Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with African American business and civic leaders, Sept. 2, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pa. 
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

With bizarre statement, Trump's birther beliefs reclaim spotlight

— Updated
Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said this week that the Republican presidential hopeful now believes President Obama was born in the United States. That would obviously be a dramatic shift: the GOP candidate for years relished his role as one of the nation's leading "birthers," peddling the racist conspiracy theory throughout much of the president's first term.
Given a chance to confirm his campaign manager's assessment yesterday, however, Trump demurred. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the candidate spoke to the Washington Post's Robert Costa, and the Republican once again was unwilling to say the president is a native-born American. "I'll answer that question at the right time," Trump said. "I just don't want to answer it yet."
In a curious twist, Jason Miller, Trump's senior communications advisor, published an online statement late last night, saying in print what the candidate refused to say to the Washington Post hours earlier.
"Hillary Clinton's campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joe admits that it was Clinton's henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.
"In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama's birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States."
The statement is plainly ridiculous, combining delusion and dishonesty in ways that should alarm fair-minded observers.
According to the Trump campaign, for example, the racist conspiracy theory was "first raised" by Hillary Clinton. That's a lie, which has been discredited many times.
According to the Trump campaign, Clinton sought an "answer" to the question of the president's birthplace, but couldn't get one. That never happened.
According to the Trump campaign, Trump brought this "incident to its conclusion" by "compelling" the president to release his birth certificate. That's not only delusional -- Obama wasn't compelled by Trump to do anything -- it's also a lie since the GOP conspiracy theorist continued to peddle his birther beliefs well after 2011. If the birth certificate represented the "conclusion" of this madness, Trump wouldn't have characterized the birth certificate as a "fraud" after its release.
According to the Trump campaign, the racist conspiracy theory was "ugly." If the GOP campaign actually believes that, why did Trump embrace it with such zeal for so long?
According to the Trump campaign, Trump "did a great service to the president and the country" through his birtherism obsession. Perhaps the Republican presidential candidate is confused by what "great service" means.
According to the Trump campaign, Trump "obtained" the president's birth certificate. That's not what happened -- the White House simply released the document to the public. (Maybe he doesn't know what "obtained" means, either.)
Look, this is absolutely bonkers, taking politics well past through-the-looking-glass territory. Trump saw the birth certificate in 2011, but proceeded to question Obama's citizenship in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Now that he wants to be president, however, Trump expects Americans to believe he's changed his mind?
There's no reason to believe the Republican's apparent reversal should resolve the matter. Trump should explain why and when he reversed course; why last night's statement is filled with such brazen dishonesty; why he's now persuaded by a birth certificate he dismissed years after its release; why Trump hasn't himself said out loud what his "communications advisor" put in a press release; and when he'll apologize for his racist antics.