Entries Tagged as 'birtherism'

Worst Week Ever for Birthers

David Frum May 5th, 2011 at 2:44 pm 75 Comments

The birther libel has taken a bad beating this week, according to a new Washington Post poll.

The number of Americans saying President Obama was born in another country has been sliced in half, according to a new Washington Post poll.

In interviews following the public release the president’s “long-form” birth certificate last week, fully 70 percent of Americans say Obama was born in Hawaii, a big bump-up from the 48 percent who said so a year ago. Even more say he was U.S.-born, or call that their best guess, for a total of 86 percent.

Overall, 10 percent of Americans say Obama was likely born abroad, down from 20 percent in an April 2010 Post-ABC poll. Almost all those who now say Obama was born in a foreign country say that it’s only their “suspicion;” just 1 percent claim “solid evidence” that the president was born elsewhere (9 percent said so last year).

It’s my “suspicion” that the collapse of birtherism has as much to do with the bin Laden killing as the release of the long-form birth certificate.

This recovery of American bearings nicely coincides with the continuing deflation of the Sarah Palin phenomenon inside the GOP. Maybe we could bring all these elements together in a grand harmonic convergence with a new retort to Palin’s dwindling defenders: “The Navy Seals are elitist too.”

Can We Stop Questioning Obama’s Legitimacy Now?

David Frum May 2nd, 2011 at 12:07 pm 124 Comments

So much to say about the long-awaited visiting of justice upon Osama bin Laden.

But there’s one effect on US domestic politics that deserves a thought:

Here’s hoping that we have at last seen the end of this ugly insinuation that there is something less than fully American about the black president with the exotic name.

On Friday came the release of the long-form birth certificate that provided the final decisive refutation of the birther lie that President Obama was born elsewhere than the United States.

On Saturday at the White House Correspondents dinner, pills the most visible proponent of that lie, the blowhard TV tycoon Donald Trump, was publicly ridiculed in front of an audience of 3,000 people – without a voice to excuse or defend him.

And then late Sunday, the president told the nation of the successful execution of his order to shoot and kill Osama bin Laden.

The success of the bin Laden operation is a great moment for the United States – and not only for the United States.

But it is also a deservedly bad moment for some of the destructive forces in American public life: for those who have substituted for ordinary politics a sustained campaign to brand President Obama as an outsider, as un-American, as non-American.

Those of us who oppose this administration’s economic and foreign policies have had so many valid points to make.

Yet some have insisted on traveling beyond those valid points. They have called the president “post American.” A “Third world dictator.” An individual whose behavior could only be interpreted as “Kenyan post-colonial.”  A “thug in chief.” They have tried to present US politics not as a choice between liberal and conservative, but as a choice between American and non-American, between real Americans and between a dangerous dark-skinned intruder. They have sought to portray the President as a man who could not be trusted to lead the country because he owed no loyalty to the country – because he did not belong in the country.

After the events of the past 72 hours, those kinds of attacks should be finished now. It’s a cleaner world without bin Laden soiling it. And American politics will be cleaner for the expunging of the malicious fantasy of the president’s non-Americanness.

President Obama has performed the first job of an American president: he has used the power of the nation well to defeat the nation’s enemies and defend the nation’s people. After an interval for celebration of yesterday’s accomplishment, it will be back to politics as usual. But let’s hope that this time, the usual will have this difference: that the administration can be criticized as “liberal” without being libeled as “alien.”

Originally published at CNN.com.

Why Didn’t GOP Stand Up to Birthers?

David Frum April 28th, 2011 at 9:06 am 131 Comments

Abe Greenwald suggests at the Commentary blog that President Obama deliberately exploited the birth certificate pseudo-controversy.

Greenwald suggests that the president cunningly baited a trap with the conscious intent of portraying his opponents as racist lunatics.

Greenwald may very well be correct about this. Question: Faced with such a devilish ploy, how might Republicans and conservatives have avoided being victimized? Here’s a thought. What about: not walk into it?

Instead, with rare exceptions, leading Republicans from the Speaker of the House downward played games with the birther issue. Maybe they played those games unhappily, but they played the games even so. That was a choice, not a compulsion. And some Republicans – Sarah Palin inevitably, but others too – did much more than play games. That was a choice too.

What else could Republicans have done? They might have answered as Bill Clinton answered when confronted by 9/11 conspiracy theorist hecklers. He heard them out. He recapitulated the facts. He restated the truth. And he told people who continued to defy reality that they “looked like idiots.” He added for good measure: “We heard from you. You go away.”

Watch the clip, then tell me: Who’s the Republican who talked that plainly to the birthers?

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Birthers Try Out a New Line of Attack

David Frum April 27th, 2011 at 9:40 pm 246 Comments

A historical curiosity:

Some birthers are falling back on a second line of defense: even if President Obama was born in this country, his father was not. Obama is accordingly disqualified as a “native-born” but not a “natural-born” citizen.

This distinction is a recycled Democratic talking point from the election of 1916. The father of the GOP candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, was born in Britain. A Democratic lawyer, Breckenridge Long, wrote a pamphlet arguing that Hughes was accordingly ineligible. I’m amazed to see that the pamphlet is available online.

The Long argument did not pass muster. A dozen years later, the Republicans again nominated a candidate with a foreign born parent, Herbert Hoover. (Hoover’s mother was born in the village of Norwich, Ontario, Canada, about 80 km west of Hamilton.) This time the “native-born” candidate won – and was duly inaugurated. Issue closed. Or so it was assumed until now.

Breckenridge Long went on to serve as President Franklin Roosevelt’s immigration commissioner, where he made it his personal mission to exclude from the United States Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe.

The Birther Disgrace

David Frum April 27th, 2011 at 10:28 am 349 Comments

Even for the small band that sustained the phony controversy until now, the birth certificate so-called issue ends today.

Any last lingering doubts that maybe, perhaps, a pregnant Stanley Ann Dunham in the summer of 1961 boarded a propeller plane from Honolulu to Los Angeles, then from Los Angeles to New York City, then from New York City to Gander, then from Gander to London, then from London to Nairobi – and then repeated the trip backward a few weeks later – all so that her baby could acquire Kenyan nationality – those doubts are definitively squelched, as they should have been three years ago.

Now the more haunting question: How did this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation get such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong. Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.” Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, “I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.”

Yet even now, the racialist aspect of the anti-Obama movement has not subsided. Trump has moved from the birth certificate to questioning the president’s academic qualifications for the Harvard Law School. Trump himself was a troubled student (at one point he attended a military school) who nonetheless gained admission to Wharton. His father’s wealth and business success cannot have hurt with that application. Yet he feels himself qualified to pronounce on who is and who is not smart enough to attend Harvard Law. Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude. (And to anticipate a new line of attack – yes, Harvard Law School exams were blind-graded.) He was elected editor of the law review. And his classmates, left and right, universally admired his abilities.

I wish it were otherwise, but it does seem that these racialized attacks on Obama have exacted a toll on him. But they also have exacted a toll on the opposition to Obama. The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand. It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a “real American.”

I write as an opponent of virtually every major and minor action of this administration. Republicans should be fighting this president on policy, not winking at those who use race as a weapon. It’s worth recalling the generous words of John McCain on election night 2008:

[T]hough we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound. A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

And those who imagine that they somehow enhance the value of that citizenship by belittling the American-ness of their president – they not only disgrace the politics they uphold, but they do damage that will not soon be forgotten by the voters a revived Republicanism must win.

Why Main Street Takes Trump Seriously

David Frum April 20th, 2011 at 4:04 pm 73 Comments

How could anyone possibly support an obvious flim-flam man like Donald Trump?

Imagine this – or maybe you don’t have to imagine.

You are 62 years old. White. Go to church In Easter Sunday. You make a good living: $75,000 a year in a strong company. Your wife earns another $45,000. The kids have grown up and moved out. If anybody had told you when you were young that you’d be signing a $120,000 tax return on April 18, 2011, well, you would have thought you’d moved to easy street.

Only it’s not so easy.

You lost a big chunk of your retirement account in the dot-com crash a decade ago. For a while, it looked as if you had recovered your wealth, thanks to the increase in the value of your house. Back in 2006, you felt so flush that you borrowed against the equity in your home to pay off your credit cards.

Then the housing market crashed too, wiping out your equity. You now face a worrying future. You still have your job, thank God. But your boss makes it very clear that he’s expecting to replace you the instant you turn 65.

Your son has lost his job and is looking for another one. Your daughter and her kid are struggling.

You need to save every penny you can. You keep noticing those withholding lines on your paycheck. Almost a third of your salary! And for what? Those politicians in Washington are eyeing your Medicare. President Obama’s health-care plan cuts $500 billion over 10 years to finance a new entitlement for the uninsured. Nothing against the uninsured – but you were counting on that Medicare. Meanwhile, the financial channels on TV keep warning of inflation that will eat away those savings you still have left.

A friend of yours, a little older, lost everything. Literally everything. He’s working as a limo driver to supplement his Social Security. That’s okay at age 67. But what happens when he turns 77?

You hate President Obama; Michelle even more. It’s not a racial thing. AT ALL. No matter what your daughter says. You’ve worked with black guys during your entire career. But this Obama, he does not come from the America you know. He has this way of looking like he thinks he’s better than you. And the way his wife spends money! Too much flash, too much bling. All on your dime. Then she tells you not to eat at Denny’s. Hey, you’d like to eat at the fancy places she goes, but Denny’s will have to do. Every time you see her you think: Who are these people? How did they rise so high?

You are a Republican. A conservative. Always have been. You voted for Nixon in 1972, your first vote. Ford. Reagan twice. Bush once. (Perot in 1992.) But over the past few years you’ve lost your enthusiasm for the GOP.  Your pay went up under Reagan. Under Bush, it was gas prices that went up. Then they bailed out Wall Street and GM while you got screwed.

You never thought you’d hear yourself say this: but you are pissed at Wall Street. You’ve got nothing against people who get rich honestly. But the big money guys at Goldman Sachs? The guys who loooved Obama? Yeah, what would be so wrong about taxing them to clean up the mess they made? You’ve paid already, through the nose. Why should you pay again? And it’s those same Goldman Sachs guys who are pushing Washington to squeeze your Medicare to balance the budget. Forget that, buddy.

What you want is a candidate who will take the fight to Obama. Really fight him. Mitt Romney? He’s no fighter. He’s a CEO, and you’ve had it with CEOs. Mike Huckabee? Seems like a nice guy, but if you want a sermon, you’ll go to church. Sarah Palin? Sexy sure, but too flakey. Now Donald Trump, he’s kind of a blowhard. But he hates Obama almost as much as you do. You don’t take the birth certificate thing seriously, but if it annoys the liberals, what the hell. Trump says he’s going to get tough with the Chinese, the Arab oil sheikhs, everybody who’s ripping you off. A guy can’t get that rich if he doesn’t have balls, stands to reason.

So maybe you’ll give him a try. Or somebody else. You need help. You need help from somebody who understands what it’s like to be you: not poor, not black, not Mexican, but still hurting, still scared, still looking at a future suddenly a lot bleaker than you ever expected. Somebody. Anybody.

Originally published at The Week.

How to Beat Trump

David Frum April 20th, 2011 at 9:05 am 86 Comments

This post by Ed Kilgore about Donald Trump seems to me very astute.

The Republican establishment has perceived [Trump] as a threat and launched an all-out effort to tar him. But the truth is that their effort may be a lost cause, for reasons that are intrinsic to the success of Trump’s consumer-focused approach: This year, GOP voters’ hunger for radicalism is so great that it can be filled by essentially anybody. Kill off Trump’s candidacy and the demand will remain, leaving an opening for yet another demagogic charlatan to take his place. …

What [Trump's high poll numbers] show is not a desire to support the faux tycoon per se, but a raging right-wing, anti-establishment fever that has only gotten stronger in recent months. … There may be no coherent body of views you could call “Trumpism,” but even without Trump, there would be a hunger for spicier red meat than is being offered by the current crop of Republican candidates.

This screw-the-establishment sentiment must be understood in the context of what looks to be growing dissatisfaction with compromises made by Republicans in the Tea Party Congress and statehouses. …

This dynamic creates an enormous temptation for non-congressional Republicans to join the revolt, as evidenced by the rapid devolution of Tim Pawlenty into an extremist on budget issues and a favorite at Tea Party rallies. (He’s now opposed to raising the debt ceiling, even though that would damage the U.S. economy on a scale similar to a nuclear attack.) And if there is something that GOP voters want which Pawlenty is unwilling to give them because he decides it’s too crazy, then there will always be Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann, who are receiving rapturous receptions on the campaign trail, to flay him for his equivocation.

If Trump is pushed out of the limelight or off the campaign trail by the conservative establishment, or by his own erratic record on a host of issues, the atavistic longings of the rank-and-file conservative base will simply affix themselves elsewhere as other candidates try to tap the rich vein of anger he’s helped galvanize.

Here’s the thing Republican leaders and pundits need to understand. (I said it yesterday, but let’s say it again today.) America has not had a mass conversion to ideological libertarianism. Instead, Americans who feel robbed and duped by the series of financial and economic disappointments and disasters from the dot-com bubble onward are boiling with rage against their financial and political leadership. Conservative Americans express that rage in terms learned from talk radio and Fox News. But the fact that these conservative voters express their rage by talking about “debt” and “taxes” does not mean that they want what K Street wants: a Ryan budget that cuts spending on people like them to finance tax cuts for people much richer than them. They are just using familiar words to express a new and unfamiliar emotion of betrayal and resentment. The GOP establishment has successfully directed those emotions against the Obama administration. But there’s no guarantee that the emotions will remain fixed in that direction – because after all, the establishment GOP is offering little or nothing to allay the discontents producing the anger. Conservatives like liberals have suffered unemployment, the loss of savings, the decline in housing values. Conservatives like liberals find themselves suddenly poorer for reasons they do not understand. Conservatives like liberals fear and dread that Medicare and Social Security will soon be cut to rescue the country’s finances. If the GOP wants to finish Trump, GOP candidates had better learn to speak to those anxieties – to offer a remedy more effectual than the snake-oil now being peddled by Tim Pawlenty.

Debt Downgrade: Are Voters Paying Attention?

April 19th, 2011 at 6:40 am 8 Comments

The past day or so I experienced that odd feeling that I might be existing in parallel but separate universes, malady a situation wherein two (or more) realities are so strikingly at odds with one another that they cannot possibly exist in the same world at the same time.

Monday afternoon, mind driving home and listening to (horrors!) NPR, I heard that the Dow Jones index had dropped over 140 points during the day. The news was jarring, and the explanation alarming: It seems that Standard & Poor’s, the bond rating outfit, had indicated that it might downgrade U.S. government securities because the odds of Congress and the Administration agreeing to a long term, deficit-reduction plan are not looking particularly good right now.

Just a day earlier, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, speaking about the related issue of raising the debt ceiling, warned that political game playing would have dire consequences. As he put it bluntly to This Week’s host Christiane Amanpour on ABC, “…we know the risk [of failure to act] would be catastrophic.” S&P, by its announcement Monday, added a bold exclamation point to Mr. Geithner’s warning.

Now to the other universe: Once home Monday evening, I flipped on Hardball (on MSNBC) to watch my old friend and former colleague, Chris Mathews, and to get his take on the day’s political news. The first segment of the show was about Donald Trump’s  possible presidential candidacy.  Not surprisingly, a significant portion of the discussion was devoted to “The Donald’s” apparently new-found allegiance with the “Birthers”, and their wacky conspiracy theories about President Obama.

[By the way, if you have a need to get either really agitated or really depressed, think about watching and listening to Donald Trump every day for the next year or so. We’ll find ourselves longing for the good old days of Ron Paul, Mike Gravel Dennis Kucinich, and even Ross Perot!].

So here we have the two universes: One in which truly vital—even historic— issues are involved, a debate the outcome of which will affect all of us, and succeeding generations, in fundamental ways. In the other universe we have a carnival side show, a P.T. Barnum extravaganza that at some basic level makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s just plain crazy—there is no other word for it.

But, and here’s the rub: Right now more people—voters— appear to be paying attention to Donald Trump and his outrageously stupid and irresponsible claims then are paying attention to the debate over the national debt. That’s even crazier.

You Read it First at FrumForum

April 4th, 2011 at 12:41 pm 30 Comments

Over at the Huffington Post, blogger Asher Smith wonders what would happen at the GOP debate if the candidates are asked whether or not they are “birthers”:

But even if his utterances lack sense, they still create noise — and waves. What happens if 2012 GOP hopefuls are asked to raise their hands if they have any doubts about Obama’s birthplace?

Much like 2007′s evolution query, there’s a greater potential for backlash for candidates providing the “correct” answer. Recent polling suggests that the majority of GOP primary voters doubt Obama’s natural-born status. As of now, conservatives lack a single candidate to coalesce around — or uniformly oppose. If a candidate without established right-wing bona fides, however, were to be perceived as dismissing a movement that represents a significant cross-section of the Republican Party, how would that affect their campaign? Haley Barbour has a long enough record to potentially get away with shunning the birthers, but what about Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty? And if there is a candidate willing to take a lonely stand on the issue, how would that affect donations from the Party base? Michele Bachmann, already raising more money than Romney in the first quarter of 2011, has demonstrated the disproportionate role true believers can have on the financial landscape.

FrumForum first discussed this proposal a week ago:

When the first Republican presidential debate gets held, there is one question that should be asked by the moderator to perform preliminary screening on the candidates to separate the sane from the cynical and crazy:

‘Raise your hand if you have any doubts that President Obama was born in the United States.’

Tim Pawlenty would not raise his hand.

Donald Trump would raise his hand.

Mike Huckabee should be able to keep his hand down, but he might not be able to contain himself if he starts talking about Obama’s adolescence.

Michele Bachmann will have to raise her hand or else some of her recent staff hires might defect.

Newt Gingrich will be torn. He has shown he can be cynical before, but is he willing to go the full nine yards and say that Obama’s ‘Kenyan, anti-colonial’ mindset comes from being born in Kenya?

If the first debate is held in May then by asking the question as early as possible, you clear the air so that the issue is dealt with and everyone can move on to serious questions.

You read it first on FrumForum!

Trump’s Birther Obsession

David Frum March 28th, 2011 at 2:46 pm 158 Comments

Question to discuss: Is Donald Trump crazy? Or does he just hold a very, troche very, very low opinion of the Republican primary voter?