Speed Reads


Donald Trump super PAC strategist shrugs off 'birther' history, talks up Obama's 'otherness'

On Friday, Donald Trump ostensibly put his long and vigorous campaign of doubt about President Obama's Hawaii birth to rest, saying for the first time that yes, he believes Obama was born in the U.S. On Sunday's Meet the Press, Alex Castellanos, a top strategist at pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now and self-professed member of "the Trump team," muddied the waters a little bit.

The Trump campaign has made a concerted effort to pin the "birther" lie on Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign against Obama, and so host Chuck Todd asked Cornell Belcher, a member of Obama's 2008 team, if the Obama campaign believed that eight years ago. "It's news to us," he said, and Castellanos interrupted: "Oh, I don't think so." "Well, I was on the campaign, so for us on the campaign, we never saw this as something being driven by the Clinton campaign," Belcher said. (David Axelrod, Obama's 2008 manager, says the same thing.)

Castellanos turned for evidence to a 2008 interview where Clinton said she had no reason to believe Obama is not a Christian (she didn't discuss his birthplace) and a 2007 strategy memo Clinton pollster Mark Penn wrote up, suggesting Clinton try to exploit Obama's "lack of American roots" and questioning if Obama is "at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values" — by all accounts, the Clinton campaign quickly rejected or ignored Penn's memo and never acted on it.

"I think these candidates are being treated very differently on this very issue, because this is something Hillary Clinton's campaign started when it was convenient for her, but the media covers it as if it is only Donald Trump who has taken the campaign in this direction," Castellanos said, and when the panel protested, he went on: "I think the big question about Obama is not where he was born or his faith. The big question about Obama has been: Has he been — has he considered himself more of a globalist than an American? There is an otherness to this president, and people have tried to exploit that politically in different ways."

The entire video is pretty lively, especially Maureen Dowd talking about how Trump's 2016 campaign is different from his 1999 exploration (Trump still relies on his "ego arithmetic," but he's no longer "this kind of New York bon vivant, kind of white rapper bling king and liberal"). You can watch below. Peter Weber