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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Trump squanders opportunity to sound less crazy

    At a campaign event last Thursday, Republican front-runner Donald Trump received a question from a supporter that has since set off a flurry of responses from pundits and politicians.

    The pseudo-question, which more closely resembled an opinion with a question mark, was the following: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American. Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

    Half-way through the above quote, Trump interrupted the man, saying, “We need this question. This is the first question.”

    The question in and of itself is obviously troubling for a few reasons. First, President Barack Obama is an American Christian, something that he has professed many times, certainly more than any other president has had to do, a position that has been documented extensively by numerous sources. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, is the insidious Islamophobia and dangerous rhetoric implying that all Muslims are terrorists and hate the U.S.

    What’s generated most of the media coverage surrounding these events, however, was Trump’s response. With matter-of-fact confidence, Trump replied: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. I mean, you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there, and we’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

    Immediately, numerous media outlets and politicians slammed Trump for both failing to correct the man about President Obama’s religion and nationality and for somewhat agreeing with, or at least pandering to, his supporter’s blatant Islamophobia. Fellow Republican candidates Chris Christie and Jeb Bush both admonished Trump for his response along with former President George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

    Trump himself has refused to apologize. However, his aides did clarify that his remarks were about the Muslim training camps and not Muslim people. Soon after, Trump sent out a barrage of tweets explaining that he isn’t morally obligated to defend the president every time someone says something controversial, that Obama wouldn’t defend him if the situation was reversed and the media would’ve accused Trump of suppressing the man’s free speech if he had corrected the inaccuracies.

    None of these seem like particularly good explanations, but frankly, Trump not correcting the man makes a lot of sense — the majority of Donald Trump’s supporters agree with him. According to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, 66 percent of Trump’s supporters believe Obama to be Muslim, and 61 percent don’t think he was born in the U.S. This isn’t too far off from the rest of the Republican Party, 54 percent of whom think Obama is Muslim, and only 29 percent of whom believe he was born in the U.S.

    Correctly pointing out President Obama’s actual religion and nationality could’ve potentially hurt Trump’s polling numbers.

    In fact, it’s surprising that people are shocked that these kinds of remarks would occur at a Republican, especially a Trump, rally.

    In 2011, Trump revived the birther movement conspiracy theory that alleged President Obama was born in Kenya. Mitt Romney, in 2012, made frequent remarks about the “foreign” ideas of Obama and refused to admonish the parts of his base that questioned his birth certificate. Many of the other Republican candidates running for president continue to deflect and refuse to answer questions on the matter.

    Since President Obama isn’t running in 2016, it may finally be more palatable for certain Republicans to call out Trump publicly for this ordeal in order to gain some of the praise that Sen. John McCain received in 2008 during a similar situation. But for others, stroking the fear that Obama, and Democrats in general, are an un-American group is all part of the strategy to win over enough votes in the primary.

    As White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the other day, “You will recall that one Republican congressman told a reporter that he was David Duke without the baggage. That congressman was elected by a majority of his colleagues in the House of Representatives to the third highest-ranking position in the House. Those same members of Congress blocked immigration reform. Those same members of Congress oppose reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Those same members of Congress couldn’t support a simple funding bill because they are eager to defend the Confederate flag.”

    As long as a majority of Republican voters continue to question the citizenship and nationality of the president, these sorts of comments are unlikely to stop.

    Follow Jacob Winkeklman on Twitter.

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