This blog predicted that the TPM poll tracker would place Trump ahead of Clinton before midnight yesterday. That forecast, sadly, came true. And yet the day was so disastrous for Trump that even I, Mr. Doom N. Gloom, allowed a few rays of hope to illumine what is left of my malfunctioning heart.
The Donald finally ticked off the press
by subjecting them to a glorified advertisement for one of his holdings on a day when they expected to hear an important announcement on a political subject. Trump's childishness and hucksterism finally went too far.
A writer calling himself "Godhumor" -- who seems to be a regular and respected contributor to Democratic Underground -- says that insiders
have told him that yesterday's events caused Donald Trump to go into tantrum mode:
-He is apparently extremely angry at Conway and has given her an ultimatum to fix the mess he feels she made (Why we're now seeing frantic birther press releases coming from his campaign now)
-He didn't want to do this and never wanted to give an answer on Obama's nationality. He was "bribed" with doing it by his team by being given assurances he'd get free advertisement for his new hotel if he held a major announcement there
-Very angry at the tone the media has taken in the aftermath and feels they're targeting him
-Especially livid that the hotel footage was not only not shown but actually erased.
-Is asking to have surrogates accuse the media of censorship of news because of the erased footage and wants to ban the media pool pretty much completely other than those he know are friendly to him
Is any of this true? Not being one of Godhumor's pen pals, I don't know. His report seems
persuasive, but I am open to counterargument.
Alas, our glee at Trump's bad day may be short-lived. McClatchy
has offered a bombshell story which may force a partial rewrite of our "origin of birtherism" narrative.
Two supporters of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign reportedly shared the claim that then-rival Barack Obama was not born in the United States and thus was not eligible to be president.
One was a volunteer in Iowa, who was fired, Clinton’s former campaign manager said Friday. The other was Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, according to a former McClatchy Washington Bureau chief.
The Iowa volunteer is hardly important. A campaign attracts hundreds of volunteers, and we can't fairly expect all of them to be sensible people. We're dealing with (you should pardon the expression) a lone nut. This person's firing tells us that the campaign wanted nothing do with any rumors concerning Obama's eligibility.
But...Sydney Blumenthal? Yow.
I have always respected Blumenthal; he has always seemed a cautious and intelligent individual. Frankly, I want to hear both sides of this story before coming to any final judgments.
Here are such details as we have:
Meanwhile, former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher tweeted Friday that Blumenthal had “told me in person” that Obama was born in Kenya.
“During the 2008 Democratic primary, Sid Blumenthal visited the Washington Bureau of McClatchy Co.,” Asher said in an email Friday to McClatchy, noting that he was at the time the investigative editor and in charge of Africa coverage.
“During that meeting, Mr. Blumenthal and I met together in my office and he strongly urged me to investigate the exact place of President Obama’s birth, which he suggested was in Kenya. We assigned a reporter to go to Kenya, and that reporter determined that the allegation was false.
“At the time of Mr. Blumenthal’s conversation with me, there had been a few news articles published in various outlets reporting on rumors about Obama’s birthplace. While Mr. Blumenthal offered no concrete proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, I felt that, as journalists, we had a responsibility to determine whether or not those rumors were true. They were not.”
Blumenthal, who worked in the White House with President Bill Clinton and later was employed by the Clinton Foundation, could not be reached Friday but said in an email to The Boston Globe, “This is false. Period.”
In a tweet, Asher responded that he has Blumenthal's business card, making the dispute "his word against mine." I suspect that the conflict between Asher and Blumenthal is not a matter of whether the two men met. I think that Blumenthal disagrees with Asher's characterization of what was said.
Here's the reaction from Mother Jones
But on TV, Trump's minions are simply shouting over and over that Hillary did too start it. Then a former McClatchy editor who pretty clearly hates Clinton chimes in to say that conservative idée fixe Sid Blumenthal was peddling the birther rumor in 2008. This in turn prompts the Weekly Standard to opine that "it doesn't seem far fetched that the Clinton campaign played a much bigger role in midwifing birtherism than they or the media would like to admit." By tomorrow the entire right-wing fever swamp will be salivating over this.
Of course. But the question is whether that saliva will start dribbling out of mainstream sources. The swamp is the swamp is the swamp; as long as the salivation stays within swampland, we have no worries.
Incidentally, Asher would appear to be a left-wing Hillary critic (as is, I should note, Sydney Blumenthal's son Max), although he doesn't seem to be as unreasonable about it as some of the hardcore BernieBros are.
Even if we accept Asher's account at face value, what do we have? Blumenthal may be a friend to the Clinton family, but he had no role on the Clinton campaign. He did not personally spread the rumor on TV or on the internet. At worst, he became aware of a rumor which was floating around in a sub rosa
fashion, and he asked a news editor to see if the rumor had any facts to back it up. The editor did so, and came up goose eggs.
We have no evidence that Hillary gave any credibility to the Kenya rumor, and we have no evidence that Blumenthal ever had any role in spreading the story on the internet.
In a sense, Blumenthal was asking a newsperson to do what newspersons should
do. If a journalist gets a sniff of a potential scoop, he or she should investigate. If the facts check out, the journalist should publish. That's pretty much the plot of Call Northside 777
Asher says in tweets
that Blumenthal told him in person "Obama born in Kenya." But that's not how the actual story reads. It says that Blumenthal suggested
Obama was born there, and asked for the rumor to be investigated. The difference is subtle, but important.
I can't blame Blumenthal if he did not dismiss the "Kenya" story out of hand at that early date. Hell, even I
didn't dismiss the rumor at first hearing, although I considered it unlikely. If I had the resources, I would have gone to Africa myself to check out the rumor.
The late Lori Starfelt (a much-missed friend to this blog) went to Hawaii and found the newspaper announcement of Obama's birth. Until she made that discovery, she was willing to consider the possibility that the birthers might be on to something. (I know this because she told me.) Are any of my readers going to argue that Lori did something wrong? If she
did nothing wrong, then how can we complain about Blumenthal?
Remember, we are talking about the time before
Obama produced the "short form" certificate of live birth. The short form should have been sufficient to mollify the concerns of any reasonable individual. (Of course, it did not mollify Donald Trump. Neither did the long form.)
Bottom line, it is not irresponsible to take a private meeting with an investigative reporter and to ask him to check out an allegation.
Of course, it would
have been irresponsible for Blumenthal to spread the meme all over the internet as though it were the gospel truth. There is absolutely no evidence that he did so.
And the firing of the Iowa volunteer demonstrates neither Hillary Clinton nor anyone with a position of authority on her campaign was going to tolerate the spreading of this rumor.
As we have seen, the "born in Kenya" rumor became known to the public in August of 2008, two months after Hillary shut down her campaign. The idea spread via certain rather wild conspiracy-believers -- in particular, oddball lawyer Philip Berg -- and was then picked up by a mondo-weirdo troop of fringe rightists, such as Pam Geller, Larry Johnson, Texas Darlin' and others.
Asher does not say when
he had that conversation with Blumenthal. The phrase "during the Democratic primary" covers a lot of territory -- and years after the fact, one could easily become confused as to exact sequence of events. Did he meet Blumenthal in June, 2008? That was when the first anonymous email circulated, according to Snopes. June was also the month when Hillary shut down her campaign.
To reiterate: None of this reflects poorly on Hillary. She did not spread the story, and neither did her campaign.
Come to think of it, I'm not even sure that what we have learned reflects all that poorly on Blumenthal. I suspect that what he actually said to Asher was something along these lines: "This is kind of a wild story, but maybe you should check it out." If that's what happened -- well, I'm fine with that. Newsfolk should
check out wild stories from time to time. Early on, Watergate was a wild story.
I also strongly suspect that the conflict between Asher and Blumenthal is really a dispute as to Blumenthal's state of mind. If Blumenthal was simply asking for an investigation -- well, how could Trump argue with that? Did not Trump himself
desire an investigation (at a much later point, when the facts were already at hand)?
All of that said: I did
predict at the very beginning of primary season that the Blumenthal family would play a major role in this election.
And let's face it -- Hillary sure as hell didn't need any complications after Donnie's bad day.
It is still indisputable that Donald Trump lied his fat ass off. He said that Hillary started the birther rumor: She did not. He also said that he closed the case -- a bald-faced falsehood. In fact, even after Obama produced the long form birth certificate in 2011, Trump doubted the veracity of even that
piece of evidence. He kept pounding away at birther nonsense in 2012, 2013, and 2014: See here
. He even implied that Obama had a Hawaiian official murdered to perpetuate the cover-up.
By the way: There is strong reason to suspect that Trump's latest exercise in medical "transparency" is another falsehood. We'll get to that issue tomorrow or the next day, if the news cycle permits.
Despite being a lifelong fan of classic film, I never saw Call Northside 777
until just last week. It's an excellent journalism drama, based on real-life events. The film still rivets the viewer's attention -- right up until the "suspenseful" finale, which is utter nonsense. That is not
how the situation was resolved in real life. Ah well: As Maria Von Trapp once said, one must allow Hollywood to do a little Hollywooding.