Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center
Everybody has pounced on Donald Trump for not confronting a questioner at a town hall meeting who said President Obama is a Muslim and “not even an American.” Trump ignored the statements and responded to the questioner’s concern about terrorist training camps with a vapid “We’re going to be looking at that.” But the critics have a point, though not the one they think. Trump should have made the question an opportunity to direct our attention to where it belongs––not on Obama’s biography, but on his actions and the need for Republicans to put more energy into the fight against them.
Missing that point, Republicans who already dislike Trump were quick to condemn him. Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News that Trump should have “immediately sort of undermined and denied the premise” of the question, a sentiment shared by NRO’s Charles C.W. Cooke. Long-shot presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said Trump missed a chance to put the man “in his place.” Many pundits held up as a model John McCain, who while campaigning in 2008 corrected a woman who said Obama is an Arab. They seem to forget that despite McCain’s high-minded praise of Obama, he still lost.
Meanwhile the Democrats and their media shills hyperventilated over the remarks and the “birther” movement they reflected. Slate called Trump’s non-response a “devastating gaffe” and a “crime against decency.” Chris Matthews called it “racist crap,” seemingly unaware that Islam is a religion, not a race. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as cognitively confused as Matthews, screamed, “GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's racism knows no bounds. This is certainly horrendous but unfortunately unsurprising given what we have seen already.” Whoever writes Hillary Clinton’s tweets scolded, “Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out.” Hillary’s hypocrisy, as many pointed out, was classic Clintonian shamelessness, given that the whole birther/secret Muslim meme was exploited in 2008 by her own campaign.
Of course, the Dems immediately made the episode emblematic of the whole Republican Party. “The vile rhetoric coming from the GOP candidates is appalling,” Wasserman Schultz screeched, a brazen non sequitur. And the White House tagged along, presidential spokesman Josh Earnest saying, “I don’t think anybody who has been paying attention to Republican politics are [sic] really surprised.” In other words, Democrats gave us the usual nasty partisan politics hidden behind lofty calls for decorum.
The real problem with the responses from both Republicans and Democrats is that they assume that expressing such beliefs about Obama’s birthplace and religion is beyond the pale of civilized society, rather than democratic politics as usual. As such, at this point these biographical speculations are not very interesting or useful. The notion that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. is irrelevant, since a child born to a U.S. citizen is a citizen wherever he’s born. As for his religious beliefs, Occam’s razor suggests a much simpler reason for his actions than the fact that he is a secret Muslim. In reality, everything Obama believes, says, or does regarding Muslims and Islam is totally consistent with what any Progressive would, whether atheist, Unitarian, or Scientologist. Being a product of three American universities––whose faculties are marinated in noble-savage multiculturalism, loathing of America, and hatred of traditional Christianity––is a much more economical explanation for Obama’s policies, which are predictable for anyone familiar with the ideology of today’s universities.
More important, Republicans shouldn’t acquiesce in the Progressives’ charge that “birtherism” is some sort of heinous crime so “horrendous” that any expression of it must be repudiated immediately, and incoherently, as racist––certainly not after the despicable slanders the Democrats propagated about George W. Bush, from “Bushitler” to movies and books fantasizing about assassinating the president. And have we already forgotten the Dem’s Goebbels, Michael Moore, and his grotesque fictional “documentary” Fahrenheit 9/11? The June 2004 premier of this recycling of left-wing lies about the origins of the Iraq War––basically “Bush Lied, Millions Died” and “No Blood For Oil’––was attended by Democratic honchos like Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Indeed, Jimmy Carter invited Moore to sit with him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
And this canard is still a staple of the Dems. Yet Republicans rarely challenge it or noisily demand a repudiation of it from anyone peddling that old lie, not the way Democrats successfully do when their messiah is the target. And don’t think the “Bush lied” meme has gone away. In August Obama gave a speech defending his Iran deal, touting the triumph of “smart diplomacy” over the opposing conservative “mindset.” The following statement is a thinly veiled reprise of the lies Democrats circulated about George Bush’s “mindset” responsible for the Iraq war.
It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.
These are gross distortions of history. Bush spent several months on futile diplomacy with the U.N., and went to war with a coalition of 49 nations. But the last phrase, especially the verb “exaggerated,” is a truly despicable lie. It wasn’t George Bush and the nefarious neo-cons who “exaggerated” a threat based on the information consistent across every intelligence agency in the free world. This was the same intelligence upon which an overwhelming majority of members of Congress in October 2002 based their approval of the resolution authorizing the war, including future presidential candidates John Kerry, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton.
The intelligence turned out to be partly wrong, although we only learned that because of the invasion. Saddam Hussein ended up having few stockpiles of weapons, though he still possessed the dormant programs that could produce them again in the future. But the intelligence community’s mistaking the size and extent of Hussein’s stockpiles is not the same thing as claiming Bush “exaggerated” the threat. The estimation of the threat was consistent with the intelligence. Yet Obama’s sly slur against a former president and his party went unnoticed by the commentariat. (Nor, by the way, has it dawned on the media that such a charge is particularly shameless given the continuing reports that the Obama administration manipulated intelligence to confirm the 2012 campaign narrative that al Qaeda was dying and global jihadism at bay.)
So it seems that a sitting president falsely accusing a predecessor of “exaggerating” a threat and as a result killing 4500 and maiming 32,000 Americans because of some malignant “mindset” is unremarkable, while failing to challenge some random citizen who thinks the president is a secret Muslim is a heinous crime demanding instant retraction and groveling apologies. That many Republicans practice this double standard in the teeth of the Dems’ vicious slanders is one reason Trump is so popular. Indeed, he refused calls to apologize by tweeting, “If someone made a nasty or controversial statement about me to the president, do you really think he would come to my rescue. No chance!”
Trump should have responded, but not by scolding the man and preening, like John McCain in 2008, about his superior sophistication and magnanimity. He should have used the opportunity to send this message to everybody––Obama’s personal life is no longer the issue. He’s a lame duck, and any questions about him that should have been raised and answered when he was a candidate are now a matter for future historians, especially of a media so corrupted by their ideology and class prejudices that they refused to investigate red flags that would have had them snorting and charging uncontrollably had they involved a Republican.
Obama counts now only for what he is doing, which has little to do with where he was born or what faith he professes. And the Republican Congress should be using every political means possible to thwart and block, or at least exact a political price, for Obama’s actions. Here’s a place to start: pull a Harry Reid and change the filibuster rule, and then cover Obama’s desk with vetoed bills the Republicans can hang around Hillary’s (or Biden’s) neck like so many albatrosses. Everything else is just a distraction.