If you live anywhere but on the extreme right-wing fringe, you may not have heard of the will-not-die story that Obama isn’t an American citizen. (OK, political junkies know the story too.) I’ve been avoiding it, but lately I’ve found the reasons for the story (not the ridiculous story itself) oddly compelling.
But it continues to have consequences; here’s a story from HuffPost about a solider who refused to deploy because he believes Obama is not a citizen. And, as the Creative Steps/Valley Swim Club debacle again proved, it’s easy enough to find a lawyer to take any case that promises good P.R. No less true in this case, even if the quality of legal representation may be…well, read the linked article.
Here’s a video claiming that President Obama is a Muslim and not a United States citizen. FactCheck.org links to a blogger who explains the elaborate steps taken by the Obama campaign to forge his birth certificate. (Follow the link and be reminded of the true depths of obsessive conspiracy theorists. Not a pretty place to live.)
But all you need is a few minutes to discover that the allegation is baseless. The non-partisan FactCheck.org did a comprehensive investigation almost a year ago and concluded, convincingly, that Obama’s birth certificate and records were authentic. Ditto PolitiFact.com.
FactCheck.org gives an in-depth explanation of the processes used to verify that the President is a citizen. They found that the birth certificate was “three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago” and they “assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates).” The researchers at FactCheck also found a birth announcement for President Obama in a Honolulu paper.
They conclude that the birth certificate “has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport: “your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.”
So the interesting question is: Why is this happening? Harry Shearer thinks it’s because the experience of the last two presidents has taught that questioning the opposition’s legitimacy is a much more effective way of rallying the true believers than arguing policy. Thus, Clinton-haters pointed to the fact that he’d been elected with less than a majority vote (because of third-party candidate Ross Perot), while the Anti-Bushies never forgot that he’d lost the popular vote and then been handed the election by a deeply divided Supreme Court. 1 With Obama having glided into office with thundering majorities in both the popular and electoral votes, this crazy birth certificate thing is all they’ve got.
On some level, it works. A shameless California congressman, one John Campbell, has recently been seen and heard trying the ol’ play-to-the-base-while-trying-to- seem-rational feint, defending his co-sponsorship of a bill that would require future presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship. Here’s an excerpt (via Politico) from an interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball:
“What is going on that so many Americans doubt the obvious, that Barack Obama is a citizen, to the point that you felt it necessary to co-sponsor this crazy proposal?” host Chris Matthews asked Campbell.
Campbell didn’t respond directly, saying that his proposal was “only looking forward.”
“It`s 2012 and beyond,” he said.
That wasn’t enough for Matthews, who pressed on — and accused Campbell of trying to appease “the nutcases” while holding up a copy of Obama’s birth certificate.
But Campbell only gave another non-answer, saying, “Don`t you think anybody that who runs for president should — wouldn`t you want to know that, that they meet those requirements before they run? What`s wrong with that?”
Determined, Matthews responded: “Do you have any doubts, Congressman, about the authentic native birth in this country of our president? Do you have any doubts?”
Campbell: “Chris, my — it doesn`t matter whether I have doubts or not.”
Matthews: “Do you have any doubts?”
Campbell: “It doesn`t matter at all.”
After Matthews accused Campbell’s bill of “feeding the wacko wing of your party,” the Californian budged — if only slightly.
Asked if he thought Obama was “a legitimate native-born American or not,” Campbell responded: “As far as I know, yes, OK?”
In fairness, many on the right dismiss this garbarge. This article is an example of a commentator, who, while making no secret of his disgust for Obama, provides three reasons to drop the myth. But that won’t work for the John Campbell and Liz Cheneys of the world, who are determined to hold onto the what’s left of their party’s faithful by playing to every nutty theory out there. Too bad they don’t realize that their future can’t start to improve until they distance themselves from this crazy rhetoric.
Consider this, from Delaware (where my school is located). Rep. Mike Castle, a reasonable, moderate Republican, has his health care town hall hijacked. And note the short step from the “questioner’s” screeching about the birth certificate to the shallow patriotism that follows. Here’s a crowd in search of something, and looking for a scapegoat. Tag: Obama’s it:
For Campbell, Cheney, et al., giving them what they want is easier than trying to fix a party that’s come unglued, or, for that matter, doing the hard work that’s needed to revive the middle class.
- For the record, these two cases are nothing alike. Winning a plurality vote is indisputably legal; what happened in 2000 is less so (unless one takes the purely legal positivist position that it was legal becauses the Supreme Court so decreed). ↩