Presidential Campaign

How ‘Birtherism’ became Hillary’s Waterloo

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Hillary Clinton had a rough week. From collapsing into a vehicle to her collapsing poll numbers, the Democratic darling is steering her campaign into an iceberg. Put simply, she’s losing.

On Friday, Hillary hit rock bottom. In order to turn the tide in the final weeks of the campaign she resurrected an issue that had long disappeared from the 2016 campaign — birtherism. It was a move that will prove to be her Waterloo.

{mosads}“For five years [Republican nominee Donald Trump] has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president,” Hillary said. “His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie.”

The “birther movement” of which Hillary speaks dealt with the issue of whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Because the President failed to release his birth certificate when asked, some began to question what the President was hiding. After Trump brought the issue to the forefront, Obama finally release a birth certificate showing he was born in the United States.

To Hillary, though, Trump’s attachment to the birther movement was much more nefarious. In fact, it was racist.

“He is feeding into the worst impulses, the bigotry and bias that lurks in our country,” the Democratic presidential nominee proclaim. “Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple, and Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.”

Hillary’s motivations were clear. She flunked her first pseudo debate with Trump on NBC’s Commander in Chief forum earlier this month, placed herself in hot water when she declared half of Trump’s supporters were in a basket of deplorables, and further sowed seeds of mistrust when she lied about her health. She had to change the narrative.

“Hold out baits to entice the enemy,” wrote Sun Tzu, “feign disorder, and crush him.” Hillary, by baiting Trump with the birther controversy, was hoping the outspoken candidate would respond in a manner than that was undisciplined and unpresidential. She was hoping Trump would be Trump. It was a gamble she lost.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” Trump said in response. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

Trump’s response — short and simple — showed a candidate who was not only more disciplined but a candidate who understood he was in the lead. It showed a candidate that was willing to shrug of a desperate attack in order to stay on a script that has brought Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado back in play.

Moreover, Trump turned the issue back on Hillary. In laughing off the attack, Trump reminded America that the so called seeds of birtherism were planted by Team Clinton during her rough and tumble primary with Obama in 2008. He also reminded the American people that he was the one who settled the issue, thus removing the cloud hanging over Obama’s head.

“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” Trump said. “I finished it.”

Seeing a Hillary misfire, the media pounced. A clamoring press demanded an apology from Trump for insinuating Obama was not native born.

But why should Trump apologize for merely asking to see a birth certificate? If an American wants to board a plane they must give their first born, but the leader of the free world does not have to show a birth certificate? If anyone should apologize, it should be the President who let the controversy lag on by failing to provide a simple document we all need to show to get a driver’s license. 

Next the media claimed Trump lied when he claimed Hillary’s campaign was behind the birther movement. This, too, was a premature denunciation.

Patti Solis Doyle, who was Hillary’s campaign manager until the Iowa caucuses in 2008, admitted first in a tweet and second in a CNN interview that a Hillary staffer first spread the birther issue. While the staffer was fired, the termination happened after the cat was let out of the bag. Patient Zero, thus, was a member of Team Hillary.

The final point was that Trump continued to milk birtherism even after the President released his birth certificate. Again, factually incorrect.

Yes, Trump had posted some colorful tweets about the issue but it was clear the issue was dead and gone. In fact, once Trump announced his candidacy, he routinely refused to address the topic in interviews. When baited, he would refuse to answer the question. Ironically, this spurred media condemnation, too. It was the media, not Trump, who kept birtherism on life support. 

And even with the events of Friday, it was Hillary, not Trump, who opted to use the president’s race in an attempt to breathe life into her campaign. If Trump was using the birther issue in the lead up to a potential 2012 campaign, it was his foes using it in 2016.

The only problem? Trump did not take the bait and Hillary was left playing the role of a desperate Democrat who is coming to realize her encore at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is set to be canceled.

Joseph R. Murray II, is administrator for LGBTrump, former campaign official for Pat Buchanan, and author of “Odd Man Out”. He can be reached at


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 2016 presidential election Barack Obama Birtherism Democratic Party Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Republican Party United States

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