Donald Trump recently realized that questioning the legitimacy of the first black president was no longer in his political interest. Which put him in a bit of pickle. After all, how could he possibly explain his epiphany? He’d already forced Barack Obama to present his papers — as though the commander-in-chief were a resident of apartheid South Africa and not president of the United States — and he had found them wanting.
After the president released his longform birth certificate in 2011, Trump spent another five years questioning its authenticity. There was simply no plausible reason for why his estimation of that document would suddenly change in September 2016.
Initially, his campaign tried to solve this problem the same way it tries to solve most problems their unconventional candidate presents — through bald-faced gaslighting: Trump spokesperson Jason Miller released a statement that described an alternate universe, in which Hillary Clinton started the birther rumor in 2008, and Donald Trump worked tirelessly to “to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011.
When Trump himself declared that the president had been born in this country, at the end of an infomercial for his new hotel, he offered no explanation for his change of heart. But last Wednesday, in an interview with a local television station in Ohio, the mogul finally explained his reasoning: “Well, I just wanted to get on with, I wanted to get on with the campaign. A lot of people were asking me questions.”
Most candidates would be sure to prepare a better answer before their first general-election debate. But Donald Trump is no fan of preparation. So, when Lester Holt asked him to explain his change of heart Monday night, Trump said, “I think that I’ve developed very, very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community, I think you can see that. And I feel that they really wanted me to come to that conclusion.”
Trump proceeded to leaven this ugly honesty with a signature touch of delusional self-congratulation, saying, “I think I did a great job and a great service, not only for the country, but even for the president in getting him to produce his birth certificate.”
Asked to respond, Clinton said, “Well, just listen to what you heard.”
November’s election may hinge on whether or not a (non-deplorable) majority of Americans follow her instruction.