“Hillary Clinton started the birther issue,” Donald Trump declared in his speech this morning, but “I finished it.” As expected, Trump explicitly stated what has been known for a very long time — that Barack Obama was “born in the United States. Period.”
But before he got to that, Trump made sure to use the media attention for all it was worth:
Donald Trump: "President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period." https://t.co/sKvdenBYQW
— ABC News (@ABC) September 16, 2016
NBC News pre-emptively objected to Trump’s framing of the birther issue. Hillary Clinton didn’t start the birther issue … her supporters did:
The other part of the Trump campaign statement from last night — in fact, it was its beginning — was pinning the Birther story on Hillary Clinton. “Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook.” But that is untrue. While SUPPORTERS of Clinton stirred this conspiracy on the Internet, Clinton or her campaign NEVER said/suggested/insinuated that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. As the Washington Post wrote last year, “Clinton’s campaign, one of the most thoroughly dissected in modern history, never raised questions about the future president’s citizenship. The idea that it did is based largely on a series of disconnected actions by supporters of Clinton, mostly in the months between Obama’s reaction to the Jeremiah Wright story and the Democratic National Convention.”
So … Hillary’s voters were a Basket Of Deplorables too? Quelle surprise. It was a nonsense argument when it was made on behalf of Hillary and it’s been nonsense ever since. Trump might want to take credit for “finishing it,” but the truth is that he dragged it out for years. He made it an issue in 2011, and his campaign has been talking out both sides of its mouth on this “issue” over the last year-plus. That’s why Trump had to take the stage today to put an end to it, although I doubt that the media will let it go for at least, oh, another eight-plus weeks or so. And that is the fault of Team Trump.
In fact, the last thing Republicans should be discussing is Barack Obama, whose numbers are bouncing upward into retired-statesman territory during his lame-duck year. The emotional connections that Obama made in 2008 and 2012 may be frayed, stretched, and tired, but revisiting old and debunked personal attacks on him have a pretty good chance of backfiring and reminding people that they like him a lot better than Trump — even if they don’t like Hillary all that much. Team Trump is counting on the latter fact to tamp down voter enthusiasm and turnout in the key battlegrounds Obama won in both elections, but by putting Obama front and center, they risk provoking a turnout among those voters against Trump.
Still, Trump made sure to save this bit for last. Before getting to the birther nonsense, Trump managed to promote his hotel, and then introduce a couple of Medal of Honor recipients onstage for the national audience:
“Nice hotel,” Trump said at the start of the event, ostensibly a celebration of American veterans. “Under budget and ahead of schedule. Isn’t that nice? No, it is a great honor. This is our brand-new ballroom. You only see a small piece of it because we have it broken down, but this is the hotel is completed. We will be having our opening ceremony in October and it’s going to be something very special. It’s such an honor to have our first event.”
Trump then said it was “such an honor” to have the hotel’s first event be hosted in honor of Medal of Honor winners, a pair of which were standing behind the GOP nominee. He then paused to turn around and shake their hands before continuing to lavish praise on his hotel, a renovation of the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C.
“It is such an honor to have this particular ceremony be the first ceremony because I think when the hotel opens officially, it will be one of the great hotels anywhere in the world and I want to thank the GSA, general services. They have been spectacular,” Trump said.
Let’s hope this is the last of the birther issue. Ever.
Update: Chris Cillizza was impressed with Trump’s troll-fu, calling it “Peak Trump” in the way he manipulated the national news media:
The most amazing thing was that it took the Republican nominee 29 minutes to deliver those three sentences. The event was slated to start at 10 am eastern. It wasn’t until 11 am that it actually began — with Trump touting his new hotel and proclaiming that it is likely to be one of the best in the world. He then ceded the stage to a parade of decorated military veterans who testified to his toughness, his judgment and his temperament.
Cable networks seemed to not know what to do. All three of them — MSNBC , Fox News and CNN — stayed with the generals’s testimonials for the better part of 20 minutes. That’s a remarkable amount of free cable time to dedicate to a series of surrogates testifying to how great one of the two party nominees is.
The networks eventually cut away from the generals but then Trump was back at the mic — roughly 90 minutes after his event was originally slated to start. Meaning that he drew an hour and a half of live coverage for:
1. An empty podium
2. A series of military endorsements/testimonials
3. Three sentences from Trump himself — one that is totally false and two others that represent a total reversal from a position he held as recently as, well, Thursday night.
Well, the media focus on this nonsense is how Trump managed to pull it off.
Update: The link was incorrect on Cillizza’s article, and I’ve fixed it, but The Fix appears to be offline at the Washington Post at the moment.