END OF THE LINE

We all harbor the lingering fear that there is no idiot so ignorant or so vulgar that the American public will not elect him or her to office. Hence the last eight years and the cold dread we all feel as we watch Sarah Palin drool her way through public life. We stare and think "We couldn't possibly…" but stop because deep down we know that we could. Hence my hesitation to say "This is too far." about any outgrowth of stupidity from our political culture. It will inevitably lead to eating my words. Nonetheless…

If its elected officials do not take a stronger stand against it – and, God help them, if they continue to flirt with embracing it – this Obama birth certificate conspiracism is going to be the death of the GOP. Like the "secret Muslim" stuff during the 2008 Election, this issue is forcing mainstream Republicans to face up to just how bat-shit insane their party base is these days. Note the parallels between these two videos, one from last summer and the other from just a few days ago:

If you can't watch a/v at the moment, the first video is the infamous clip of McCain confronted with a supporter who insists that Obama "is an Arab." The second is Delaware Republican Rep. Mike Castle dealing with a "birther" – and from the sounds of it, quite a few fellow travellers in the background – at a town hall meeting. Apparently Castle's antagonist is well-known as a lunatic who has actually been banned from calling the local right-wing talk radio station. Note both men's pained "Oh my God, what has become of my party" demeanor as they attempt to be calm and speak Logic to what are obviously unhinged and potentially dangerous rubes.

If birtherism sounds like something dreamt up by the tinfoil-hatted, it is. But if it sounds like something that is confined to the realm of the tinfoil-hatted, it isn't. As my Instaputz colleague notes, with helpful links, in response to Rich "Little Starbursts" Lowry's claim that birthers are just a tiny fringe blown out of proportion by the liberal media:

Let me see now, those "few" include, just off the top of my head: at least 17 elected Republicans in Congress, numerous Republican state legislators, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Liz Cheney, Michael Savage, Alan Keyes, G. Gordon Liddy, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax and Free Republic.

Oh, and the National Review.

Just a few cranks!

This is to credibility among conservatives what 9/11 twoofers were to the anti-Bush crowd. Look. Here is a picture of his birth certificate. Regarding the claims that he must produce a second long-form certificate with multiple signatures, please read the bottom of this one: "This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding." There is no longer a requirement, politically or legally, for the President to continue to entertain this fantasy. While I understand the whole "Well, just release it and be done with it" argument, which sounds suspiciously like an effort to endorse the possibility of the legitimacy of these claims without overtly stating it, there is no good reason for Obama to get suckered into a debate here. If he produces the long-form certificate they will just claim it is forged. He should stick with the sanitized version of, "You need more evidence? Fuck you. That's my evidence." from now on.

I once heard a Jewish professor state that she refused to debate Holocaust deniers in a public forum because if 1000 people watch, only one will leave convinced by the denialists' argument but all 1000 will leave thinking the issue is open for debate. There is nothing to be gained by debating some people and legitimizing their claims, however insignificantly, can be damaging. Nothing Barack Obama says or does will make any difference to this movement. They will simply move on to something else or disregard whatever additional evidence he provides as forged or biased. So to engage them does nothing except make them look relevant. "Secret Muslim" and "Where's the birth certificate?" are really just sanitized PC-era euphemisms for "nigger" anyway, the desperate Hail Mary play from a group of people choking on their rage over the idea that a liberal black guy with a funny-soundin' foreigny name beat the tar out of his Republican opponents. There are only so many times one can show conspiracists the evidence before concluding that they have no interest whatsoever in drawing conclusions based on evidence. While the unanimous vote on the House resolution affirming Hawaii as Obama's birthplace is a step in the right direction, mainstream Republicans have their work cut out for them in squashing this nonsense without alienating the retards who make up 2/3rds of their party base these days.

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20 Responses to “END OF THE LINE”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    I dunno, Ed; I think this phenomenon of "birthers + media willing to continue to pull the Ailesian 'report the controversy" ties rather neatly to the uproar that never happened over Kilmeade's on-air display of his ubermensch-fetish. To wit, I don't think it can 'destroy the party' for the same reason that Kilmeade's blurted racism didn't get him fired: who was/is really appalled or outraged by either? Only the people who were already inclined to disdain both. Fox viewers (and their advertisers) don't care, because the brand of bigotry Fox pitches is their brand. And birthers aren't going to alienate "the party," because even if the rest of the GOP doesn't *actually* believe that Obama was born extranationally, they agree with the basic emotional premise of hostility towards the uppity pickaninny.

    One legacy of Reagan which nobody ever wants to talk about is how he took George Wallace's discovery of an untapped motherlode of racist voters and brought them into the mainstream by making them feel good about being racists, teaching them to cloak their racism in the threadbare code of disapproval of government programs and social attitudes that were designed to benefit disproportionately large percentages of minorities. This is still Reagan's GOP. The birthers are, of course, out-and-out racists. But for every out-and-outer, there are about a thousand closet-cases who wouldn't mind seeing the fall of a guy who, according to the Reagan version of the American Narrative, only got to where he is by stepping over the backs of more deserving white folks. So even if the "birther" nonsense goes away, it will be replaced by something just as stupidly bigoted, and like its predecessor, it will offend none of the "GOP Values Voters" in the process.

    Basically what I'm saying is: yes, you're going to eat your words.

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    Clarifying addendum: The reason you'll eat your words is that the only way the GOP can implode over this is if the elected representatives of the GOP took a principled stand against their lunatic constituents and didn't instead prefer their continued employment, and quickly roll over and agree to mouth the conspiratorial slurs they don't believe in. This is as likely a scenario as meth-jonesing prostitutes refusing to have sex with men they don't respect just for the sake of a few bucks.

  3. SamInMpls Says:

    So…

    Everyone reading this almost certainly understands why the MSM has been much more willing to cover the Birthers than the Truthers.

    What I have to wonder is whether the MSM's refusal to cover left-wing crazies as straight-up "libruls" is actually insulating independent voters from the rhetoric coming out of the loonier elements of the left. Hard to draw any connection between the rhetoric of the Truthers with that of the establishment Democrats, right?

    Doesn't really matter, IMO, whether or not the GOP lives or dies. Democrats have a nice set of racial and cultural wedge issues that were gift-wrapped for them by the conservative message machine. It isn't at all clear to me that the Dems will do anything at all to capitalize on this opportunity — my guess is they'd fuck up a cup of coffee — but the tent is sure to swell.

  4. Simply Says:

    Thanks: I am sure to get an e-mail any minute now from my slightly-to-the-right-of-Attilla-the-Hun father, complete with link to New Republic drivel, on this very subject. You have provided me with some snappy comebacks. Since logic doesn't work, I have been, until now, at a loss how to respond.

    I did go so far as to put some of his more offensive catchphrases (Obummer, for example) into my spam filter, but you know, every time these wingnuts glom onto some new theme to hammer to death, e-mails start slipping through again.

    Sigh. I'm going to go check my e-mail now.

  5. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Facts won't work because you have to remember that these people usually believe that the Constitution, at some past time, was basically totally thrown out the window, and the evildoers controlling the nation, whoever they may be(Jews, libruhls, the Illuminati) do not care about the law, and anything they might say about the law, despite being qualified, is therefore a lie. Some birthers pretend that they will be vindicated eventually, but I believe that like most conspiracy theorists, they will quickly lose hope, yet continue to believe the conspiracy. How many major conspiracy theories have ever seen "justice"? Who has been arrested for the real assasination of Kennedy? Where is the 9/11 whistleblower? Who will come up with evidence of Obama's birth in Kenya- nobody. Conspiracy theories are eternal, and the cause of much frustration in their adherents. They know that Obama won't be forced out of office, and they will just chalk that up to the power of the omnipotent shadow government that allegedly runs the country, if not the world.

  6. Desargues Says:

    But the GOP is in fact imploding, Ed. Only slowly, like Russia. Whether they appease or ignore the Birfers won't make much difference, provided they don't decide to move back to where the center used to be. Medium and long-term demographic and cultural trends in America are set to work against the angry white agenda of the perpetually aggrieved in that party.

    It's Sam in Minneapolis who spotted the real problem for the Dems. Not only their legendary inability to govern — I believe the correct phrase is "they'd fuck up a shit sandwich," Sam — but also the task of keeping their own Reaganites in line. It's gonna be interesting to see how they manage that. Perhaps they can borrow a few pages from Tom DeLay's book. That guy may have been a sleazy crook, but he knew how to keep discipline.

  7. grendelkhan Says:

    SamInMpls: What I have to wonder is whether the MSM’s refusal to cover left-wing crazies as straight-up “libruls” is actually insulating independent voters from the rhetoric coming out of the loonier elements of the left.

    No, it's not. The Democrats' charge to the right over the last several decades is what separates them from left-wing crazies, while the Republicans' charge to the right over the same period is what puts them in bed with right-wing crazies. Glad I could help you with that.

    Hard to draw any connection between the rhetoric of the Truthers with that of the establishment Democrats, right?

    Yes, it is, because there's little to no connection there, in contrast with the way that the Republican base is, to a surprising extent, running the asylum over there. Note the list of pillars of the conservative movement who endorse the theory; the set of liberals who have both a hand on the levers of power and a foot in the conspiracy movement is, to say the least, far smaller.

    Yes, parallels can be drawn, but the situations aren't mirror-image duplicates of each other.

  8. grendelkhan Says:

    Ed: There is nothing to be gained by debating some people and legitimizing their claims, however insignificantly, can be damaging.

    Had this professor considered debating in a clown suit?

  9. Megan Says:

    What cracks me up is that if there were any evidence that the president had been born in Kenya, the Kenyan government would have dug it up and waved it about proudly. A good number of Kenyans already think that Obama is Kenyan (if not legally, at least culturally) and a birth certificate would only add to the national pride.

  10. John Says:

    Well-done piece Ed, but I do unfortunately have to make a small correction — though granted, it's a correction to a bit you quoted from someone else. Living in Atlanta and having to take our legendarily bad freeways to and from work, I pretty much have to listen to AM750 as they're the best traffic in town by far (everyone else just picks off bits and pieces of their traffic coverage as streams). This also means, much to my aggravation, that I have to listen to that jingoist blowhard Hannity every afternoon.

    And as miserable as he is, he's not a birther, as the quoted article claims. He regularly gets birthers calling in to his show and, in a rare display of humility, asserts firmly that birthers are nuts and Obama is an American citizen. He then goes right back to telling us how Obama is a socialist and is going to destroy the country, but he doesn't entertain birthers.

    Can't speak for anyone else on the list though.

  11. Jack Says:

    Here’s Obama’s dilemma in a nutshell (READ VERY CAREFULLY AND DIGEST):

    If BHO shows his original long form birth certificate, indeed showing he was born in Hawaii, it will also show his father was American citizen, Frank Marshall Davis, not the Kenyan/British citizen, Barack Obama Sr. While that would allow Barack Jr. to be POTUS eligible as BOTH a “citizen”/“native born citizen” AND an Article 2 “natural born citizen” — that is, born to two American citizens on American soil — it would simultaneously show he is a fraud hiding his real father — an unacceptable political debacle.

    If, on the other hand, BHO keeps hiding his original long form birth certificate — while simply repeating, without showing, he was born in Hawaii — he can still CLAIM BOTH he was born in Hawaii AND his father was the Kenyan/British Barack Obama Sr. This would enable Barack Jr. to claim he’s a “citizen”/“native born citizen” but it would mean (if a federal court would ever get around to declaring and thus far no one has standing to bring the suit) that he’s NOT an Article 2 “natural born citizen” and thus not eligible to be POTUS — a legal/constitutional debacle since all acts under an illegal POTUS are void.

    So it seems, BHO has elected option one until forced to go option two because for now it looks like no federal court will ever find a plaintiff with standing. (Of course, there’s the additional issue of BHO losing American citizen status if/when he became an Indonesian citizen — that is, IF he returned and was naturalized he would be a legal citizen, but would lose both native and natural born status, and, IF he returned and was not naturalized, he would be an illegal immigrant unlawfully in this country — but we’ll leave that for another day.)

  12. Desargues Says:

    Jack: This dilemma you raise is not as serious as the imminent danger of ACORN fluoridating our water supply or gay Indonesian socialists conspiring to steal our precious bodily fluids. We're fucked, my man. Time to go down into that bomb shelter you've been building behind your parents' basement.

  13. Shane Says:

    I find it quite ironic that the same people who are obsessed with Obama's technical birth qualifications to be president were more than willing to elect McCain president, for whom there is an actual debate about eligibility since he was born in Panama. (Not that I would have objected to McCain being president on those grounds). The Barry Goldwater case was also interesting, in a very nerdy legal way, since he was born in Arizona before it was a state. Granted it is wikipedia, but I found the discussion on this site somewhat interesting.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Natural-born_citizen

  14. karen marie Says:

    The powerful cabal that put Obama in office to destroy America was competent enough to get two newspaper birth announcements printed 48 years ago and to control the Hawaiian state government's records since at least 1961 but can't come up with a handwritten birth certificate?

    If this cabal has had this much power, why are we still waiting for socialism?

  15. Vinny Says:

    Jack, when you start your post off with (READ VERY CAREFULLY AND DIGEST), I just want to reach through the internets and drown you in your tears of crazy.

  16. Cat Says:

    You left out some key, but usually overlooked, part of the "debate".

    Obama can't supply his long form birth certificate. He doesn't have the originals anymore, which is common, and Hawaii won't give you a certified copy since their law says you only can get the "short form".

    Hawaii destroyed all of their records after converting them to digital form in 2001. Hawaii can't even produce the original for inspection from their vault.

    The fact the Lawmakers who introduced the bill require an original "long form" are not constantly called on their BS is boggling. Their bill will be prohibit Obama from running in 2008 as he can't legally fulfill the requirements anymore. It also hinders many other Americans from becoming president as their states no longer can produce certified copies of the original "long form"

  17. kiki Says:

    I agree with every word, except it should have read "…choking on their PANT SHITTING rage…"

  18. displaced capitalist Says:

    Aslan Maskhadov:

    who has been arrested for the real assasination of Kennedy? Where is the 9/11 whistleblower? Who will come up with evidence of Obama’s birth in Kenya- nobody.

    you forgot to mention the moon-landing conspiracy. To believe that conspiracy you have to believe that a) Jets and Rockets don't fly, b) the moon is made of cheese, and c) their cell phone/GPS runs on pixie dust.

  19. displaced capitalist Says:

    whoops, I meant to say "your cell phone". I got stuck in my me-versus-them mindset again…

  20. zhak Says:

    I was reading Roy Edroso's Village Voice piece earlier about this topic and the comments section had been infested with a bunch of yahoos (but they were on message, mostly: give them that). What struck me most forcibly about reading the comments was that no matter what "documentation" was presented or who affirmed what under oath or in public or what have you, it would never ever be enough for these people. They will go to their graves deluded, bitter and angry.

    I was plenty bitter and angry about what has happened to my country these past years, but deluded I aint.