Donald Trump in New Hampshire amid ‘birther’ madness

at 01:55 PM ET, 04/27/2011

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  “Today, I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I was just informed...that our president has finally released a birth certificate. …He should have done it a long time ago…when the Clintons asked for it.”

--Donald Trump, April 27, 2011

“CNN did a poll -- CNN did a poll recently where Obama and I are statistically tied. If you would like, I can send it to you. Just call up CNN.”

--Trump, April 27, 2011

“I am a Republican. I'm a very strong Republican. And I have been a Republican for a long while. And I'm proud of it.”

--Trump, April 27, 2011

“The other question I ask is this, we get no oil from Libya. We get no oil…China, taking over the world gets a big portion of its oil from Libya. They're Libya's biggest customers.”

--Trump, April 27, 2011

“During that entire week, the dominant news story wasn't about these huge, monumental choices that we're going to have make as a nation; it was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.”

--President Obama, April 27, 2011

President Obama released a copy of his so-called “long-form” birth certificate Wednesday, and prospective GOP candidate Donald Trump promptly took credit when his plane landed in New Hampshire. During his news conference, the self-proclaimed billionaire made a series of statements that cry out for checking.

 The president, in his brief statement, also made a comment that seems to stretch the facts, so we will look at that as well. 

The Facts

 We will grant Trump his belief that he forced the administration to release this document with his constant demands in the last month to see the original birth certificate.

 White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, in a news briefing, acknowledged that the president acted because “in recent weeks, the issue has risen again.” Obama himself couldn’t resist a sharp dig clearly aimed at Trump: “We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

 

But Trump goes too far when he claims that that our president has finally released a birth certificate. As has been repeatedly reported, the document released by the Obama campaign in 2008 is the legal document proving birth in the state of Hawaii. (In other words, Obama would use it to get his passport.) There are no ifs, ands or buts about that fact, no matter what you may have read on one of the birther blogs. 

The document released Wednesday is the form, bound in a volume in the records of the state health department, that forms the basis for the legal document that the Obama campaign had previously released. Of course, the release of that document has not convinced the skeptics of Obama’s birth history (See here and here). 

Trump further makes the claim that “the Clintons asked for it.” He repeated this two more times in his news conference, specifically mentioning Hillary Clinton at one point. But this is incorrect. The Clinton campaign never made an issue of Obama’s birth certificate, though there is evidence that the birther controversy originally began on the left—not the right. 

After Clinton lost the nomination race to Obama, some of her diehard supporters began to question the circumstances of Obama’s birth. John Avlon, author of a book titled Wingnuts, wrote that “the Birther conspiracy theory was first concocted by renegade members of the original Obama haters, Party Unity My Ass, known more commonly by their acronym, the PUMAs. They were a splinter group of hard-core Hillary Clinton supporters who did not want to give up the ghost after the bitter 50-state Bataan Death March to the 2008 Democratic nomination.”

 The Obama campaign released his birth certificate in response to these questions, but that did not stop the first birther lawsuit from being filed in August of 2008—by Philip Berg, a Democrat and a Hillary Clinton supporter.  

 Trump veered off in fantasyland at other points during his news conference.

 “CNN did a poll recently where Obama and I are statistically tied.”  

This claim immediately puzzled CNN, which put one of its pollsters on the air to explain whether or not this was true. The answer was an emphatic “no.” CNN has never done a head to head comparison, though three other polls show him behind Obama by double digits. 

CNN, however, does show Trump statistically tied with Mike Huckabee in the race for the GOP nomination, so maybe the real estate mogul mixed up Obama with the former governor of Arkansas.  (Caveat: all of these polls are fairly meaningless at this point.) 

“I have been a Republican for a long while.” 

Trump has been a Republican, but at least from 2001 to 2008 he was a registered Democrat. In fact, The Washington Post documented that most of his political contributions have been to Democrats. NY1, the New York news channel, recently examined Trump’s voting record and found that he did not vote in primary elections for a span of 21 years, even during the historic fight between Obama and Clinton. At the time, Trump said he supported Obama, saying he “has a chance to go down as a great president.”

  Trump defended his contributions Wednesday by saying that Democrats so dominate the political life of New York that “a Democrat will get 94 percent of the vote and that's if a Republican is doing a good job.” The numbers are sometimes lopsided, but never like that in contested races.

 “We get no oil from Libya…[The Chinese are] Libya's biggest customers.”

 Wrong. The United States is not a big consumer of Libyan oil, but it gets some, while China is far from the biggest customer. According to the latest figures from the Energy Information Administration, about 28 percent of Libya's oil goes to Italy, 15 percent to France, 11 percent to China, 10 percent to Germany and Spain and 3 percent to the United States.  

Finally, we have to take issue with Obama’s statement that coverage of the birth certificate “dominated” coverage during the week the House Republican put forward a budget plan and the president responded to it with a major speech.  

We have asked the White House for documentation, but in the meantime the Pew Research Center found based on 52 news sources that the ongoing deficit debate accounted for 31 percent of all news coverage that week, swamping coverage of issues such as the earthquake in Japan, the economy and gasoline prices, which actually had much higher interest among the public. The birther rumors accounted for about four percent of the news coverage, Pew said.  The issue also did not dominate social media.   

Obama was making a rhetorical point, but it is still worthy of at least a Pinocchio unless we get clarification from the White House. (Our colleague Anne Kornblut reports that Obama was furious after a recent interview by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos veered from fiscal issues to birther questions.)

 

The Pinocchio Test

Trump continues his pattern of simply making things up. Sometimes it is hard to find where the thread of truth might even begin.

 

Four Pinocchios

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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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