Obama's birth certificate was produced in 2011 did not put the issue to rest in Trump's mind. He continued to question the document's authenticity and push wild theories for years. Second, Team Hillary didn't start initiate the "ugly incident," as Trump's spokesman claimed. Yes, they trafficked in some unseemly identity politics, designed to sow doubts about Obama's Americanness, but there was allegedly no evidence that such tactics and whispers had pertained to Obama's birthplace or constitutional eligibility. The first critique of Trump's new spin is valid. But is the second fully accurate? Here's a tweet from McClatchly's former DC bureau chief James Asher late last week:
Allahpundit wrote up a strong rundown of arguments, pro and con, about why this accusation against Sidney Blumenthal (remember him?) might be credible -- with one central piece of evidence being Sid's established appetite for anti-Obama subterfuge during the '08 campaign. Blumenthal has flatly denied the allegation, but Asher added more meat to the bones of the story in this McClatchy report:
Former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher tweeted Friday that Blumenthal had “told me in person” that Obama was born in Kenya. “During the 2008 Democratic primary, Sid Blumenthal visited the Washington Bureau of McClatchy Co.,” Asher said in an email Friday to McClatchy, noting that he was at the time the investigative editor and in charge of Africa coverage. “During that meeting, Mr. Blumenthal and I met together in my office and he strongly urged me to investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya. We assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and that reporter determined that the allegation was false...At the time of Mr. Blumenthal’s conversation with me, there had been a few news articles published in various outlets reporting on rumors about Obama’s birthplace. While Mr. Blumenthal offered no concrete proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, I felt that, as journalists, we had a responsibility to determine whether or not those rumors were true. They were not.”
That same article also identified a Clinton staffer in Iowa who'd circulated a 'birther' email, and was fired. Then there's this:
That comes via a former CIA analyst who prominently backed Hillary in 2008. He confirms that Blumenthal fed him all sorts of smeary rumors about Obama that year -- including, you guessed it, "information concerning allegations that Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen." So unless two very different characters (a journalist and intelligence official) are both fabricating tales, the Clintons' longtime sketchy confidante was pushing this stuff eight years ago, and is lying about it now. Bottom line: Trump's association with Obama birtherism is much stronger, far more overt, and much more enduring than Hillaryworld's. He was its foremost celebrity champion for years. And he did not let the issue lie after supposedly resolving it in 2011 as now claimed, waiting five more years to finally make a declarative statement of the truth. But birtherism does have bipartisan origins, even if such theories eventually overwhelmingly took root and blossomed on the Right. Trump used those lingering questions to ingratiate himself within certain political circles, exploiting a strain of Obama Derangement Syndrome as his foot in the door into the conservative movement -- whose ideology he'd rejected for most of his adult life. Ever the intuitive, instinctual marketer, Trump saw birtherism as a shortcut to acceptance among a passionate constituency. Today, he's a presidential finalist, running against the woman whose top hatchet man pushed the same sludge on her behalf before Trump scooped up that ball and ran with it.