I Can’t Believe I’m Writing About Obama’s Birth Certificate

The short-form birth certificate, which should have settled the matter in 2008

I have zero patience for conspiracy theories, and the “birther” loonies are particularly odious.  There are plenty of valid reasons for taking issue with President Obama, but to continue questioning the location of his birth in the face of overwhelming evidence is despicable.  No loyal American should seek to delegitimize any president on transparently bogus grounds.

And yet the attempts continue, of course.  If you look up “right-wing fever swamp” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Pamela Geller, who perpetrates the Atlas Shrugs blog.  Within hours of the release of the long-form COLB (certificate of live birth), she was out with a post headlined “Layering: Obama’s New COLB Raises More Questions than it Answers,” labeling the document “an obvious forgery.”  I’m not going to link, find it yourself if you insist.

The predictability of the birthers’ reaction serves only to validate Obama’s refusal for two years to seek a waiver to permit the release of the long-form birth certificate.

Even some thoughtful mainstream conservatives are falling into the trap of criticizing Obama over this poisonous topic.  Andy McCarthy, while acknowledging that any reasonable doubt about the place of Obama’s birth has long been dissipated, criticized Obama today for not making the certificate public earlier.

Abe Greenwald explains how the birther conspiracy has been detrimental to conservatives:

Imagine it’s early 2009 and you’re the newly elected President Obama. A gaggle of sorry loudmouths are spreading intricate fictions about your parents and your country of origin. The loudmouths are fringy and creepy, as are the conspiracy theorists spawned by every presidency, and you’d be a fool to get into the mud with them. You determine rightly that entertaining that kind of thing is beneath your personal dignity and the dignity of the office.

Only, as time goes on, you notice something remarkable. The media is eager to take those loudmouths and present them as the representatives of all opposition to you and your policies. Without lifting a finger to respond to the lunacy, you enjoy a ready-made security shield that takes the sting out of every legitimate charge against you and renders it the sad, baseless delusion of a massive unhinged right wing.

Why should Team Obama want to give up this powerful advantage over the opposition?

So Donald Trump, in his bid to become the Al Sharpton of the Republican Party, may have done conservatives a favor by latching on to the birther movement.  McCarthy and others have criticized Obama for releasing the certificate only after Trump dragged the issue to the fringes of the mainstream, thereby changing the political calculus from favorable to unfavorable.

Well, yes.  Sounds like smart politics to me.  Since the entire issue is manufactured and there’s nothing at stake, why not?

Two final thoughts.  First, am I the only one who thoroughly disapproves of the fact that someone born outside of the U.S. is constitutionally disqualified from becoming president?  This stricture made even less sense at the time it was written into the Constitution.  If someone disapproves of a foreign-born candidate, let them vote against the candidate.

Second, please spare me the arguments that the birther idiocy is “rooted in racism.”  No, it’s not.  It’s rooted in the same vandal mentality that led “truthers” to insist that George W. Bush, a white guy, was complicit in the 9/11 attacks.



9 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe I’m Writing About Obama’s Birth Certificate

  1. Your essay is right on point and doesn’t even need any particular evidence, except for your penultimate point: Second, please spare me the arguments that the birther idiocy is “rooted in racism.”
    You can ask to be spared but your opinion in this is no more backed up by data than the opinion of those you dismiss so out of hand. They are both opinions and I suspect that, like most things in life, there is no all or nothing here and that plenty of people are primally motivated by racism in this issue.

  2. Maybe racism is tangential to the birther issue, but it’s a more important issue. Obama is the only president whose credentials have been questioned to this extreme. I think there’s a link. This is an old racist technique.

  3. Actually, George W. Bush’s credentials were questioned more than any president in history, because of the national tragedy of the statistical dead heat in Florida. (I voted for Gore, I would now favor Bush, and from either perspective, the closeness of the election was a national tragedy.)

  4. But people are questioning Obama’s citizenship, which is pretty fundamental. Then Trump asks how Obama managed to get into Harvard, etc, as if he couldn’t have earned it. These are old racist techniques to cut a person down. Blacks used to have to produce their identity papers, but whites never did in this country, as far as I know.

  5. But the birther movement has always been a fringe phenomenon. The idea that Bush “stole the election” was a lot more mainstream.

    Without a doubt, racism still exists. But in a country that has elected a black man to the most powerful office in the world, I think charges of racism fly much too freely. Black, white or green, it HAS to be possible to criticize a president without being accused of racism.

  6. There are many ways to criticize his work respectfully. Take issue with his policies and actions. Don’t question his credentials. His credentials are who he is. He is more qualified than most presidents. To claim that he’s less qualified than his predecessors is hitting below the belt as well as inaccurate. Criticizing his identity is disrespectful. Criticizing what he does is fair game, and it won’t be racist. Isn’t it enough to be able to do that? Do you feel restrained if you only criticize his actions and policies?

  7. Tom, I’m enjoying this discussion, and I think we may agree more than we disagree. Both here and on Facebook, most of the discussion has focused on the last paragraph — a thought I probably should have developed more thoroughly if I was going to mention it at all.

    I try very hard to keep my comments focused on substance rather than personality. Obama is my president, and I’ve got his back when I think he’s done well or has been unfairly criticized — see here, here and, most recently, here.

    But I disagree with you about Obama’s qualifications — both substantively and with regard to whether the topic should be fair game. When elected President, Obama was a first-term senator with virtually no executive experience. His own campaign was by far the largest organization he had ever run (granted, that organization was highly successful).

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