The Birther Disgrace

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

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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.


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349 Comments so far ↓

  • anniemargret

    Emmett. I have an idea. There are a lot of older folks now in this nation (thankfully my mother who is 87 is a proud Obama voter and Democrat), who were frightened by change. Their generation was being ousted by the newcomers. The immigrants from western Europe (most of their generation) is now being joined by the new wave of minorities to positions of power.

    Their generation was used to whites being in power. Some of this threatens them, thinking – erroneously of course – that somehow it will play out in hurting their lifestyle. But their stupidity (sorry) is apparent. They don’t have the discipline to ferret out the truth for themselves, so Fox News does it for them, playing up the cultural/racial resentment and fear.

    Many of them have no idea how to use the ‘Net to seek out information and the truth, or at least, gain to understand both sides of an issue. They rely on local news or Fox…

    I am sorry to say that many older folks in this nation are not doing their civic job as informed citizens…which is to become aware of the issues, and talk about them rationally and intelligently. The GOP took advantage of their naivete and their ignorance…and ran with it.

    That pretty much sums it up, I think.

    • Emmett Moore

      Thank you for the thoughtful reply AnnieMargret. In spite of the crazy talk I hear coming from Republicans, I am trying to understand their point of view. I even went to the book store and bought The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. My mother swore that I must read this book to understand how politicians want to dominate our lives. When I finished this 1000+ page book (enjoyed it!), I then went back to my mother to speak with her and share thoughts. As it turns out, she has never read any books by Ayn Rand.

  • anniemargret

    gramps. Hilarious photo! No man who has to go to this much trouble just to comb his hair, has no business near the nuclear codes! The ‘hair plan’ looks like complex instructions on how to put a blender together.

  • jakester

    The rest of the world thinks we are stupid arseheads thanks to these birthers and the deep thinkers here trying to rationalize their crap.

  • Gramps

    You gurrls and guyes missed this…

    Gramps // Apr 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    There is method to his madness…

    Only yer hunky hair dresser will know…!
    Reply

    Gramps // Apr 27, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Just as aside…by my observation…”The Donald” does employ a tanning bed, to give him that “youthful glow” except around his eyes…that are totally “whimpy white”…

    Take yer “beer goggles” off Donny…
    Hugs, dah Gramps…

    Yer “handler’s”… shudah caught that Donny…
    Hugs…

    I’m always available for political consultation…
    Really “white eyes”…!

    Damn …I’m always late to the party…
    Is there any beer left…?

  • SteveT

    My mom’s 81. She voted Republican all her life until my dad died in 1992. She said later that she realized that Republicans hate women, and she’d always made a mistake voting for them. She hated, hated, hated George W. Bush because he loves war so much. “You can see it in his eyes”, she said. She didn’t like McCain either (another war lover) but she wasn’t ready to vote for a black man, so she sat 2008 out.

    However now she does like Obama because of his daughters. “You can tell he’s a good father because they are such nice girls” She hates Trump. “All those affairs and with such stupid women”
    She however thinks that The Apprentice is a show where actual people lose their actual jobs, so she is a bit confused. Also: “When a man is President we should respect him whether we voted for him or not.”

    She would never write a letter to the editor, she thinks that unseemly. Of course, she also won’t pay more than $7 for a meal, or $20 for an article of clothing so…

    My mom lives in suburban Ohio, both parties would love her vote in 2012 and I bet there’s a lot more like her.

    • Gramps

      I’m three quarters of a century olde…and I’m on the same page as yer dear Mom…
      You jmshendricks will eventually become cognizant…
      Hugs, olde soldier sends…!

  • jmshendricks

    What’s a disgrace is calling people racist for asking a simple and completely legitimate question. But it’s par for Frum.

    The question has been deflected in a variety of ways. The primary one has been the idea that Obama had already released his BC, and what the birthers were asking for was an obscure “long form” that never sees the light of day. In fact what was released was just a regular BC, the kind millions of people use every day to get licenses and passports. It’s a completely ordinary and innocuous document.

    The real point is that the left functions by the control of information. It decides what information is legitimate, and what that information is. To question either aspect of the information is completely illegitimate and beyond the pale. The establishment right accepts this limitation and functions within it.

    • MrsPolly

      . In fact what was released was just a regular BC, the kind millions of people use every day to get licenses and passports.

      My parents lost the birth certificate they were issued for me. Every BC I have ordered from the NY health department has been almost identical to the COLB Obama first released. My long form remains with the NYC Health Department, where it belongs. Nobody would question what the Dept of State accepted for my passport.

      Why should Obama have had to prove over and above what any of the other candidates proved? That should have been more than enough.

      How graceless the Right has been. How afraid of admitting wrong, and how small. David, if you ever read this far, perhaps it is time to stop fighting for “our” party. You’ve been excommunicated by Hannity, Limbaugh, and the clods who now control it.

    • SqueekyFromm

      Amen!!! I keep waiting for the sky to fall or something because the way the Obotski carried on you would have thought one of those Seals in Revelations was being broke or something.

      Now, the way they are busy calling us “racists”, I think they may have broke a few after all. The Seal of Ad Hominem Attacks” got busted clean open, and now everybody in earshot is a racist for making The One cough it up. The Seal of Histrionics must have had the bottle top knocked off, because the MSNBC crew is busy wetting themselves on air. I think whats his name O’Donnell actually had to change his britches after hollering at Dr. Taitz.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      • Gramps

        Is it gonna happen on May 15…
        Number One…?

        Oh and Dr.Taitz… was she employing her very best “keggel exercises”…
        Number two…?

      • politicalfan

        Disagree with his policies but give me a break.

        Let’s just pretend that racism is hiding under a rock. Sure.

        12 birther (state) bills? Let’s see if they drop the bills and move forward. Sad times.

        • medinnus

          Amen. I’m not an Obama supporter as such, but the GOP has to give me a better alternative.

          But the incredible stupidity of so-called Conservatives who hide their racism, or deny that the GOP has encouraged it, and promoted fear-mongering … /eyeroll They are doing more than Democrats to get Obama re-elected, as anyone with three brain cells to rub together can see it manifest.

          …hmmm…. three brain cells. That explains so many posters here, like Squeeky, pole-smoking Smeggy, the ever-intellectually incontinent Peeing Willy, and the badly-named nh”thinker”, who really does nothing of the kind. I guess two brain cells or below is the critical reasoning threshold for “brainless trolls”… *snickers*

    • Gramps

      Are you on the planing committee…
      JMS…?

    • Emmett Moore

      In my humble opinion, I believe that the birther rhetoric is racist. I am not mad at you for disagreeing with me. Can you say the same? This kind of reminds me when my 5 year old son stole some candy from the grocery store. In his opinion, and from his perspective, he didn’t steal anything. But with a firm hand I had to scold him. He cried and was upset. Eventually he figured out the stealing candy is wrong. Hopefully, you too will also realize that no other elected politician has ever had to produce a long form birth certificate. Holding Obama to a higher standard than any other politician has the distinct smell of Jim Crow.

      • Arms Merchant

        Wow, what a novel theory. Have you spoken to anyone about this?

        Well, of course, liberals smell Jim Crow everywhere. Mostly, they’re smelling themselves. The vast majority of Americans could give a shit if The Brilliant One were purple with green polka dots. He’s still a hateful, vindictive SOB.

    • Bagok

      Why is it a legitimate question? Obama released his legal birth certificate years ago. It should have ended there and then. No new information was released today, all information was already available. It was irrationally ignored. The left, center and moderate right will stop treating birthers like morons when they start acting rationally. JSM, you should use David as an example. Make reason and critical analysis tools to guide your beliefs, not the other way around.

      And thank you David for this article. Well written and to the point, it will probably fall on deaf ears.

    • emintey

      Sorry jmshendricks but you are absolutely wrong. The birth certificate that Obama showed two years ago is pretty much a standard birth certificate in most states. I have no idea what state you are in but I am not from Hawaii and mine looks pretty much the same as Obama’s. I dare you, send away for a birth certificate, that is what you will get. It is legal proof of citizenship and place of birth. Too much kool aid clouds the brain.

      Yes, “long forms” ARE obscure and not available at all in some states, try entering the 21st century. Hawaii as stated by the head of the health dept. has only had a request for one in the last year and that was by a birther, of course she may be lying about that too, oy vey ;)

  • lougle

    All of those carnival barkers want a place in history along side a President who made history from a society who were fed-up of the 8 years of free government for the rich with no regulation and a people who had enough of the Halliburton Cheney Greed machine in Iraq, dirty tricks in the re- financial scamdals as we were getting screwed at the pumps as the trickle down greed hit us on the grocers shelf’s as Americans were renewing passports by the millions in fear of a GOP win with 4 more years of Bush Maverick Style Politics. The only thing missing is a Cameo by Bush in support of the Birthers… wait, I bet the old guard had the FBI look into Obama for some dirt to help the GOP’s John McCain during the race to the White House… Obama would have came in 2nd if the (R) were not so FN greed driven, like a dine & dasher leaving U.S.,the Public, holding the check for a hand full of billionaires (like father like son). Well what a cheep shot by trumph & the birthers to stake a place in history along side of John Wilkes Booth for there verbal character assassination of a very good President in Barack Obama who’s just trying to bring back to life, a country that was near death. 12:56 Pacific Time ;)

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  • blogenfreude

    David – are you a complete idiot? Saint Ronnie gave his first major campaign speech in Philadelphia MI, where the civil rights workers were killed. But he didn’t talk about civil rights, he talked about ‘states rights’ – dog whistle for “Democrats will give your money to black people”. That was just another application of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Your party has always relied on the votes of racists, Birchers, and sociopaths to obtain power. Admit it.

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  • Primrose

    “and are supposed to question illegal orders and orders not coming from properly constituted authority.”

    So Arms Merchent, had an officer refused to go to Iraq because he felt that George W Bush wasn’t a legitimate president because of the Florida debacle would you be calling or a counting of the chads in retrospect?

    As for the natural born citizen bit, the long form verse short form argument is irrelevant for the simple reason that the founders would not have considered a doctor necessary to validate a birth, since few citizens would have had a doctor at their birth, at the time. Thus, they could not have intended these intricate paperwork hoops for qualification.

    You could argue that they let the states decide but since Hawaii officials have said it is good enough for them, then that should be the end of it.

    Additionally, we have had two presidents who have had foreign-born fathers, Chester Arthur and according to Mr. Frum, Hoover. That is a precedent and the court usually defers to precedent. It is unlikely they would overturn an election (no small act) for this “lack of clarity”.

    Thus, your officer could not expect that the Obama would be found to be an illegitimate authority (as for example someone taking over by coup). Thus, he was not following military code, but breaking the chain of command.

    One should oppose that only in very pressing, ethical issues, not an unsettled quibble about what “natural born citizen” means.

    As for all of you who say being birther doesn’t mean you’re racist, get some mirrors.

    Which leads me to Mr. Frum. I think with this article we can say that Mr. Frum has taken a clear and unequivocal stand against the racism directed toward Mr. Obama. That Mr. Frum does it despite disagreeing with Mr. Obama, (and his own party’s weakness on this issue) says fine things about his integrity. So well, done sir. Well done.

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  • ottovbvs

    What’s most amazing here is that this nonsense has produced one of the longer threads in FF history. At bottom the birther controversy is using racism which Frum tacitly acknowledges is fairly widespread in the GOP but then we knew that from all these polls not to mention the nativism that lies at the heart of so much anti immigrant sentiment. The simple fact is the GOP in it’s attitudes to ethnicity looks very like the Southern Democratic party did before the sixties. Probably not awfully suprising since it’s essentially (in the South at least) the same demographic group.

  • pnumi2

    otto

    Alas, there are no rivers deep enough or swift to clean the manure out of the Republican Party, as Heracles cleansed the the Augean stables. Soon the the toxic stench will kill us all.

  • jdmeth

    As the first president since Andrew Jackson who’s father was not born in America, he should have made available all documents pertaining to his birthplace. I do not believe anyone as smart as he is supposed to be did not anticipate this controversy. As to why he waited three years to produce a full birth certificate shows a denial of his unique situation. Someone who acts like he is hiding something might actually be hiding something.

  • John Q

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

    Oh, yeah? Go look here:
    http://mediamatters.org/research/201104280021

  • JamesD

    The folks on the left are the true racists and it is dishonest to make the false claim that if one questions Obama’s birth certificate they must be a racist.

    Were the folks and media that relentlessly went after GWB about his National Guard service racist in nature?

    Were the folks and media that went after Kerry about his “SwiftBoat” service racists?

    Nah.

    Same thing here. You have a president whose father was not a US citizen, a grandmother that said he was born in Kenya and the intentional non disclosure of many aspects of his past history which leads people to ask questions.

    I do 100% agree that it’s the folks on the right that do not like Obama’s policies that do the most questioning about the place of birth for Obama – just like it was the folks on the left (Dan Rather) that relentlessly went after GWB regarding his service records.

    Quit shouting racism when it is not really there.

  • rbottoms

    Quit shouting racism when it is not really there.

    I’m not shouting. I am quietly and distinctly saying fuck the GOP and everyone in it who is a slimeball, shitbag, racist birther asshole.

    Now we’re going to do our best to dismantle Donald Trump’s media empire and make it impossible for NBC or any other media outlet to put his pig face countenance on television an at the same time receive a dime of advertiser dollars.

    There is no reasoned debate to be had any more that talking things out with David Duke would make a fucking bit of difference. He and all the rest of the so-called people who are unable to accept that a black man named Barrack Obama is president can go fuck themselves.

    Not a single all-caps word to be found.

    BTW, If you’re wondering why would you use such vile language in a debate about politics? Because it’s not a debate, it’s Klansmen in another guise and I wouldn’t bother reasoning with a David Duke style dickhead either. Scorn and ridicule of your racist ideas is all you’ll get.