Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Well, YOU Started It!

Last Friday, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump made a statement on the subject of President Barack Obama's place of birth. For years, there has a been a "birther movement" that has challenged or outright denied that Obama was born in the United States despite records and evidence to the contrary. And no one was a more vocal and prominent proponent of the birther movement than Donald Trump. Trump would frequently and consistently present the subject of Obama's place of birth as an unresolved question, one that cast doubt on the validity of Obama's right to be President. 

Even after the President produced the long form birth certificate attesting to his birth in the state of Hawaii, it was an issue that the birther movement would not let go of. Donald Trump himself even as recently as Thursday would not state any change in his previous position, would not repudiate the birther movement or admit that Obama was born an American citizen. 

Until Friday when Donald Trump made the statement that "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period." 

OK, that seems awfully straightforward and emphatic. So that's the end of that, right? 

Oh come on! We're talking Donald Trump here! Of course that's not the end of that.

In his remarks leading up to that statement, he placed the blame for starting this whole birther controversy squarely on the shoulders of Hillary Clinton from her prior campaign for President in 2008 while Donald Trump took credit for ending said controversy. 

Yes, Donald was invoking the "Well, YOU started it" strategy employed on grade school playgrounds and in the back of crowded family vans. This shouldn't be a surprise; this is the same guy who has invoked the "I know you are but what am I?" political strategy

"It was Hillary who started this whole birther thing. Blame her! Blame Crooked Hillary!" Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump's effort to shift the blame of the birther movement to Hillary Clinton was not founded on any basis of truth. Yes, near the end of the primary campaign in 2008, some Hillary supporters tried to bring this up as an issue (just as in 2016, Bernie Sanders supporters would dredge up whatever they could on Clinton) but neither Clinton nor her campaign spoke to the issue or attempted to use it. Later during the general election, even Republican John McCain did not indulge in this unsubstantiated theory.  

After Obama was elected President, the birther movement remained at the fringes of extreme right wing discourse. It was in 2011 that birtherism was pushed back into the mainstream awareness by statements made by... Donald Trump. 

After Obama produced the long form of his birth certificate, Trump took credit for making the President do that. Then Trump quickly pivoted back to the birther movement by questioning the validity of the long form birth certificate. In the years since, Trump has directly and indirectly kept alive the doubt that Obama was a natural born American citizen. 

The Clinton campaign seized on this point and made sure people remembered that doubt about Obama's legitimacy as President was a core component of Trump's campaign and his more strident supporters. Recently Trump has made some efforts to reach out to the African American community, a community that sees attacks and questions as to Obama's legal claim to be President to be a racist issue. After all, no other President before Obama (all white, by the way) had to prove where they were born. So Donald Trump was in a position where his connections to the birther movement were costing him support not just with African American voters but all other Americans of color as well as college educated whites. 

So Donald Trump walked back his birther position. But Trump being Trump, he couldn't leave it at that. He made the whole thing Hillary Clinton's fault, a claim that was easily checked and easily debunked. 

Now we all know how immature Donald Trump can be so employing a "Well, you started it" defense should not be surprising. And Trump is not the only one using that strategy.

Last week after both the NCAA and the ACC pulled events out of North Carolina in protest of the state's HB2 law, Gov. Pat McCrory and fellow state Republicans not only doubled down on their continued support of the law but also made sure to tell everyone that the whole mess is Charlotte's fault. The Charlotte NC City Council voted in favor of ordinances designed to protect the rights of LGBT citizens. The North Carolina state legislature said "Oh Hell NO!" to that, 
convened an emergency session, hastily threw a bill together to shut down Charlotte and any other city or town in the state from enacting laws to protect gay people. And also to not raise the minimum wage which is somehow connected to gay people in some strange way, I guess? 

Anyway, I watched on cable news as Gov. McCrory put the full burden of all the problems associated with HB2 on the shoulders of Charlotte NC. Later I saw the speaker of the state house who pretty much echoes McCrory's statement: Charlotte started this. It's all Charlotte's fault.   

Except Charlotte's efforts to protect LBGT rights is NOT what's driving hundreds of millions of dollars out of the North Carolina economy. Charlotte had its eye on the future and wanted to ensure that the city was seen as a safe and welcoming city for everyone. 

McCrory and his cronies have their eyes on the past, seeking to preserve a limited view of what it means to be an American citizen. It's their actions with HB2 that's not only costing North Carolina a lot of money but is a major blow to our state's reputation as a great place to work and live for everyone. 

What Donald Trump and Pat McCrory have in common is an immature refusal to accept the costs and consequences of their actions. It's what really young children do when they get caught doing something they weren't supposed to do: blame it on someone else. 

So that's that for today. Another post coming up tomorrow is comic book related and Thursday will have the long awaited return of The Pixar Project as my family continues its Pixar re-watch with Ratatouille.  

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

Counting Down To Infinity