The media’s got a fee-vah this morning and the only prescription is this clip. A few random thoughts that you can assemble as you see fit. One: If you believe that PPP poll taken last month, people who think Obama’s a Muslim are not only a majority of Trump’s base, they’re a majority of the GOP overall. Even if you question the numbers, there’s no denying that there are plenty of them out there. Which is to say, there’s no reason to think this guy is a plant just because he’s surprising Trump with a question guaranteed to put him on the spot. Two: That said, this is so over the top, not just in the rhetoric (“when can we get rid of them?”) but in the speaker’s inflections, that it does play like some sort of prank. If you were intent on Mobying Trump at a Q&A for maximum embarrassment, this is precisely the question you’d ask. But then, that makes me wonder — did the audience even know there’d be a Q&A? Trump hasn’t done that before at his events and as far as I know it wasn’t advertised yesterday that he’d be doing one. There’s no way it was a prank if the audience didn’t know in advance they’d get a turn at the mic.
Three: Trump says nothing to challenge the guy (although he does mock the outlandishness of it when he exclaims “we need this question?”), which you can take as evidence that he (a) agrees with him about Obama and Muslims, (b) doesn’t agree but knows that many in the audience do and is afraid to alienate them, or (c) is humoring the guy by promising some sort of nonspecific action so that he can move on to a real question. (Pols confronted by 9/11 Truthers in the heyday of Trutherism 10 years ago, asking them if they’d support re-opening an investigation into the attack, tended to react the same way.) I think it’s a combo of (b) and (c), although given Trump’s status as America’s most famous Birther, you can’t rule out (a) either. Four: When Trump tells the guy he’s going to be “looking at a lot of different things” as president, I took that not as a response to what the guy said about getting rid of Muslims but as a reply to what he said about terror training camps. No way to tell, though, and as I say, there’s no disputing that he didn’t challenge him on the “get rid of them” point. On the other hand, for a guy who’s slammed by the media as a vulgar racial demagogue, Trump hasn’t said much on the trail about, say, shari’a that could be taken as incitement against Muslims. On the contrary, when Sean Hannity asked him what to do about the Syrian refugee crisis, his initial response was that we need to take more refugees as a simple humanitarian matter. “He’s laying off Muslims because he’s too busy inciting people against Latinos with cracks about Mexican rapists,” a lefty would say. Okay, but even there, the big plan to deport 11 million illegals to Mexico involves letting the vast majority of them back in. Don’t get me wrong: The “white nationalists for Trump” subculture is a real thing, as you know if you frequent Twitter, and clearly he’s done something to stoke that. My point is, Trump’s own feelings on minorities are likely more complicated than his worst fans’.
Fifth and finally: Our fearless media surely isn’t going to do a big story about a major politician entertaining theories about whether Obama’s a Muslim without mentioning the role of Hillary’s 2008 campaign in feeding them, right? Hillary Clinton herself once famously denied that there was any evidence that Obama was a Muslim before adding a pointed “as far as I know.” And yet, and yet…
Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 18, 2015
The media’s fee-vah over the Trump story had better include a paragraph or two about which presidential candidate this year did the most to popularize this theory. Because it ain’t Trump.
In lieu of an exit question, free advice to Trump from Joel Pollak: The next time someone asks you if Obama’s a Muslim, tell ’em, “No, silly. He went to that horribly racist, anti-American Christian church for 20 years, remember?”