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.

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?