The Birther Madness
December 3, 2009
by Charlie Sprague
The Birther movement is convinced that President Obama is not a natural-born citizen and hence is constitutionally prohibited from being President.
Most Birthers claim that Obama was born in Kenya, while others think his birth occurred in Indonesia. Even though Obama has released a copy of his birth certificate showing that he was born on Oahu, these conspiracy theories continue to animate the fanatical right.
What is most surprising about these conspiracy theories is the number of relatively mainstream people willing to associate themselves with the Birthers or at least recognize the issue as a legitimate controversy. One of CNN’s many reasons for dumping Lou Dobbs was his repeated raising of Birther issues. More predictably, The Birthers have found audiences on conservative talk radio and conservative web sites such as Free Republic and WorldNetDaily. The number of people who have serious doubts that Obama was born in the United States is shockingly high. According to one poll, 28% of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States or are unsure. These numbers, however, ignore an important geographic disparity: doubt about Obama’s place of birth is far higher in the South than anywhere else in the country. In the South, only 47% of respondents said they believe Obama was born in the United States, with 30 % unsure and 23% convinced he’s foreign born.
Many Republican politicians find themselves in an uncomfortable position when it comes to Birther conspiracy theories. On the one hand, the Birther movement kills the Republicans’ credibility among the vast majority of the population and Republicans. At the same time, Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate Republican congressman from Delaware, was blindsided at a rally in July when a near-hysterical woman accused him of ignoring the “truth” that Obama was a citizen of Kenya. Wanting to pander to the fringe without becoming entirely discredited by the lunatics, many Republicans have opted to align themselves only tangentially with the Birther movement. For example, Republican congressman of John Campbell of California proposed a bill that would require presidential candidates to prove they are “natural-born citizens.” On MSNBC, Chris Matthews interviewed Campbell and repeatedly asked him if he believed Obama was a natural-born citizen.
The extreme evasiveness of Campbell’s answers perfectly demonstrates his “wink-wink” strategy of secretly pandering to fringe elements of the conservative movement without having his reputation sullied by outright association.
As a final note to seniors still seeking employment, the Birthers are willing to throw down cash for investigations of Obama’s past. Neil Sankey, a former member of Scotland Yard, has been hired by Birthers to investigate Obama’s personal history. I know most CMC alums can’t match Sankey’s background, but perhaps “Topics in Forensic Science” has taught some desperate seniors enough to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Ames.