Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Oct. 10, 11 or 12
Finally, however, the nonsense seems more scary than funny.
Do you have your birth certificate? My certified photostat shows a 4:10 p.m. arrival at an Iowa hospital that charged my folks $58. (OK; that’s funny.) Could you prove your birthplace?
That was the ridiculous demand of birtherism, which was promoted for years by Donald Trump but has its roots here in Illinois (and not with Hillary Clinton).
On Sept. 16 as he promoted a new hotel, Trump announced that Barack Obama was born here, and that doubts about his birth started with … Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” he said before leaving without taking questions.
The next day, Obama quipped, “In other breaking news: the world is round, not flat.”
More seriously, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, “A few years ago Donald Trump was the leader of the so-called birther movement, delegitimizing the first African-American president in the history of our country. That's what Trump was trying to do: delegitimize the president.”
As for origin, birtherism is actually traced to Illinois Republican Andy Martin, who in 2004 and 2008 tried to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. Bob Cesca in writing his 2008 book “One Nation Under Fear,” helped show Martin had initiated the foolishness, questioning Obama’s religion, ethnicity and place of birth.
In 2008, commentator Mark Halperin on his web site revived the baloney as a tool Republicans could use against Obama in the presidential campaign. GOP presidential candidate John McCain largely avoided the hogwash. Later, Clinton was asked to consider the idea by an Iowa volunteer, according to former Clinton aide Patti Solis Doyle, who said he was removed from the campaign. A rumor surfaced in 2008 that Clinton crony Sidney Blumenthal pushed the gimmick, but respected journalist James Fallows is skeptical, saying he had access to Blumenthal’s messages and doesn’t recall such a slur.
Birtherism has been discredited by the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Nation magazine, PolitiFact, the New Yorker and many respected journalism and fact-checking sites. Even the staid, super-safe Associated Press dubbed Trump the “chief promoter of a lie” who now “peddled another false conspiracy.”
But birtherism laid the foundation for Trump’s candidacy; 43 percent of Republicans in 2011 wouldn’t say that President Obama was born in the United States, according to Gallup, and last month, 51 percent of Trump voters STILL didn’t believe the President is American, according to YouGov polling.
Of course, generalizing about Trump’s fans may be as offensive to them as lumping them together with fellow travelers who are white supremacists – which Trump’s legions are shocked … SHOCKED by. But it’s less logical to blame Clinton for the stupid suggestion of a tiny number of her overzealous minions.
“It was only in the midst of his own presidential campaign that Donald Trump began falsely claiming Hillary Clinton was the true progenitor of the ‘birther’ conspiracy theory,” wrote Politico’s Kyle Cheney, “swapping one discredited claim for another.”
Now, Trump seeks credit – even praise – for stopping a movement he fueled for five years and refused to end despite Obama releasing his standard birth certificate in 2008, then a “long form” version in 2011.
That year on ABC-TV’s “The View,” Trump asked, “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” and in 2013, Trump tweeted “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it.” = “I was born in Hawaii.” (This year, it’s not clear whether Trump has produced his own birth certificate, but it is certain he’s keeping his tax returns secret.)
Another of the almost-daily outrages from the Trump outhouse, birtherism for years created suspicions and animosity based on race and religion sought to undercut a President that U.S. voters elected. That fit with Capitol Hill Republican leaders’ obstructionism, essentially abandoning governance for nonstop attacks on the Chief Executive, exploiting an undercurrent of racism.
As Amy Davidson wrote in the New Yorker magazine, “Trump spreads lies the way terrorists plant bombs: one goes off, and when the first responders rush in, there’s a second, or even a third.”
Horror, not comedy.
[PICTURED: Graphic from politifact.com's "Trump falsely tries to pin birtherism on Clinton insiders."]