Tuesday 24 April 2018

After eight years of conspiracy theories, Trump admits that Obama born in US

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway is pictured during a meeting with Trump's Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York. Pic: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway is pictured during a meeting with Trump's Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York. Pic: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Harriet Alexander, Sahil Kapur and Jennifer Jacobs

Donald Trump has finally accepted that President Barack Obama was born in the United States - ending a bizarre eight-year conspiracy theory that his critics say shows Mr Trump to be racist.

Mr Trump revived the "birther" question in an interview with the 'Washington Post' on Thursday, in which he said he was "not ready" to publicly acknowledge Mr Obama's legitimate right to be president.

Mr Obama published his birth certificate in April 2011, to end what he described as a "sideshow."

"We do not have time for this kind of silliness," he said at the time. "We've got better stuff to do."

When asked on Thursday why his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, pictured below, insisted he accepted the birth certificate, Mr Trump said she could say what she liked, but it wasn't necessarily accurate.

His campaign team later put out a statement saying that Mr Trump believed it - but critics of the billionaire were astonished that he said he was not able to state it publicly.

Yesterday Mr Trump finally confirmed that he had been convinced, in a speech at his new hotel that was supposed to focus on veterans - but ended up being a promo for his business venture, and was touted as a "major announcement" about the birther question.

"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy," he said - repeating an untruthful story about how the rumour started.

"And I finished it.

"President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.

"Now we want to all get back to making America great again."

Mr Obama almost laughed yesterday when asked about the strange, eight-year conspiracy theory.

"I'm pretty confident about where I was born," he said. "I think most people are too.

"I would hope the US election would be about more serious issues than this."

Mrs Clinton, also campaigning in Washington DC yesterday morning, said Mr Trump owed Mr Obama an apology.

"Imagine a person in the Oval Office who traffics in conspiracy theories and refuses to let them go," she said.

"Imagine someone who distorts the facts to fit them. Imagine a person who looks at someone who doesn't look like him, and thinks that person is not an American.

"Donald Trump is unfit to be the president of the United States.

"Donald Trump looks at a distinguished federal judge, born in Indiana, and sees a Mexican - not an American.

"He looks at a Gold Star family and sees them as Muslims, not patriotic Americans.

"He looks at women and rates them on a scale of one to 10," she said.


But Trump has been on a roll. On Sunday, the Trump campaign decided this was the week to hit the trail hard, sensing an opportunity to turn the race in their favour, finally.

With Clinton at home recovering from pneumonia and video footage on repeat on newscasts and social media of the dehydrated, overheated candidate struggling to stand up on her own, Trump went on daytime TV and introduced his testosterone levels into the political conversation; released a plan to help parents with childcare expenses; showed up at a black church in Michigan knowing he could face a tough crowd (and did); held rallies with energetic supporters in three battleground states; toured the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he jauntily tossed a football (a few feet) on camera, and stepped up his appearances on cable news shows. 

By Thursday, after Clinton had missed three days on the campaign trail, Trump had raked in a set of poll numbers that suggested a much stronger position against the Democratic nominee. As she returned to campaigning, Clinton found that her lead has narrowed to two points in the latest polls by 'New York Times'/CBS News and Economist/YouGov. Some recent polls show Trump pulling ahead, if narrowly, in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and Iowa.

Kellyanne Conway took over Trump's struggling campaign in late August and made a brazen prediction : They would look back at the previous two weeks "and say, 'Why in the world didn't Hillary Clinton's campaign totally put us away?'"

It took a few weeks longer than that for Trump to close the gap with the Democratic presidential nominee, who returned to the campaign trail eager to move past visualizations of her stumbling and dizzy.

As Clinton has reached a low point in polls, the question remains: is this the beginning of Trump's rise to the White House, or the closest he'll get?

Trump "is definitely in a better position now," said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist who still doesn't like Trump and doesn't intend to vote for him. 

"Such is the soft bigotry of low expectations for Donald Trump." 

David Plouffe, President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager, acknowledged the tightening race but remained optimistic about a Clinton victory.

"This is the high water mark of Donald Trump's campaign," Plouffe said.

"The election feels like a jump ball right now with Trump having an edge of growing momentum while Clinton seems to be trying to regain her sea legs coming back into the mix," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, arguing that the health episode shifted attention to whether Clinton "could even handle" the presidency.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz said the race outlook has changed. 

"Now, after the last week, he is capable of winning," Luntz said.

Irish Independent

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