Point of View Columns

A Return to Asylum Politics

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.

Asylum Politics
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.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 27, 2011

This week we watched what’s left of the reputation of Arnold Schwarzenegger go up in flames while the alleged sexual predator Dominique Strauss-Kahn made bail and is holed up in Tribeca. Meanwhile, the Republican presidential derby is in such disarray that Sarah Palin is feeling the fire in her well-fed belly. As the killing of Osama bin Laden fades with each succeeding news cycle hope grows that expecting change in America’s Afghanistan war strategy makes more sense than waiting for The Rapture. And finally, we should take a minute to consider what caused the presidential candidacy of Mitch Daniels to be strangled at birth.

She’s Baaack!

Reams have been written about the lack of quality candidates in the G.O.Tea Party corral. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Doubting Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour or former Arkansas governor (and Fox News star) Mike Huckabee were certainly correct in assessing their chances of beating Barack Obama as being between slim and you’ve got to be kidding.

Still, it is amazing that the renegades and rogues are taking over the G.O.Tea Party asylum. Congressman Ron Paul who proposed abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank and just about everything else is a leading candidate. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, who doesn’t have the good sense to be quiet so people only think that she is ignorant, is also a leading candidate. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is tied up in knots trying to explain his tawdry and hypocritical marital history while trying to be a “common man” with a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s. And he is a leading candidate.

And now, the grisly grizzly mom herself, Sarah Palin, has announced that she has that “fire in her belly” and is seriously considering running for president. Perhaps she is hoping that the American people will not recall her spectacularly self-centered flame out after the Tucson Massacre. Or she may think that the current crop of candidates has set the bar so low that she can sashay into the field and carry the G.O.Tea Party banner in an electoral contest with President Obama.

President Obama should be so lucky.

Are We There Yet?

The death of Osama bin Laden gave rise to much discussion regarding the meaning and import of his departure from the global stage. A key item that has been raised relates to the expectation in some circles that bin Laden’s death gives the Obama Administration the perfect opportunity to reconfigure its Afghanistan strategy, flipping the script, so to speak.

After all, a cogent argument can be made that al Qaeda has been definitely, and probably fatally, decapitated. The causus belli for the American presence in Afghanistan was to wipe out the al Qaeda base of operations that plotted the 9/11 attack on the United States. That mission has been accomplished.

Billions of dollars are being spent in Afghanistan every week while police, teachers and hospital workers are furloughed in the United States. Over $100 billion dollars will be spent in Afghanistan this year while programs ranging from Planned Parenthood to Head Start are being cut or put “on the table” of Republican budget chopping frenzy.

The loss of treasure and loss of life is insupportable. Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is crippled. No American is safer in the United States because of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It is time.

Are we there yet?

The Tragedy of Mitch Daniels

Last week Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels announced that he would not be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. It will come as no surprise that I am not a great fan of Governor Daniels, yet I find the cause for his departure to be troubling and tragic.

News reports indicate that the reason for his presumptive departure from the race is that his marital history includes a story about him and his current wife divorcing and then remarrying 4 years later. In the interim Mrs. Daniels married another man and then divorced him to remarry Governor Daniels.

The fact that this entirely private and personal matter would have any impact on the presidential aspirations of anyone can be traced directly to the ravenous maw of the American press machine. Governor and Mrs. Daniels were quite correct in thinking that the media would focus on the marriage-divorce-remarriage story to the exclusion of anything else that Candidate Daniels might have to say.

Reporters and commentators would be frothing at the mouth while recounting every detail of this couple’s life together and apart. Not only is this wrong, the Daniels story is a teaching moment for anyone else who might seek public office.

Everyone has aspects of their private life that they would rather not be part of a CNN “Breaking News” story. And everyone has a right to that privacy, even candidates for public office.

There is not even a hint of illegal or even improper conduct associated with the Daniels’ story. It is just the story of a couple who are living their lives. And it is not the business of the press or the public to make these kinds of inquiries.

The departure of Mitch Daniels from the presidential race is a shameful commentary on the American press and the American public.

Finally, for the sake of all of us, Point of View has now been declared a Cornel-Free Zone.

Have a great weekend!

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