Donald Trump denied a report that he had a conversation with the Secret Service about what was widely interpreted as a suggestion that gun owners should shoot Hillary Clinton, but he’s responded to the outcry by dialing back his attacks on his opponent. At a rally in Florida on Wednesday, he accused President Obama of being the “founder of ISIS,” while downgrading “crooked Hillary Clinton” to “co-founder.”
It’s quite the demotion, since last Wednesday Trump said his opponent should receive an award from the terrorist group “as the founder of ISIS.” The remark went largely unnoticed because a few days earlier Trump called Clinton “the devil.”
Many Republicans argue that Obama and Clinton are responsible for the rise of ISIS because they followed through with the Bush administration’s plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, and underestimated the threat from the “JV” team. That’s what Trump was alluding to, but what he actually said was, “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS,” adding, “I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”
However, Trump wasn’t just boiling down the criticism of Obama’s foreign policy into a false one-word insult. He also revived his suggestion that the commander-in-chief, who authorized 11,000 U.S. air strikes against ISIS in the past two years, harbors a secret affinity for the terrorists. “In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama,” Trump said, offering no further explanation.
Later, while discussing the situation in Crimea — which he just learned was annexed by Russia in 2014 — Trump emphasized the president’s full name, saying it took place “during the administration of Barack Hussein Obama.”
After taking birtherism into the mainstream, Trump mostly avoided the topic during the primaries. Now he’s bringing it back for the general election, because why not? While Trump supporters including Mike Huckabee and Corey Lewandowski have asked to see Obama’s college transcripts in recent weeks, the candidate has focused on the conspiracy theory’s underlying implication that Obama is a terrorist sympathizer. When discussing terrorism after 49 people were killed in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June, Trump said Obama, “doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands.” He also suggested there’s “something going on,” and wondered why the president isn’t more motivated to take out ISIS, saying, “Why doesn’t he have competitive zeal to knock them out?”
But of course, the problem here isn’t Trump’s repeated use of dangerous rhetoric, it’s the “famed Clinton spin machine.” In a USA Today op-ed, Senator Jeff Sessions complains that the press “totally misconstrued” Trump’s thoughtful analysis of how a Hillary Clinton administration could lead to new limitations on Second Amendment rights.
“This piling on must stop,” Sessions writes. “As the election heads into the fall and
becomes a sprint to the finish, the media must provide the best and most
fair coverage of both candidates.” Apparently that means ignoring Trump’s frequent, incoherent allusions to political violence and a secret terrorist infiltrating the highest office in the land.