February 13, 2011
The Birther Card
Hawaii's new governor, Neil Abercrombie, stirred the "birther" pot just before Christmas when he promised to launch an expedition for Obama's long form birth certificate. Chris Matthews reported on the Abercrombie quest, and though calling himself an "enemy of the birthers," surprised us by acknowledging that the advertised short form is indeed a different document than an actual long form certificate and that it should be released. Matthews' guests on the segment agreed, noting once it was out they could "make even more fun of the birthers."
But less than a month later, when it was Abercrombie's turn to produce the long form, he turned up empty-handed, and instead offered some ambiguous lines about something "written down" that "actually exists."
Enter a new player to the game: journalist friend of Abercrombie, Mike Evans, on the radio a few days later touting "There is no Barack Obama birth certificate in Hawaii -- absolutely no proof at all that he was born in Hawaii." Evans backtracked after the story went national, saying he "misspoke" and had not conversed personally with Abercrombie, and that this error occurred in only one of the 34 interviews he had done that morning. Further research, however, found that Evans repeated his misstatement more than once and "appeared to be reading from a script and ad-libbing around it as he read."
In the American Thinker article, "The Birther Trial Balloon," it was speculated that perhaps this entire performance was a sort of media test run to see how the public would react to the non-release of the certificate in advance of Obama's run for 2012 reelection. Writer Andrew Walden, in the AT article, "Hawaii's Governor Manipulates Birthers," concluded that the spectacle was indeed a production, choreographed however for a different result: "to shift political discussion away from the thumping Obama took in the November midterms" by further ridiculing "birtherism."
Really, though, the debacle did seem more like an episode of The Three Stooges, especially with the timing of one little tidbit reported by CBS News a couple of days later -- that Abercrombie's new Health Director (responsible for the state's vital records) "abruptly quit." So, until that position is filled, the buck of maintaining Obama's birth certificate has stopped at Abercrombie's desk. (We can only speculate why, if the former Governor Linda Lingle asked the previous Health Director, Chiyome Fukino, to "go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records of the Department of Health," couldn't Abercrombie authorize himself to do likewise.)
At any rate, it appeared the chips were down for the "birther enemies," so when it was back around the table last week for Chris Matthews' turn, he admitted that Obama has the "new kind" of birth certificate "which is this digital thing printed out" and apparently no long form. (Leaving the rest of us to wonder exactly what this newfangled one was the short version of.) And anyway, according to Matthews, people only ask to see the old-fashioned kind and put Obama under "this kind of assault" because...
Obama has a funny name, and he is black.
Matthews resorted to playing the trump from his standard liberal repertoire -- the race card, and swooped up all the chips while implying that the birthers aren't playing with a full deck and all their fuss is a bunch of "malarkey."
But Matthews isn't the only pundit playing this type of game -- conservative talkers have politely turned a blind eye to the birther story, and instead of dealing us any real investigating or reporting, play silently along and slap the hands of the birthers clamoring for a spot at the table. Birthers, unperturbed with all the eye-rolling and name-calling, stubbornly continue to interrupt the game anyway, and are not, as Matthews lamented, "shamed into non-existence."
Conservative politicians have all been good sports, too, beginning with John McCain, who produced his long-form certificate back in the 2008 race. McCain was deemed qualified as a "natural born citizen" by Senate Resolution 511 (co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), but then meekly folded without a call for Obama to reciprocate.
In his article, "Obama's Republican Guard," Jack Cashill opines that the lack of Republican political response on the birther controversy is due to a conservative media "gone soft," who "instead content themselves with commenting on the news that the mainstream media create."
Cashill didn't allude to racist accusations as a cause for the conservative avoidance of the "birther" issue, but the results of a quick Google search using the terms "birther" with "racism" reveal that the race card is indeed a large part of the story. The mainstream media leads with that card often, and conservatives' failure to call them out on it comes off as complicity in a game of political correctness, and weakness instead of colorblind sportsmanship. Americans are then unfairly dealt a censored reporting of a serious constitutional issue.
John Boehner, when pressed on the eligibility issue said: "The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That's good enough for me." That's not good enough, though, for a growing swath of the population, unwilling to give these leaders the excuse of a media gone soft, whatever the motivation of that softness. According to World Net Daily, "10 of the United States -- controlling 107 Electoral College votes -- are now considering some type of legislation" that requires presidential candidates to provide proof of constitutional eligibility.
Two of the states' proposed bills contain additional eligibility requirements that trump a long-form birth certificate, even a pricey $100 souvenir version crafted by Hawaii lawmakers. The Arizona bill requires: "A sworn statement attesting that the candidate has not held dual or multiple citizenship and that the candidate's allegiance is solely to the United States of America." The Nebraska bill further requires that the candidate attest to three conditions on the day of his birth: he was subject only to the jurisdiction of the U.S., owed allegiance to no other country, and that both his mother and father were U.S. citizens.
Dual citizenship, a divided allegiance that experts contend the Constitution's framers sought to avoid for the Presidency, is a status created when the country of a child's birth (documented by a birth certificate) and the country of citizenship of the parents are in conflict. Obviously the Arizona and Nebraska legislators concerned themselves with crafting laws supporting the Constitution's finer points of eligibility rather than the sensational search for the missing long form.
Unless Obama pulls out a certificate listing a birth father other than the one Abercrombie remembers seeing him with as a child, or reneges on the assertion on his "Fight the Smears" campaign website that he had, until age 23, foreign citizenship from his Kenyan father, he won't qualify for the ballots in these two states.
So far, the media has focused only on the requirement for the long form and fretted over its assorted details, but once they catch on to these other provisions, the ensuing stir will no doubt require a play of both the racist and xenophobia cards, just as we've seen in the recent immigration reform debate.
Voters are successfully getting the message to their state legislatures: They need more information to "come to the conclusion of [Obama's] citizenship" than just seeing or hearing the President (Wouldn't we love to ask Robert Gibbs exactly what he meant by "seeing.").
As we near the 2012 elections, the powerful in conservative circles must acknowledge the birther controversy if for no other reason than the political risk of alienating this substantial percentage of voters with doubts as to Obama's constitutional eligibility.
In the American Thinker article, "The Race Game and Obama's Campaign for 2012," Jack Kerwick noted that "race promises to play at least as large a role in the next election as it played in the last presidential race. Rest assured: it is on this that Barack Obama and his cronies are counting." Kerwick rightly concludes: "If the GOP wants to prevail in the election of 2012, it is imperative that they muster the will to reckon with its racial subtext."
The GOP must also muster the will to reckon with the mainstream media. Instead of constantly playing defense by allowing liberals to initiate and control the conversation, Republicans must begin to lead a rational discourse. They do not need to follow suit when the media or Obama and his team attempt to link questions of constitutionality with lack of civility or racism.
Conservatives cannot continue to sidestep the role of race in both its response to the eligibility dilemma and in the upcoming elections. Liberals have shown they aren't reluctant to play the race card in any game.