By KIPCHUMBA SOME
When a “junior” Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, showed intentions of running for the presidency of the United States in 2008, his opponents threw everything not pinned on the wall at him.
One of the straws his opponents latched on was the issue of his birth. Although he was born in Hawaii, naysayers claimed that he was in fact born in Kenya, the country of his father’s origin.
Obama went on to win the presidency in 2008 under the Democratic Party against his main challenger Arizona Senator John McCain of the Republican Party.
His victory not only made him the first black President of the US, but also stirred deep, racially-charged resentment within a section of white Republican voters, who were fearful that his win meant an end to their centuries-old social, cultural and political hegemony.
Whereas the issue of his birth had been peddled since way back in 2004 when he first ran for the senate seat, it gained traction within a larger audience.
One of the high profile supporters of the “birther movement”, as the conspiracists came to be known, was real estate magnate Donald Trump, who became its ardent propagator. Eight years later, he won the presidency on the back of its blatant untruths.
The issue of Obama’s birthplace was not only a welcome distraction for the Republicans for their spectacular loss in the 2008, but also a patently false claim that should never have been taken seriously.
But it persisted courtesy of Trump and his cohorts, forcing the White House in 2011 to release a copy of Obama’s original long-form birth certificate, which Trump happily took credit for.
But even then, Trump was not ready to let the matter rest, tweeting on August 6, 2012 that; “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”
He demanded for President Obama’s academic certificates, for which he promised five million dollars because he did not believe that Obama had the intelligence to attend an Ivy League school.
“Attention all hackers: You are hacking everything else so please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check “place of birth,”” he tweeted on September 6, 2014.
“For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally,” said award-winning black novelist Ta Nehisi Coates in an analysis of Trump’s unlikely rise which appeared in The Atlantic magazine in October last year.
Trump’s bald-faced lying, in complete disregard of incontrovertible facts, has become the hallmark of his presidency. According to fact-checkers at the Washington Post, President Trump had made 4,229 false or misleading claims since he took office on January 20, 2017 and August 1, this year.
This translates to an average of 7.6 false claims a day. However, all this has done little to dent his popularity. A Gallup poll released in June showed he had a 43 per cent approval rating, higher than the 40 per cent he enjoyed when he took office.
However, his fiddling with the truth could yet catch up with him following the conviction of some of his former allies either for flouting US finance campaigning laws or for their role in colluding with Russia in meddling with the November 2016 presidential election.
This week, his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, two counts related to an illegal campaign contribution and one count of making a false statement.
He told prosecutors in New York that he interfered with the elections at the direction of the President. In his characteristic blustery manner, Trump accused his former fixer of “making up stories,” to please the prosecutors. A case of the pot calling the kettle black.
First Published by the Nation Media