Wow. Donald Trump says US President Barack Obama was born here. What a concession. No wonder he’s trending up in the polls.
How did we get to this place, people? The big story of the day is that a candidate for president of the United States — a candidate who, according to The New York Times’ Upshot model, now has a one in four chance of being elected — admits he spent years telling the American people a stupendous lie. And even now, he won’t say he’s sorry.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,” Trump said abruptly and briefly on Friday. This was at his new Washington hotel, which he has been promoting with an avidity he has never devoted to, say, getting his immigration policy straight.
Then Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton had been first to spread the rumour that Obama was not a native-born citizen. This is a lie. A lie that all the fact checkers in the world debunked when he started saying it long ago.
People, I know some of you get very frustrated that news coverage of this election does not begin every day with: “In yet another total falsehood, Donald Trump...” This is your moment.
The Day of the Double Falsehood is a very clear, very dramatic example of Trump’s tendency to, um, speak fictionally. He was just a real estate guy with a cheesy TV show until 2011, when he sort of ran for president, in a bid that focused almost entirely on his claims that Obama had come from Kenya.
“Three weeks ago I thought he was born in this country. Right now I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” he told an NBC interviewer.
We never did learn what they found. But Trump has continued to get some of his most startling information from “people.” During the primary season in New Hampshire, a man at a Trump town hall gathering got up to claim Obama was a Muslim and “not even an American.” Strong candidates tell guys like this they’re wrong. Weak candidates ignore them. Trump responded, “You know, a lot of people are saying that...”
None of the outrageous things he says are his fault. You got a complaint, take it to the people.
Trump’s campaign wanted the birther issue to be made to go away. First, running mate Mike Pence said he believed Obama was a natural-born American citizen.
“I confirm that and Donald Trump now confirms that,” First Pal Rudy Giuliani told another interviewer. Trump had changed his mind, Giuliani claimed, two or three years ago. That would have been around the time he was tweeting: “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”
Moving the candidate himself was obviously a harder job. When The Washington Post asked him this week if he’d changed his mind, Trump said, “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”
I’ve always said that women won’t vote for a candidate who yells because he’ll remind them of a bad boyfriend. This is the behaviour of the nightmare date from hell. Who tells you exciting stories over drinks, all of which are clearly untrue, and then gets sullen and refuses to talk when you ask a couple of questions.
Trump’s people were forced to come up with an unwinding scenario that did not require the candidate to admit he’d ever done anything wrong. So they sent out a news release announcing that Trump was the hero of the story — the man who stamped out the birther rumour, which was started by Hillary Clinton’s “vicious and conniving behaviour.
Trump’s demands for the truth had forced Obama to release the long-form version of his Hawaii birth certificate while “Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer.”
“Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” the campaign’s statement concluded.
Even the most creative minds in the press office could not come up with any explanation for why it took Trump five years to acknowledge what the birth certificate proved. Asked about that, Pence said, disjointedly and desperately, that his running mate’s record on behalf of the African-American community “really speaks for itself.”
What we have here is a candidate for president of the United States who makes stuff up all the time, but is either incapable of realising that he’s telling a lie, or constitutionally unable to take blame for being untruthful.
Yet, according to the polls, Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem is that the public thinks she’s dishonest. Amazing.
— New York Times News Service
Gail Collins is a journalist, columnist and author of books including When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.