A time to build up, a time to break down.
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Donald Trump is running for president as an outsider and rabid critic of President Barack Obama, a leading champion of the libel that the president was born in outside the United States.
But before Trump was against Obama, he was for him. And a detailed review of the real estate developer's shifting opinions about the first black president — reproduced in full in our timeline, below — offers a glimpse at a man whose opinions seem neatly shaped to match nothing more than public opinion polling.
Though Trump endorsed John McCain (who he has, more recently, trashed) in the 2008 election, Trump was openly (and enthusiastically) supportive of the 44th president. He defended the president's handling of the economic crisis — Obama, he said, is a "champion" who had saved America from a depression — and seemed excited by the ways that Obama might change America's image around the world.
But as President Obama's popularity began to decline in the months before the 2010 midterms, Trump's view of Obama's presidency did as well. A note of skepticism creeps into Trump's comments in early 2010, around the time that Obamacare became law; while he did not criticize Obama overtly, Trump appeared suddenly hostile to the president.
A sudden change took place around the 2010 midterms, which were disastrous for the Democratic Party, however. That October 5, Trump appeared on Morning Joe to float the idea of running against Obama in 2012. And after the president's party lost badly in the midterms, Trump's views shifted dramatically. By the next April, he was referring to Obama as the "worst president ever."
What happened in the winter of 2010? Mostly, Obama's winning streak — his electoral win, his legislative victory in passing Obamacare — came to an end. Trump decided Obama was a loser, and began digging into the internet fever swamps for bizarre allegations with which to tarnish the president.
It was, for Trump, a familiar pattern. Trump had nothing but praise for George W. Bush through his first term and reelection campaign. Bush, he said in 2004, is "very good." But as that year went up Trump turned loudly against Bush and Iraq, a war he had previously been largely silent on. By 2005 and through 2008, Trump found himself regularly saying George W. Bush needed to be impeached and would go down as one of the worst president's in U.S. history.
Unlike Bush, however, Obama noticed the developer's hostility.
His birther phase caught Obama's attention, and brought Trump a presidential humiliation: The same May night that Obama sent special forces to kill Osama bin Laden, the president looked across the room and sneered:
Donald Trump is here tonight! Now, I know that he's taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter –- like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
Needless to say, Trump has been a bitter enemy ever since:
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