For anyone interested in keeping track, Donald Trump now owes Barack Obama not one apology, but two. Of course, that only matters to those who still consider character an important quality in a president.
The first is owed for the racially tinged birther idiocy Trump used to disparage Obama back in 2011. Remember his obviously false claim of having investigators in Hawaii who were turning up evidence that Barack Obama wasn’t born there? Or the “extremely credible source” who, after Obama put the matter to rest for all but the most cross-eyed of kooks by releasing his long-form birth certificate, supposedly called Trump to say that that document was “a fraud”?
Only in 2016, when that fever-swamp conspiracy theory no longer served his purpose, did Trump finally declare that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” Period as in, let’s move on, with no expression of regret or remorse. With nothing except a dishonest attempt to blame Hillary Clinton and her camp for initiating the rumor.
That tawdry episode should have been all the X-ray the country needed into Trump’s character. Certainly no one who followed that episode should have been at all surprised by Trump’s latest designed-to-dupe-the-dopes distraction: his claim that Obama had somehow wiretapped him.
Now FBI Director James Comey has given the lie to that assertion, telling the House Intelligence Committee on Monday that there’s no evidence to support it. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer had already tried to muddle the matter by suggesting that Obama had British intelligence do the dirty work for him. But on Monday, Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, told the committee that hadn’t happened either. However diplomatic their language, both Comey and Rogers were essentially labeling the Republican incumbent President Trumpinocchio.
The president won’t, of course, apologize. Even in the unlikely event that he briefly believed what he tweeted, Trump, extreme narcissist that he is, clearly lacks the ability to admit he was wrong. Instead, the White House tried to create wiggle room with their the-Brits-did-it-for-Obama insinuation. And then, when that blew up in their face, by blaming Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano for bruiting that notion about. (Anyone notice a pattern of Trump getting himself in trouble after watching Fox News’ politics-for-partisans programming?)
There’s been no expression of regret from Fox, either, though one of the conservative network’s genuine journalists — a breed in short supply there — has noted that Fox couldn’t corroborate Napolitano’s assertions, while the network has quietly pulled “Judge” Napolitano off the air for an indefinite period.
Only a naif would expect Trump to learn any lasting lesson from this debacle. Don’t hold your breath for any soul-searching by Fox News, either; any honest news organization that suffered an embarrassment like this would issue a fuller, more forthright statement and perhaps even institute stricter standards. But don’t expect that from an organization where Sean Hannity’s comically obsequious coverage of Trump offers an amusing nightly exception to the old adage that no man is a hero to his valet.
Still, maybe some of Trump’s voters will now start to see him for what he is. Not the white nationalists or the xenophobes or the hyper-partisans or the misogynists, mind you. But perhaps some of those who got gulled into believing that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server was something truly serious, or who somehow concluded that her cumulative flaws were so great that it was worth taking a chance on Trump. (One can’t help but wonder how many of them would have changed their minds if they had known that the FBI has been, since July, investigating possible campaign collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.)
It’s time for them to take a hard look at the cynical charlatan they helped elect.