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

Romney is Running for King

There seems to be only one logical explanation for the continued arrogant refusal of Mitt Romney to release more than two years of tax returns – he is running for King of America not President. That would make sense. His stubborn and seemingly implacable stance in the face of over a half century of American presidential political tradition seems to indicate that in Romney’s world view, his future subjects need to get over it and get used to it. It would seem that his regal dismissal of inquiries into his finances is a preview of what would be an imperial and imperious Romney presidency.

In 1968 George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, voluntarily disclosed several years of his tax returns as he began his campaign for president. This established a tradition whereby every major candidate for president has disclosed a minimum of five years of tax returns – every Republican, every Democrat. Every candidate that is, except for Mitt Romney.

In 1974, after the resignation of Richard Nixon, President Gerald Ford appointed then New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller as vice president. Rockefeller, an heir to one of the greatest fortunes in American history was required to appear before a Congressional hearing to confirm his appointment.

As part of this process Rockefeller provided the people of the United States with not only his tax returns, he also provided an exhaustive set of financial statements. This information not only provided a clear picture of Nelson Rockefeller’s financial holdings and interests, it also provided unprecedented insight into the fortunes of the entire Rockefeller family.

No one ever mistook Nelson Rockefeller for being a populist, but he clearly recognized the need for the citizens of the United States to be clear on the financial interests and holdings of a person who would be a heartbeat away from the presidency. The comprehensive nature of his disclosures made it clear that he felt that he had nothing to hide and that his wealth and success did not need to be shrouded in secrecy and denial, hidden behind stonewalls. Clearly Mitt Romney thinks differently.

Incredibly, Mitt Romney has determined that tradition and common sense have no application in his personal universe. The close to half century tradition of presidential candidates disclosing their tax returns does not apply to Mitt Romney according to Mitt Romney. The common sense notion that anyone who is going to have responsibility for almost a third of a billion people and a multi-trillion dollar budget should let people know where his/her financial interest lie does not apply to Mitt Romney according to Mitt Romney.

We already know that Mitt Romney is a rich man. He touts his financial success as a badge of honor and flaunts his wealth with his many mansions and expensive toys and dancing horses. We already know that Mitt Romney has sequestered significant wealth in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. None of this public information indicates illegality, so interested observers, like the American people have to be wondering what is he trying to hide?

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann have planted their feet in cement on this issue. Mrs. Romney has been quoted as saying that “the American people already know everything that they need to know” when it comes to the finances of the Romney family. At least she didn’t suggest that the American people eat cake.

Despite the fact that senior members of the Republican Party have implored him to disclose his tax returns, he refuses to do so. He is so welded to secrecy that his actions seem suspicious to say the least. If he is wealthier than presumed, could he be richer than a Rockefeller? How much money could he possibly have in Swiss and Cayman accounts? And what about the Isle of Man and Vanuatu accounts?

And then there is the matter of hypocrisy. When he was being considered by John McCain for the vice presidential nomination in 2008, Mitt Romney reportedly turned over 23 years of tax returns to the McCain campaign. Clearly he believes that the American people are not entitled to a similar level of information.

To take hypocrisy to even higher levels, when vetting Paul Ryan for the vice presidential nomination, the Romney campaign requested and received several years of Ryan’s tax returns. Clearly the American people are not entitled to the same level of information.

Every American citizen has a right to privacy. However, a man or a woman who decides to run for President of the United States must, of necessity, forego much of that privacy it goes with the territory of presuming to be the Chief Executive of the United States.

Mitt Romney doesn’t have to disclose his tax returns. He also doesn’t have to be president.

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Point of View Columns

Dumb and Dumbest

These are serious times – the economy, the environment, threats of terrorism, the economy, unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy…….you get the point. If there was ever a time for men and women engaged in public service to be focused on the “service” part of their job it would be now.

It is, therefore, scary in a creepy kind of way, that perhaps as many as a dozen state legislatures are in the process of drafting or considering bills that would require presidential candidates to provide documentary proof of their citizenship prior to being on the ballot.

The genesis for this singularly stupid initiative is presumably strategy straight from the Bozo School of Public Policy at the University of Dim Bulb that contends Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States and that the American people should never be “tricked” again.

As you are reading this article the legislatures in Connecticut, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma are contemplating bills that have already been drafted and are ready for formal consideration. That would be Connecticut with an 8.6% unemployment rate. That would be Texas with an 8% unemployment rate. That would be Missouri with a 9.2% unemployment rate. Oklahoma is sitting fat and happy with a 6.6% unemployment rate.

Of course unemployment is just one issue that state legislatures might wish to examine. The national obesity crisis has reached pandemic proportions. The implementation of the new national health care program will require a great deal of focus for years to come. The energy crisis is at the door and the environmental crisis is already set to cloud the dawns of tomorrows that our children will inherit.

Various polling services have produced results indicating that one out of every four American voters does not believe that President Obama was born in the United States. When polling the Party of No, over 40% of Republican voters believe that he was born outside of America.

These numbers are stunning and numbing when you realize that absolute documentation and verification of this man’s birth in Hawaii in 1961 has been a matter of public record for years.

Political analysts have committed acts of amateur psychology in trying to understand how and why so many people have entered the twilight zone and stayed there. We have noted in prior columns that other Republican presidential candidates were born outside of the United States (George Romney was born in Mexico and Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona prior it to becoming a state and John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone) and there was never a sustained clamor regarding nativity.

Some are of the opinion that the election of an African American President of the United States offends the laws of nature for these “birthers”. A black man being president ranks right up there with rocks falling up and pigs flying – it is something that is not possible and cannot be accepted as fact –ever. Hence we have presumably sane men and women scurrying around in their state capitals trying to “make sure that this never happens again”.

It is also important to note that the “birther” movement is a distinctly partisan initiative. The G.O.Tea Party and its minions are the lone and lonely foot soldiers in this lost cause. And as they tilt at windmills that they imagine to be dragons citizens of this country are worried about their jobs, the economy, their safety and their children’s future.

Rather than demonstrating some semblance of common sense or even a half profile in courage, Republican leaders have stood by and let the dumbness run amok.

This foolishness may satisfy the right wing of the right wing, but “birther” legislation will not rebuild this economy or replenish the reservoirs of hope and confidence that are dangerously low. “Birther” legislation will not provide a single job or save a single business and it certainly will not help even one child learn how to read and be competitive in the global economy.

One might be tempted to just let the Republicans run around in these dumb, self-destructive circles, but these times demand sober discussion and serious debate on the issues of the day. And while the G.O.Tea Party continues to read the Constitution out loud and engage in pyrrhic battles in Congress, everybody suffers from the inertia that is the consequence of their self-indulgence.

“Dumb and Dumbest” is a movie that has not been made as yet. It is very clear who should be cast in the starring roles.

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