Donald Trump’s recent and brief embrace of the truth – stating that he now believes that President Obama was born in the United States cannot begin to drain the swamp of hatred, bigotry and racism that he created by leading the birther movement for almost half a decade. But Trump is counting on the contagious amnesia that seems to affect much of the American public. So this would be a good time to take a quick time trip to 2009 when this column on the birther movement was originally published and to remember how vile and transparently racist the birther movement has always been.
As we observe the political landscape it is clear that what passes for reasonable discourse must have been birthed in some unknown asylum. A useful term, “birthed”, in that the continuing madness of the so-called “birther” movement continues its presence on the national stage like an embarrassing gate crasher who does not have the grace, or good sense, to finally go away.
For those who have been living in the Carlsbad Caverns for the last 18 month, the “birther” movement is founded on the basic concept that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and since he is not a natural born citizen, the Constitution dictates that he cannot be President of the United States. It is this Constitutional precept that keeps Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arianna Huffington, Sting, Henry Kissinger and Pope Benedict from ever being candidates for the presidency, while any of the Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton are all pre-qualified for the White House.
Article 2 of the United States Constitution is clear on this point… Without an amendment to that hallowed document, one has to have been born within the 50 states to ever be elected President of the United States.
History reveals that Barry Goldwater was the Republican Party candidate for President in 1964. He was born in Arizona, the 48th state admitted to the Union. However, it was not a state when he was born in 1909. Indeed, Arizona was not admitted to the Union until 1912. So, obviously, Barry Goldwater was not born in the United States. Yet, amazingly, there was never an issue raised during his ill-fated candidacy or campaign. It appears that there is a “grandfather” clause in the Constitution that was written in invisible ink. But there’s more.
George Romney, another Republican Party icon and the father of current Republican luminary Mitt Romney, was born in the (now controversial) Mormon colonies in Mexico in 1907. While he moved to Utah as a child, it is clear that he was not born in the United States of America. And clearly, there is another invisible ink exception for the children of Mormon missionaries because at no time was his Mexican birthplace a major issue during his presidential candidacy in 1968. He ultimately lost to Richard Nixon, but his birthplace was not the pivot point, it was his political vision and perspective.
And now we fast forward to the present day. Since he announced his candidacy for President in 2007, Barack Obama has been beset by opponents whose basic opposition to his candidacy, and his very existence, is born of the dumbfounded and bizarre notion that he is defying the Laws of Nature. No one named Barack Hussein Obama could ever be President of the United States. No black man (even one with a white mother and white grandparents) could ever sully the seal of the presidency by actually getting elected.
And so we find the seeds of the so-called “birther movement” being sown. In trying to find some way, some mechanism, some means of stopping this violation of all that is holy and sacred in America, some genius with a double digit I.Q. came upon the idea that since Obama’s father was Kenyan and not an American citizen, he might not be a “native-born” American, and therefore he would be ineligible to be President of the United States.
A few details got in the way of this brilliant bit of strategy however. First, Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961, one year after it became a state. Second, there is a certified birth certificate on file in Honolulu, attesting to his birth in August 1961 in Honolulu. And then, there are not one, but two, Honolulu newspapers, which featured announcements of the birth of one Barack Hussein Obama. And last, but not least, Barack Obama’s mother was a natural born American citizen, Kansas being her birthplace. One would think that all of these rather compelling facts would sound the death knell for this misbegotten bit of race-based strategy.
Think again. The “birthers” have continued their contemptuous campaign for more than two years (!!!!!). Claims have been raised that the referenced birth certificate was forged (the Republican governor of Hawaii debunked this particular urban myth). Some Einstein has posited the theory that, when he was born in Kenya, Obama’s parents managed to call (??), e-mail (???), and teletransport (!!!!) the birth announcement to the referenced Honolulu newspapers.
All of this would be sadly laughable were it not for the fact that this chimera of a wisp of a thought of a theory has been the subject of several lawsuits and has been seriously discussed on the floor of the United States Congress. It would be nothing more than a rejected “Saturday Night Live” skit except that 11 Members of Congress felt it was necessary to bring this issue to the floor of the House of Representatives. It would all be sadly laughable except that the proponents of this strategy are elected representatives of the American people not refugee clowns from the Ringling Brothers Circus.
The reality is that this campaign is a head fake, a feint. It is part of a much more insidious strategy that entails eroding the legitimacy of the Obama presidency in the United States and abroad. If a discussion about the legitimacy of an Obama presidency continues, at least 20% of the American population will give it credence. That is 60 million people. That is more than the total population of Italy, South Africa, South Korea, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia or Australia. Imagine if the entire population of Italy or Australia or South Korea believed that the head of state of their country was illegitimate and you start to get the idea. There is a real danger in the United States, a subtle, barely noticeable virus that could present itself as a real danger to the body politic.
To make matters worse, true and certified geniuses like Glen Beck and Lou Dobbs and those madcap, merrymaking Members of Congress, have taken to giving legitimacy to this madness. And that is a problem which we ignore at our own peril. Madness sometimes disguises more malicious motives – like corroding the legitimacy of the presidency. And that is simply treasonous.
And it seems to me, that sometimes it is necessary to fight madness with madness. If the diverse forces in the public realm wish to persist in promulgating this dastardly and vicious strategy of impugning the citizenship of the President then perhaps they should be charged with treason. The basis of the charge being an intent to diminish and defame the President of the United States and thereby impeding his ability to govern at home and represent this country abroad.
While this charge of treason has as much chance of succeeding as the denial of President Obama’s natural born American citizenship, it might give some of the “birthers” pause and make them think about what the hell they are doing to this country. And that new experience might be worth all of the madness after all.
What was true in 2009 is certainly true now.