The birthers are back, baby. Oh you might have thought that President Obama's producing his long form birth certificate last spring might have been the proverbial stake through the heart of birtherism (the belief that the president is ineligible for his office because he was not born in the United States of America), but staking only kills vampires, and the birthers are more aptly compared to zombies: implacably shuffling forward no matter how many holes you shoot in (in this case) their theories.
So they never quite went away but there's been a new outbreak just this week—coincidentally the same week when another fringe conservative hobbyhorse, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, briefly resurfaced. Maybe our politics have caught spring fever.
Whatever the reason, creeping birtherism is suddenly threatening to keep President Obama off the Arizona presidential ballot. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett told a right wing radio host on Thursday that he has been asking the government of Hawaii to verify that Obama was indeed born there. This was no big deal, he insisted. "I was frankly expecting that they would very quickly and very simply say 'yes,'" he said. "Eight weeks later, they haven't said—I can't seem to get them to say yes." He added: "If they can't say yes to that simple question then it makes me wonder if we have to take it to another level. One way or the other we have to have some simple verification that people are qualified for their office if their names are going to be on the ballot here in Arizona."
Simple verification you say? Why if only the government of Hawaii had set up a Web page verifying that the document President Obama released last spring was indeed his actual birth certificate. Oh wait—they have set up just such a page. The Hawaii Department of Health has been inundated with so many requests regarding Obama's birth certificate that it has set up an FAQ page. Its first entry reads: "On April 27, 2011 President Barack Obama posted a certified copy of his original Certificate of Live Birth," and links to the document on the White House website.
Actually, if you listen to the interview for long enough, Bennett even acknowledges that the Hawaii has a website with these links, but doesn't explain why this is insufficient in evidence in his eyes. So, he adds, he might have to keep Obama off the ballot. Or maybe just ask all the candidates to submit certified copies of their birth certificates.
So what's going on here? "First of all, I'm not playing to the birthers, I'm not a birther," Bennett told radio host Mike Broomhead. He may not be playing to them, but he's certainly catering to them. He told Broomhead that after controversial (and federally investigated) Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference a couple of months ago to proclaim Obama's birth certificate to be a forgery, more than 1,200 people had reached out to the secretary of state's office asking that Obama be required to produce his original birth certificate. So rather than point out that Arpaio's a nutter or that Obama has already settled what was a nonissue anyway, Bennett started investigating. Why? Bennett is planning to run for governor, and the people who follow Arpaio and E-mail government officials about Obama's birth certificate also tend to vote in GOP primary elections.
But Bennett's wasn't the only birther revelation this week. The conservative website Breitbart News unearthed a 21-year old promotional pamphlet produced by Obama's literary agent describing him as having been "born in Kenya." This of course sent the birthers into paroxysms of ecstasy, despite the person responsible for the pamphlet issuing a statement saying that it was an error on her part and not based on any information Obama gave them.
Then there was the news that earlier this month Colorado GOP Rep. Mike Coffman told donors that "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American." Coffman (who subsequently walked back his comments) joins Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, as being birther-curious even after the birth certificate was released.
Perhaps the most innovative take on birtherism to surface this week is a new anti-Obama "documentary" which proffers a new Obama birth theory that undercuts traditional birtherism. The movie, Dreams From My Real Father, which is narrated by an Obama impersonator, asserts, as Talking Points Memo reports, "that Obama's grandfather wasn't a furniture salesman but an undercover CIA agent who convinced Barack Obama Sr. to marry his teenage daughter to hide the fact that she was impregnated by a 55-year-old communist named Frank Marshall Davis." So not a Kenyan radical, merely a commie-by-birth.
Wow, more than a year after Obama after the president released his birth certificate birtherism hasn't gone away. Who could have seen that coming?
- Read: The Right's Peculiar Obsession with Jeremiah Wright
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