The last time Donald Trump ran for president, vocally questioning President Obama’s birthplace was a central component of his campaign. Trump even sent “investigators” to Hawaii as he rocketed up the polls. Chatter about the issue, mostly stirred by Trump, became so distracting that Obama eventually released his “long form” birth certificate in 2011.
This year, Trump has garnered more support by expanding his base beyond the conspiratorial fringe. Even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wants to “Make America Great Again.” But when asked about Obama’s birthplace, Trump demurs.
Last night on “The Late Show,” Colbert exposed the duplicity of this approach.
“I’m going to throw you up a big, fat meatball for you to hit out of the park right now… This is the last time you have to address this question if you hit the ball, OK?… Barack Obama — born in the United States?” Colbert asked.
Trump refused to hit the meatball.
“You know, I don’t talk about it anymore,” Trump said. “I talk about jobs, I talk about our veterans being horribly treated.”
Colbert is right. If Trump answered the question he wouldn’t have to talk about it again. Which is exactly why Trump does not want to answer. He wants the opportunity to signal to his base that he has not conceded the issue of Obama’s birthplace, even if it is no longer the central theme of his campaign. Trump’s approach mirrored his response to a supporter in New Hampshire who asserted that Obama was a Muslim and not an American. Instead of correcting the man, he said “we need this question!” Asked later about the incident, Trump’s campaign manager said he did not hear the man talk about Obama.