Birther of a notion: Trump goes rogue. Tells the truth. Obama born in the USA.

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Good morning Austin:

Today’s First Reading is about Donald Trump’s heroic defense of President Obama’s born-in-the-USA bona fides.

But first, a recap of some weekend highlights.

Saturday night was the Texas Democratic Party’s annual Johnson Jordan Dinner at the JW Marriott Austin.

The featured speaker was Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, governor of Maryland and, the third wheel in the 2016 Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders presidential race.

It was not always clear to me whether O’Malley was running for president or coolest teacher in your high school, and, there he was Saturday night at the Texas Young Dems after party at the Brass House Austin mingling with the kids in his undershirt and performing a few numbers on guitar and vocals.

Here is his cover of Ring of Fire.

Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa is pushing O’Malley as the next Democratic National Chairman.

“I’ll take it,” said O’Malley, in his undershirt.

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Marlon Brando with Vivian Leigh

 

Martin O'Malley with Ed Espinoza

Martin O’Malley with Ed Espinoza

 

The highlight of the dinner was Mayor Steve Adler’s mock epic taco truck speech, delivered in a tux.

You can read it here in all its footnoted glory.

Or you can watch it.

Adler delivered the speech capably, but the speech did not live up to its potential in connecting with the audience. Maybe they should have been provided copies of the speech so they could follow along with the footnotes. But, believe me, if this same speech had been delivered by Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, he would have killed it.

But that’s Barack Obama, who, you will recall, in 2004, then a state senator, burst on the national scene with the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, in which he said:

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.

Here’s a shorter version, as of this weekend.

We have Chicken Sh*t Bingo in Austin, Texas. We have Chicken Sh*t Bingo in Brooklyn, New York.

I used to live around the corner from Ginny’s Little Longhorn. I now live three miles away. Which means, my daughter, who just moved to Bushwick, Brooklyn, lives closer to CSB than I do, happening at exactly the same time.

 

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Here is a story about its launch a year ago from Briana Seftel at the Bushwick Daily.

The volunteer-run community garden at 354 Stockton Street will be hosting its first-annual Chicken Shit Bingo fundraiser that will have folks praying for crap the whole night. The event involves feeding chickens and then letting them run around a huge bingo board. Attendees pay $5 for two squares, then hope a chicken defecates on their square. There will be prizes, with all proceeds going to the farm.

Bushwick City Farm isn’t the first to do chicken shit bingo. The idea originated in Austin, Texas at a bar called the Little Longhorn Saloon, where chicken shit bingo is a Sunday tradition that pairs nicely with country music and cold beer.

 

 

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My daughter said that, because there were children present, they referred to orally as ”chicken doo-doo bingo.” Her numbers were 3 and 35. She didn’t win.

OK. Back to business.

Donald Trump crossed a line Friday. He told the truth. For nine words, laid end to end.

President Obama was born in the United States. Period.

Unfortunately, he preceded it with this:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the Birther controversy. I finished it.

So taking the whole thought in its entirety, here it is.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the Birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

Let’s begin with a useful background, from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

I continue to believe this video contains perhaps the most revealing statement Trump ever made about birtherism. It’s video from an interview we did with Trump back in April of 2011.

Former TPMer Evan McMorris-Santoro did the interview in Palm Beach, Florida on April 16th 2011 and Senior Editor Catherine Thompson resurfaced it on Friday. In the video, Trump is digging at former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) for criticizing him about embracing birtherism. He has this moment of near total transparency about why Cantor should watch out about criticizing birthers. In a word, birtherism sells.

As Trump put it in his own words, “people love this issue, especially in the Republican party.”

There was a lot of discussion of Trump’s latest turn on this on the Sunday talk shows, which I think is very useful to review.

From Meet the Press:

CHUCK TODD:

For what it’s worth the so-called “Birther controversy” did not start with Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, though there were– there is some evidence some supporters did go rogue in spreading around the rumor. It did start on the fringes and was perpetuated on the far right. And has been promoted and nurtured by Donald Trump for the past five years.

TIM KAINE: Donald Trump, for five years, was pushing the completely false notion that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and wasn’t an American citizen.

And Chuck, it’s really important to know how painful that is to so many people. Because, as you know, from the time African-Americans came here to Jamestown in 1619, through the Dred Scott decision in the 1850s, if you were African-American in this country, you could not be a citizen. Whether you were slave or free or born here or born elsewhere, you could not be a citizen. And we had to fight a civil war and change the constitution to change that.

So when Donald Trump, for five years, has been promoting the notion that an African-American president is not a citizen, that is extremely powerful and painful to African-Americans and to others who know this painful chapter in America’s history.

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ALEX CASTELLANOS (political strategist now working for a Trump Super PAC, Building America Now.)

I would explain it this way. Being on the Trump team that I think these two candidates are being treated very differently on this very issue, because this is something that Hillary Clinton’s campaign started when it was convenient for her. But the media covers it as if it is only Donald Trump who has taken the–

CORNELL BELCHER (one of President Obama’s pollsters in 2008 and 2012.)

Alex, I’ve got to tell you that–

KATY TUR (MSBNC correspondent)

That’s not really an answer, Alex.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And by the way, well, there isn’t– there’s an answer here. I think the big question about Obama is not where he was born or his faith. The big question about Obama has been– has he considered himself more of a globalist than an American? There is an otherness to this president. And people have tried to exploit that politically in different ways. The Clinton campaign tried to exploit it this way, the way their strategists said, by saying his lack of American roots is an issue.

From Face the Nation with John Dickerson.

JOHN DICKERSON: I would like to move on to a position that Mr. Trump held for five years, that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He changed that position on Friday. Why?

KELLYANNE CONWAY (Trump campaign manager): Well, on Friday, he made very clear three things, number one, that it was Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster, who put President Obama’s citizenship in question when he wrote a famous memo in March of 2007 questioning his — quote — “American roots,” saying, at a time of war, how could we elect someone like this? It was pretty radical stuff.

And, then, of course, even Patti Solis Doyle, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008, John, until she was fired by Hillary Clinton, admitted on Friday to Wolf Blitzer that she said, yes, these are her words. There was a volunteer in Iowa who was pushing this.

And so this started with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, number one. Number two, it was Donald Trump who put the issue to rest when he got President Obama to release his birth certificate years later.

And, number three, he said that President Obama was born in this country, period, and let’s move on to creating jobs, defeating radical Islam, rebuilding our inner cities. And that’s what he said.

DICKERSON: The reason I want to stick on this a little bit is he promoted this for five years. So, this isn’t just some passing notion. This was a considerable amount of energy and time and money that he spent promoting this idea.

The Clinton — Mark Penn didn’t say anything about his citizenship. Also, if you look at the Clinton campaign, they fired the one staffer who sent an e-mail about this immediately.

Donald Trump spent five years, his own money, called press conferences to promote this idea.

So, I go back to my original question. Why did he change his mind, and when did he do it?

CONWAY: Well, Donald Trump was not running for president against — in a bruising, vicious primary in 2008 against Hillary — against Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton was. And you know that the former D.C. bureau chief of McClatchy newspaper, a respected journalist, just on Friday, John, said that he was approached, he had a meeting with Sid Blumenthal, what is a very close confidant of both Clintons and then was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation thereafter, he had a meeting with him where Sid Blumenthal allegedly told him that President Obama was not born in this country and to go check it out. So, the idea that Clinton — that people around Hillary Clinton were not responsible for this, Donald Trump in 2007 and 2008, while the Clintons folks were pushing this theory, he was a successful businessman. He was building things.

(CROSSTALK)

DICKERSON: But, Kellyanne, he’s asked us to go back and look at things that he said about foreign policy back in 2003, to draw conclusions about his judgment.

So, things he said in the private sector, something he spent five years promoting, you said he got the birth certificate released and that put an end to it. But it didn’t put an end to it for him. For years after the birth certificate was released, he continued to question it, continued to question whether Barack Obama was born in the United States and whether the birth certificate was a fraud.

So, when the campaign puts out a statement and says he ended in 2011, and you have asserted that today, that’s just not the truth, is it?

CONWAY: No, I didn’t say that.

What I’m saying is, is that it was President Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. Nobody confuses Hillary Clinton with Mariano Rivera. She’s not a good closer. And she wasn’t on this issue at all.

Associates of Hillary Clinton started pushing the issue because Barack Obama came out of nowhere to them. They never expected him to rise in the polls, let alone beat her in her Democratic primary, where a vast majority of voters, by the way, were female and rejected her in that year, just like they didn’t see Bernie Sanders coming and just like they didn’t see our comeback of the Trump campaign coming.

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DICKERSON: And we’re back with the chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus.

Mr. Chairman, on Friday, Donald Trump said he no longer believes that Barack Obama was born somewhere other than the United States. For five years, though, he spent a lot of time on this issue, and he now says that he’s the one who was out there just trying to put this rumor to rest.

Do you really believe that’s what he was doing for five years?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think that it was something that got started in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Now, whose fault it was, you know, Hillary Clinton herself, her supporters, her interns, her staffers, clearly, it was something that was circulating in 2008. He — I’m not — so, I’m agreeing with you that he took it further.

DICKERSON: Yes.

PRIEBUS: He took it further.

DICKERSON: Right.

PRIEBUS: And he brought it into the public debate even more so than what was brought in, in 2008.

However, the point is, people are asking him about it. People weren’t asking him about it for a long time. And he came out and said, listen, I was involved in trying to figure this out as well, and I have determined that the president was born in Hawaii, just like I have said for years

So, this is not like, for me, a mystery.

DICKERSON: So, there is also no evidence that Hillary Clinton herself had anything to do with this. There are some rumors that people on her staff and there was one person was caught spreading rumors about Barack Obama…

(CROSSTALK)

DICKERSON: … fired.

PRIEBUS: And people get convicted every single day with circumstantial evidence that is enough to tip the scale.

And by the preponderance of the evidence before us, Hillary Clinton or her campaign were definitely involved in this issue. So, we can’t keep saying it’s not true. That’s ridiculous.

DICKERSON: But…

PRIEBUS: I know you didn’t, but there’s enough media people out there claiming that that’s not true, as if it’s some fiction. It’s not fiction. It’s the truth.

DICKERSON: Sure.

But when you think about — it may be contributory, but Donald Trump spent the bulk of his time…

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: But he’s not denying it.

DICKERSON: No, I understand that. But I guess my point is this.

PRIEBUS: But she is denying it, and that’s ridiculous.

DICKERSON: My point — well, her former campaign manager said…

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: All right, so everyone around her is involved, but not her, so, therefore, she’s innocent.

DICKERSON: Well, everyone around her is a little more than the evidence would support.

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: Her campaign deputy manager was apologizing on CNN three days ago for it.

DICKERSON: But she said she fired the one person who brought it up immediately. There’s a difference between firing one person immediately and then…

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: What about Sid Blumenthal? Was he involved or not?

DICKERSON: Well, let’s assume that he was.

PRIEBUS: OK.

DICKERSON: So, you have a person spreading rumors. And then you have someone making a five-year crusade, holding press conferences and spending money.

(CROSSTALK)

DICKERSON: Here’s my question to you, which is not to figure out the details anymore, but to ask you this question. Donald Trump said Republicans love this idea in 2011 when he talked about it and congratulated himself for reinvigorating the investigation of it.

The question is, did the nominee of the Republican Party use this issue as a political issue to rile up Republicans? And is this the kind of thing that gets Republicans excited, the question of whether the president was born in America? That was his assertion.

PRIEBUS: I don’t think…

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: … my opinion.

DICKERSON: Yes.

PRIEBUS: I don’t think Donald Trump was thinking about 2016 in 2011.

It was an issue that he was interested in. It was an issue that I believe and I think the preponderance of the evidence shows Hillary Clinton started it. And after getting this issue resolved, he proclaimed on Friday that he believes that the president was born in America, just like I have as chairman of the Republican Party. And I never believed that he wasn’t born in the United States of America.

OK. This is simply not tenable and there is not the slightest chance that Priebus, or for that matter Conway, really truly believe what they are saying, the line of argument they are pursuing. They are simply trying to muddy the water and sufficiently confuse thing so that the issue of Trump’s use of he birther issue can’t be used against him.

It seems plain that Donald Trump seized on the birther issue not because he believed there was a scintilla of evidence to support it but because it was an easy and effective way to manipulate a significant swath of the Republican electorate who was ready and willing to believe it and who he wanted to endear himself with in advance of a potential presidential campaign.

Fine. Now, I guess, he – or his team – wants to clear the decks in advance of the Big Debate so that if Clinton throws the birther issue at him he is all ready to respond by saying, no that wasn’t me, that was you.

And, more audacious yet, here are bunch of surrogates – Conway, Priebus, his running mate, Mike Pence, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – who chairs Trump’s transition committee – who presumably don’t suffer from whatever clinical condition Trump suffers from but who are nonetheless willing to vouch for him and this absurd line of argument.

From ABC’s This Week, with Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: But Governor Pence, it’s not just the national media. Let me read you — we counted since April of 2011, and that’s the year that Barack Obama gave his long formed birth certificate from Hawaii. We counted 67 times where Donald Trump tweeted or retweeted messages questioning his birthplace. He has kept this going. He has been a leader in this birther movement.

MIKE PENCE: Well, and I know there’s news reports that trace this birther movement all the way back to Hillary Clinton’s campaign back in 2008.

RADDATZ: You believe that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement.

PENCE: Look, I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

RADDATZ: Well, no, I want to talk about the facts. What’s the proof of that?

PENCE: What I will tell you, Martha — look, as I travel across this country, I say this very sincerely and very respectfully to you, this is not what the American people are talking about. Donald Trump put this issue to an end yesterday in Washington, D.C. He essentially said…

RADDTAZ: Why did it take him so long to put it an end? It’s not over.

PENCE: Throughout this campaign, he hasn’t been talking about it. He’s been talking about the need to have a stronger America at home and abroad.

I understand why Hillary Clinton and many of her defenders in the national media want to distract attention from her dishonesty and her disastrous record on the foreign stage and the fact that she wants to simply continued the failed policies of this administration that have run our economy literally into a ditch. But that’s not working.

I promise you, the American people see through all of this. And I think that’s why Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States.

RADDATZ: Governor Pence, I talked voters as well. In fact, just yesterday. And they talked about the birther issue, they believe fueled in part by what Donald Trump has said that President Obama was born outside the U.S. This fuels those conspiracy theories.

Do you think he should have promoted this birther issue for all these years? Was he wrong to do this?

PENCE: Our campaign just really isn’t focused on the past, Martha, and it really…

RADDATZ: Governor Pence, you said yourself Hillary Clinton is at fault. That’s going forward, that’s not just the past. He said Friday that Hillary Clinton and her campaign were at fault for this birther movement as well. And you just said it yourself,

What is the proof because we can’t find any. And fact-checkers have checked into that, that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement.

PENCE: Well, I just would refer you to news reports with the McClatchy News Service and reports of people in your industry, Martha, that…

RADDATZ: The reports of people in my industry say there’s no proof they can find that Hillary Clinton had anything to do with it.

PENCE: I understand your perspective on it. I understand the desire of many in the national media to change the subject from Hillary Clinton’s disastrous record and her dishonesty, we’re just not going to play that game. Donald Trump and I are going to continue to focus right where the American people are focused, and that’s not on the debates of the past, it’s on their future.

You know, yesterday in the midst of this side-bar debate that so many in the national media are fascinated about, the largest law enforcement union in America, the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump for president of the united states. They endorsed Bill Clinton back in 1996. But they know here that Donald Trump is the kind of president that’s going to stand with the men and women in law enforcement in this country and restore law and order to the communities in this nation and couldn’t be more proud to stand with him.

RADDATZ: I’m going to ask you a few more questions on this because also, in the midst of this, in the midst of you saying you want to talk about issues and you want to talk about ISIS and you want to talk about law enforcement Donald Trump tweeted an article from The Washington Post– Donald Trump’s birther event is the greatest trick he’s ever pulled. He is proud of this.

Is playing tricks seven weeks out of a very serious election what he should be doing?

PENCE: Well, I thought the fact that Donald Trump on Friday used the media’s preoccupation with certain side-bar issues to really focus on the support that we enjoy from retired admirals and generals — 14 medal of honor winners. Now, I think some 150 retired flag officers in our military recognize that Donald Trump is the right choice for the next commander-in-chief of the United States.

And I have to tell you, I think he paid about as much attention to this issue that you all have focused on as the American people are.

Look, we have more horrific stories about ISIS coming out this last week, a level of barbarism and murder and terrorism the likes of which we have never seen since the advent of the global war on terror.

And America knows that we need a commander-in-chief who will rebuild our military.

And from Jake Tapper with Christie on CNN”s State of the Union.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about this birther thing, because you, as governor, as a politician, you have stood up to some of the darker impulses in American politics. You have been clear for a long time that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Donald Trump, by contrast, he clung to the birther lie for years. He still isn’t apologetic about it.

Do you understand why so many people, including African-Americans, are upset with him over the issue?

CHRISTIE: Oh, listen, I made my position on it really clear a long time ago.

And Donald has now made his position on it clear, which is that, after the president presented his birth certificate, Donald has said he was born in the United States, and that’s the end of the issue.

It was a contentious issue and, by the way, an issue that Patti Solis Doyle of the Clinton campaign in 2008 has recently admitted was an issue that Mrs. Clinton also injected into her campaign in 2008 in a very quiet, but direct way, against then Senator Obama.

And so, you know, the birther issue is a done issue. I have said it’s a done issue for a long time. And Donald Trump has said it’s a done issue now. And so we need to move on to the issues that are really important to the American people.

And, Jake, I got to tell you the truth. If you think that anyone is going to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or against either one of them based upon this issue, then I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the concerns of the American people. Let’s move on to the real issues.

TAPPER: Well, just as a point of fact, again, Donald Trump did not accept when Barack Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. He kept up this whole birther thing until Friday. That’s five years.

But we only have a little time left. So, I want to ask you…

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: No, but, Jake, that’s just not true. It’s not true that he kept it up for five years.

TAPPER: Sure, he did.

CHRISTIE: It’s simply not true.

TAPPER: It is true.

CHRISTIE: It wasn’t like he was talking — no, Jake, it wasn’t like — it wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis until then.

And when the issue was raised, he made very clear the other day what his position is.

TAPPER: OK.

Meaning, not OK.

Just look at this single tweet. Study it. Savor it.

Remember. Trump doesn’t really believe that Obama wasn’t born in the USA. He is simply using the issue. And yet he is willing to use a man’s death to make baseless insinuations for the sole purpose of tickling on the fears and prejudices of the conspiracy minded.

And then on Friday, because it no longer serves his purposes, he drops birtherism as if it were come crackpot idea that originated with Hillary Clinton and that only the amazing Donald could dispose of, but only after it had served the purpose of gaining him some purchase on the Republican nomination.

From an NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll was conducted from June 27 through July 5, 2016.screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-7-54-01-am

Wow.

More astonishing still.

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From the NBC analysis:

The fact that more Republicans currently think that the president was not born in the U.S. and that this belief does not depend on how knowledgeable they are about politics is surprising. The country may be divided about both facts and opinions. Moreover, given the persistence of these beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary, not only are we likely to see more rumors emerge, but their effects may be long-lasting. The fact that so many Republicans believe that the president was not born in the United States despite evidence to the contrary suggests that in the partisan-charged environment, it may be very difficult to dispel rumors and outlandish claims regardless of wins on Election Day.

My question is that now that Donald Trump, birther-in-chief, has renounced birtherism as some kind of Crooked Hillaryism, do those numbers change? Does anyone feel betrayed, let down or misled by Trump? Or did all those people who said they didn’t really think Obama was born in the USA never really believe it in the first place?

Ultimately, the most revealing postscript to all this was, as always, Trump’s tweets.

 

So Donald Trump is retweeting a story by Chris Cillizza that describes Trump’s birther renunciation press event thusly:

It was a low moment for politics and political coverage. A nothing-burger filled with falsehoods covered as though it was the Super Bowl. But for Trump, it might have been his crowning achievement: All eyes on him with the chance to direct the play in whatever way he saw fit. The ringmaster — calling the shots in all three rings of the circus. It was peak Trump.

And, for Trump, a very, very proud moment.

From Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, on Fact the Nation.

LEIBOVICH: Well, I would say, look, the — the notion that — that Donald Trump settled this debate for like however many years and we’re still — when was this ever a debate? I mean it was a debate on the fringes in certain sectors. Donald Trump, I mean for — has been well documented, you know, spent five years doing it. Whether voters respond to it or not, it’s appalling. It’s appalling on its face to actually watch this argument play out. It’s edifying to no one. I mean the facts are very, very clear. And, you know, just speaking as one human being, you know, maybe I’m in the media so I’m suspect, I find it appalling. I think many people do. You know, whether it plays out electorally or not, I mean I think it’s clear that we — we make clear, you know, what we’re talking about here.

 

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