Saturday, September 17, 2016

Birther of a Nation

I've never, ever thought Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States. And he would have been eligible to be president in any event because his mother was an American citizen. So I don't care. Still, it's worth remembering that, as recently as 1991, he had a literary agency portraying him as somewhat more, ahem, exotic than he is now:

As it turned out, he never finished "Journeys in Black and White" and instead wrote the first of his two autobiographies, "Dreams of My Father" instead. One would have thought Obama would have had this document corrected concerning the place of his birth, but he didn't bother. He probably thought it advantageous at the time. After a quarter century, it doesn't really matter very much.

It's always been clear that Lord Orange of the Outer Boroughs has had a lot of fun playing the birther card over the years. Does that matter much? Well, if you believe the amazing screed (labeled as "analysis") on the front page of today's Star Tribune, it's just about the worst thing ever:
It was not true in 2011, when Donald Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in TV interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.

It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’ ” had called his office to inform him that Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”

It was not true in 2014, when Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’ ”

It was never true. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.

Yet it took Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president. 
In fact, it took Trump much longer than that: Obama released his short-form birth certificate from the Hawaii Department of Health in 2008. Most of the world moved on.

But not Trump. He nurtured the conspiracy like a poisonous flower, watering and feeding it with an ardor that still baffles and embarrasses many around him.

He called up like-minded sowers of the same corrosive rumor, asking them how to take a falsehood and make it mainstream in 2011, as he weighed his White House run.

“What can we do to get to the bottom of this?” Trump asked Joseph Farah, an author who has long labored on the fringes of political life.

What he could do — and what he did do — was talk about it, uninhibitedly, on social media, where dark rumors flourish in 140-character bursts and, inevitably, find a home with those who have no need for facts.
You can always tell how worked up a writer really is if you count the adjectives. This guy is kinda worked up. But I understand -- consider what I wrote about the birther controversy, in this feature, back in 2011:
1) Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a U.S. citizen.

2) Even if he weren't born in Hawaii, his mother was a U.S. citizen, which makes him a U.S. citizen. That would be true even if he was born in Kenya, or Indonesia, or beamed down from Planet Zorf. Which he wasn't.

3) We rightly ridicule Andrew Sullivan for the wild-ass theories he progagates about Sarah Palin's son Trig. We stare in disbelief at the spectacle of those who believe 9-11 was some sort of inside job. We marvel and scoff at the cottage industry that continues to surround the assassination of John F. Kennedy, nearly 50 years on. We do these things for good reason. And yet some of our putative friends throw all that common sense out the window, because they wish to believe conspiracy theories that are more in line with fan fiction than reality.

4) You can, I think, believe that Barack Obama's presidency is dunderheaded, inept, mendacious, intellectually vacant and morally bankrupt. You can mention with confidence the notion that he has surrounded himself with knaves, mountebanks, thugs and brown nosers. You can describe his performance in office as that of a dilettante (ahem), a malingerer and someone who is aloof to the point of catatonia. Even if all of these assertions are accurate, his presidency is not illegitimate. Barack Obama won the election in 2008, decisively. He is the President of the United States. So can we give this birther crap a rest, please?
Since then, Obama was reelected in 2012. He's about to leave the stage, thank God. He's not the issue any more, although cleaning up the incredible mess he's leaving behind is Job One for his successor. So let's make a few updated assertions, shall we:

1) Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. I'm sure it was a blessed event.

2) At some point, Barack Obama decided it might be advantageous to pretend he was born elsewhere. Around the time of his 30th birthday, he allowed a publication to state he was born in Kenya. This may have been for marketing purposes or to hide something else (perhaps he was able to gain financial assistance from the colleges he attended), but we aren't ever likely to find out the truth. And in the end it doesn't matter much, 25 years on.

3) That doesn't change the facts of his birth, but it does explain why some people view his upbringing with suspicion.

4) The two candidates most likely to succeed him, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were born in the United States, in the aftermath of World War II. They are early-period Baby Boomers and as such carry a certain assortment of assumptions that are reflected in their thinking and their actions on the world stage.

5) The question before us is which one is better suited to assume the role that the current president has so comprehensively botched.

6) I don't have confidence that either of them is up to the task, for a variety of reasons.


Gino said...

In not too long ago times...citizens born overseas were not natural born in accordance to the Constitution...their citizenship was granted through laws passed by Congress. That's why Joe Kennedy remarked in the 80s, when asked if he would run for president, said it was a nonstarter as he was born overseas.

Mr. D said...

That's why Joe Kennedy remarked in the 80s, when asked if he would run for president, said it was a nonstarter as he was born overseas.

Huh? Which Joe Kennedy are you referring to?

Gino said...

Jr I think. Or is it Bobby jr? He kinda left politics for environmental causes.

Gino said...

Coulter wrote a column on the issue earlier in the year in reference to Ted Cruz. She laid it all out pretty well what it was that I was taught in high school govt class and what my dad had understood all his life, being born overseas to a citizen parent.

Mr. D said...

Both of those guys were born in the U.S. RFK Jr. is a big time environmentalist but he'd never have a chance of being president because he was a complete louse in his younger days.

Mr. D said...

I don't take Coulter seriously, but if you have a link I'll take a look at it. Based on everything I do know, Ted Cruz was eligible, and Barack Obama would have been eligible as well had he actually been born in Kenya, which he wasn't.

jerrye92002 said...

Still concerned that you say "[n]either of them is up to the task." I think either one could do it, and probably just as well as or better than the idiot we have now. The question would be how much better, and in which direction. Given Trump's latest policy speeches and outreach efforts, I say he wins that competition hands down.

Mr. D said...

Still concerned that you say "[n]either of them is up to the task."

Why be concerned? It's just my view. It's hardly probative. My view of the matter, as I said in the post itself, is that Barack Obama has completely botched the job for the last 7+ years. He inherited a mess and made things infinitely worse. From what I can tell, Hillary will triple down on the mistakes of the past and, apparently, so will Trump. Are you really a fan of mandated paid family leave?

jerrye92002 said...

Strictly a matter of degree. While "triple down" is a bit excessive even for Hillary, I think Trump has made clear that most of his proposals and preferences are in the opposite direction. Do you really want to "strengthen" Obamacare?

Mr. D said...

Do you really want to "strengthen" Obamacare?

Of course not. I want to tear it out, root and branch, and set up something different that will work. Plans that would work have been on offer for 20 years. Now how about that mandated paid family leave? Good idea? Who's going to pay for it?

Gino said...

we will have family leave anyway, its the coming trend. Canada does it, i beleieve. and CA does it. its coming to MN, and even TX, soon enough.

still looking for that link. i was out with the boys last nite, so got busy with other pursuits.
BUT, the only reason obama's birth was an issue in the first place was a result of the the current understanding of the constitution. also, the senate felt it necessary to declare that mc cain was indeed qualified through being born on USA military base (panama, i beleive) as opposed to off of it...
what nobody has done, yet, is challenge the issue before SCOTUS... but consider the legal trends of this current court... SCOTUS is likely to declare that DREAMERS are qualified too. (or anybody else, anywhere, who wishes they were american, that would be a natural inclination, and therefore... natural born american....)

jerrye92002 said...

Too often Republicans want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I say if you've got a candidate that agrees with you 63% of the time, vote for him/her if the other choice will likely agree with you about 8% of the time. And those happen to be the typical choices. Sometimes you can do better.

The other way to look at it is "on balance." For me parental leave is a minor issue. Fix immigration, fight the war on terror, quit fighting the war on CO2, and get the government off the neck of the economy, and I'll be happy. And I would rather we mandate parental leave than $15/hour.

Mr. D said...

You can believe that Donald Trump agrees with you 63% of the time, but that's a leap of faith. You don't actually know that. I suspect the number is actually closer to 8 percent than 63. Just understand you are a frog and know who is catching a ride on your back.

jerrye92002 said...

Given his policy speeches of late, which make eminent good sense so I believe, and the fact he has chosen to run as a Republican, tells me he's at least 63%. And Hillary, being a known liar and a Democrat, probably doesn't come up to 8%.

By the way, I take my numbers from an analysis of the Minnesota Legislature, using the Taxpayers League scorecard. I discovered that the worst Republican was better than the best Democrat, and that the average score differed by about 65 percentage points. To me that's enough to matter.

Mr. D said...

Again, Jerry -- just understand you are a frog and know who is catching a ride on your back.

Bike Bubba said...

Who's on our backs is the same either way, really, but only one of them has a guaranteed 34 votes in the Senate to keep her there. This will be the 7th straight Presidential election I've voted against one candidate's opponent, not for that candidate.

Joe Doakes said...

The part of the birth controversy that still annoys me is the way the documentation was handled.

I work for the local government handling deeds and mortgages. Suppose someone walked up to our service counter, held up his cell phone, and said "I'd like to transfer Mr. Dilettante's house into my name. Here's an electronic image of what I claim is a deed signed by him. I altered the image a bit with editing software, but only a little. When can I move in?"

Should our staff transfer title? Or should they demand the pen-and-ink original or at least a certified copy of a deed to see what alterations were made and whether they were material (like substituting names or dates or legal descriptions)?

If President Obama had said "Anybody who wants to pay the $10 can buy a certified copy of my birth certificate from the State of Hawaii, go right ahead" I would feel more comfortable. But saying "I won't let you see the official document, here's an altered electronic image, take it or leave it" doesn't sit quite right. If he's got nothing to hide, then why hide it?

I could accept that he falsely claimed to be Kenyan because it gave him an affirmative action boost into college and law school, although that's substituting one lie for another more palatable one. He hasn't said that, either. Those records also are sealed. Again, why?

Blaming it on his publisher just seems . . . Hillary-esque. And that's the most damning thing of all.

jerrye92002 said...

"You can, I think, believe that Barack Obama's presidency is dunderheaded, inept, mendacious, intellectually vacant and morally bankrupt."

Well said. So why is it so unreasonable to say, "I don't think he was born in this country" (by dint of his being so contrary to its fundamental principles) and, by extension, to pursue any Constitutional means of preventing his "fundamental transformation" of the country? This from a private citizen, of course, with only an average interest in politics. And Obama is more to blame than anyone. He dismissed concerns as trivial for too long, dallied when he could have put it to bed years earlier, and insisted we "move on." When something is suspicious, being told to move on only raises more suspicions.

Now, it IS trivial, at its core, so the question might be turned around to ask why the media care so much that Trump "admits his mistake"? I don't recall them ever so obsessively badgering Obama, on anything.

Bike Bubba said...

My take is that it was a convenient distraction that kept the country from adequately responding to a bunch of the other stuff he was doing. Obama is many things, starting with being an economic illiterate and foreign policy Pollyanna, but one thing I cannot take from him is his political ability. In that he is a genius.

An evil one, mind you, but a genius nonetheless.

jerrye92002 said...

You may be right but if true he is such a genius that nobody saw it for what it was. I think a more likely explanation was his hypernatural "noblesse oblige" that told him he didn't have to answer to us peons, combined with a grossly overblown media-driven campaign of "affirmative action." I've been saying the one thing he may have accomplished is to prevent a black person from being elected President for the next 50 years. Apparently we haven't yet learned enough to avoid an (totally unqualified) affirmative action female.