There is a running gunfight going on between the Clinton and Trump campaigns over Trump’s history of birtherism in regards to Barack Obama. I’m not going to try to drill down into the various claims but want to hit one particular one head on. The Clinton campaign has alleged, and its media fluffers like the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent have dutifully repeated, that Trump’s birtherism is racist.
So it’s come to this: The institutional position of the Republican Party in the great birther controversy roiling the 2016 campaign — a consequential chapter in our political history — is now essentially that Donald Trump did the nation a service by forcing the first African American president to finally show his papers.
This new GOP storyline has gotten obscured by the ongoing back-and-forth in the media over various subplots (did Hillary Clinton start birtherism? did Trump really keep feeding this conspiracy after 2011?) that are related to the birther battle. Yet it’s unmistakably the larger narrative that the Trump campaign and top Republicans — including the chairman of the Republican National Committee — are telling right now. The Trump campaign’s effort to whitewash his birther history — in which he fed racist conspiracy theories for years — is being widely called out as dishonest. And that’s good. But Trump’s new narrative is actually a lot worse than the rendering of it we’ve seen in most media accounts suggests, and now the party has institutionally joined in promoting it.
It is likely that many Republicans and conservatives — such as Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio — see it as a blot on the history of the modern GOP that the party nominated someone who launched a years-long racist campaign to delegitimize the first African American president in the explicit belief that it would appeal to the racist tendencies of many GOP primary voters. Those Republicans might even say so right now if asked. But Trump has compelled the RNC not merely to participate in helping him push lies designed to muddy the waters around his birther history, but also — and this is the really important part — to institutionally defend that history. Indeed, while many Republicans previously repudiated this history, the RNC is now helping Trump validate it.
After Trump punked the combined US media establishment last week, Hillary Clinton, or more likely one of her campaign sub-harpies, went into a spittle spraying rage on Twitter.
Birtherism, in regards to Obama, might be a lot of things, like stupid, but racist is not one of them. Though the Clinton campaign denies any involvement in spreading the birther nonsense during 2008, there is not a whit of doubt that Hillary Clinton confidante, Sid Blumenthal, was actively involved in shopping the birther story during the 2008 Democrat primary. Now, if you believe that Hillary Clinton didn’t send or receive classified email on her private server you probably believe that Hillary Clinton didn’t have a hand in what Blumenthal was doing. If you are a sentient adult, well, you stopped believing in leprechauns a long time ago.
The birther stories directed at Obama were more exotic, they were deliberately fed by Obama as a way of trying to discredit his enemies (name one other US president who has refused to allow the media to see his birth certificate), but it was no more delegitimizing than the Democrats trying to claim that John McCain was not a US citizen because he was born the the US Canal Zone in Panama.
As an aside, somehow Clinton and Sargent have come up with the idea that opposing or delegitimizing Obama is racism. That is only true if you attribute every action to racism. There has never been a more concerted effort to delegitimize a president than the one the Clinton’s helped foment against George W. Bush in 2000. And the opposition faced by Obama in his last two years in office can’t hold a candle to the senseless opposition inflicted by the Democrats on Bush after 2006, including a deliberate attempt to run up the body count in Iraq in order to force a withdrawal of troops.
But if we want to look at stone cold racism in the 2008 election cycle then we need to look squarely at actions taken by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused the Clinton campaign Monday of “shameful offensive fear-mongering” by circulating a photo as an attempted smear.
Plouffe was reacting to a banner headline on the Drudge Report saying that aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) had e-mailed a photo calling attention to the African roots of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
“The photo, taken in 2006, shows the Democrat front-runner dressed as a Somali Elder, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya,” the Drudge Report said. The photo created huge buzz in political circles and immediately became known as “the ‘dressed’ photo,” reflecting the Drudge terminology.
Plouffe said in a statement: “On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election. This is part of a disturbing pattern that led her county chairs to resign in Iowa, her campaign chairman to resign in New Hampshire, and it’s exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world,” said Plouffe.
This is one of the pictures in question:
The Clinton campaign responded by saying “we’re sorry you are offended.”
“Enough,” Williams said in the statement. “If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.
Right, because white bread Hillary Clinton from Illinois is exactly the same as someone named Barack Hussein Obama about whom birther rumors are gathering.
I think Trump’s attachment to birtherism was a dishonest publicity stunt used to keep his name in play as he was considering a political career. More importantly it was damaging to the GOP. By pursuing it he managed to tar everyone opposing Obama on any issue with the same brush. But the claim was never racist. That can’t be said for what the Clinton campaign did in 2008.