Clin­ton, Trump share con­tempt for the Amer­i­can voter

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruben Navarette Jr.

— Warn­ing: As we en­ter the fi­nal in­nings of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the matchup be­tween Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump may be harm­ful to


our men­tal health.

Speak­ing at Tem­ple Univer­sity this week, Clin­ton ob­served: “This elec­tion in par­tic­u­lar can be down­right de­press­ing some­times.”

She’s spot-on. But what’s most de­press­ing is not how Clin­ton and Trump are treat­ing each other. It’s how they’re treat­ing the vot­ers.

They of­fer only con­tempt. They must think we’re fools. The tall tales th­ese two huck­sters ex­pect us to be­lieve are as­tound­ing.

Whether she’s asked about her pri­vate email server or her phys­i­cal well­be­ing, Clin­ton re­sponds like a slimy de­fense at­tor­ney who at first in­sists that her client wasn’t even at the scene of the crime only to even­tu­ally ad­mit that her client was there and did com­mit the crime but only in self-de­fense.

Like­wise, whether he is talk­ing about de­port­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants or brush­ing past in­con­sis­ten­cies in his trade pol­icy, Trump re­sem­bles a shady car sales­man who jacks up the price of a ve­hi­cle and then tries to con­vince you he’s do­ing you a fa­vor by giv­ing you a great deal.

Both of th­ese per­sonas are on full dis­play in the re­cently res­ur­rected “birther” con­tro­versy, which you can bet Clin­ton, her sur­ro­gates and their en­ablers in the me­dia are go­ing to con­tinue to bring up un­til Elec­tion Day.

Af­ter all, Democrats be­lieve the is­sue hurts the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. It was the birther con­tro­versy that first gave Trump a na­tional soapbox. The re­al­ity show star pub­licly flirted for sev­eral years with the idea that Obama was born not in Hawaii but in Kenya. At one point, Trump even promised to con­trib­ute $5 mil­lion to char­ity if Obama would re­lease his records, and hired pri­vate de­tec­tives to in­ves­ti­gate where the pres­i­dent was born.

Last week, Trump acted as if he had solved the case. “Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was born in the United States,” he told re­porters. “Pe­riod.”

Thanks for clear­ing that up, Don­ald.

Then Trump did some­thing that must drive Clin­ton sup­port­ers stark rav­ing mad. He twisted the sto­ry­line to make it seem as if he had, all th­ese years, some- how been on a noble factfind­ing mis­sion to es­tab­lish Obama’s el­i­gi­bil­ity to be pres­i­dent.

“Hil­lary Clin­ton and her cam­paign of 2008 started the birther con­tro­versy. I fin­ished it,” he said.

The whole as­ser­tion is so pre­pos­ter­ous that you have to won­der: Just how low is Trump’s opin­ion of the Amer­i­can voter?

About as low as Clin­ton’s. It’s a mys­tery why the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee in­sists on bring­ing up an is­sue on which — as MSNBC’s Joe Scar­bor­ough re­cently put it — she and some of her for­mer and cur­rent ad­vis­ers don’t ex­actly have “clean hands.”

Trump is right about one thing. It’s in­dis­putable that the roots of the birther is­sue go back to Clin­ton’s failed 2008 bid for the pres­i­dency.

The me­dia have tried to help Clin­ton white­wash that his­tory by craft­ing a nar­ra­tive that, while it might be true that some Democrats traf­ficked in ugly ru­mors about Obama be­ing born in Kenya, this only hap­pened af­ter Obama had al­ready won the nom­i­na­tion and the only peo­ple en­gaged in such mis­chief were low-level vol­un­teers.

That part is not true. It was Clin­ton’s chief strate­gist Mark Penn who, in a March 2007 memo to Clin­ton, sug­gested that Obama’s “roots to ba­sic Amer­i­can val­ues and cul­ture are at best lim­ited” and in­sisted that Obama was not “fun- da­men­tally Amer­i­can in his think­ing and his val­ues.” And now a jour­nal­ist named James Asher, for­merly the Washington bu­reau chief of the McClatchy news­pa­per chain, says that the line that Obama was born in Kenya was pushed to him in per­son by long­time se­nior Clin­ton con­fi­dante Sid­ney Blu­men­thal. Ac­cord­ing to Asher, Blu­men­thal also tried to link Obama to “con­tro­ver­sial Mus­lim groups.”

Blu­men­thal de­nies Asher’s ac­count. And there is no ev­i­dence that Clin­ton or her cam­paign ever acted on ad­vice to por­tray Obama as for­eign. But that doesn’t mean the ad­vice wasn’t given.

Clin­ton sur­ro­gates were out there dur­ing the heat of the pri­mary bat­tle push­ing a nar­ra­tive that em­pha­sized what CNN’s Jake Tap­per gin­gerly called Obama’s “oth­er­ness,” as when for­mer Sen. Bob Ker­rey, a Clin­ton sup­porter, sug­gested dur­ing a TV in­ter­view that Obama had at­tended a madrassa while grow­ing up in In­done­sia.

Clin­ton would be wise to avoid this en­tire topic, be­fore it blows up in her face. But she won’t. She’ll keep bring­ing it up.

Be­cause, just like her op­po­nent, she has no re­spect for the in­tel­li­gence of the Amer­i­can voter.

Ruben Navarette Jr. is a syn­di­cated colum­nist from the Washington Post. His email is reuben@ruben­

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