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Tilting at Windmills

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August 4, 2010

ZOMBIE NONSENSE STILL TOUGH TO KILL.... Sigh.

It's surely not what the leader of the free world wants for his birthday. But, for a stubborn group of Americans, conspiracy theories about President Obama's birthplace are the gifts that keep on giving. [...]

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, more than a quarter of the public have doubts about Obama's citizenship, with 11 percent saying Obama was definitely not born in the United States and another 16 percent saying the president was probably not born in the country.

Broken down by party, 85% of Democrats believe the president was definitely or probably born in the U.S. Among independents, the number is 68%. For Republicans, only 57% believe reality, while 27% of rank-and-file GOP voters believe Obama was "probably" born elsewhere, and 14% of Republicans are convinced he was "definitely" not born here. In other words, a combined 41% of GOP voters are reasonably sure of something with no foundation in reality.

That's an awful lot of ignorance, generated entirely by a right-wing noise machine pushing a baseless, ridiculous conspiracy theory. As Rush Limbaugh told his minions yesterday, "They tell us August 4th is the birthday. We haven't seen any proof of that!"

Hilarious.

For what it's worth, the reason poll results like these don't force me into unreachable despair is that I'm not convinced those who are wrong necessarily understand the constitutional implications. For some of those who question the president's birthplace, it may not matter whether Obama is a natural-born citizen (reality) or a naturalized citizen (fiction). For all I know, some folks find the whole bogus idea charming: "Isn't America great? Someone can be born in another country, work hard, and eventually become president of the United States."

Still, the pervasive quality of the ignorance here is remarkable. Given how obvious reality is, and how many times this nonsense has been debunked, the "birthers" in Congress and the media have to be pretty pleased with themselves.

Steve Benen 3:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

25% of Americans believe a lot of stupid things. That's background noise.

It's nothing to be happy about, but it's not unexpected, either.

Posted by: Grumpy on August 4, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Still, the pervasive quality of the ignorance here is remarkable.......

**************

That one line summarizes the nature of your whole stupid country ....

Posted by: blue on August 4, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

And don't forget the 8% or so that one poll showed didn't realize that Hawaii was part of the US.

Posted by: johio on August 4, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Also remember that there likely are quite large fractions of the responders who:

-- Understand perfectly well that it's fiction but hate Obama anyway and want to give the most negative response,

-- Were confused or didn't care, and just picked some answer on some other basis, or

-- Were goofing on the pollster.

Posted by: bleh on August 4, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't that the same percentage that also thought that WMDs were found in Iraq? And that Iraq attacked us on 9/11? And that Obama is a secret Muslim Manchurian candidate? And think that Sarah Palin is brilliant? And that the Earth is flat?

Posted by: ckelly on August 4, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

And that approved of Bush/Cheney in 2008?

Posted by: ckelly on August 4, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

If someone asked me to prove I was a citizen, I gave them an original copy of my birth certificate and they told their friends it was a fake.

How could I prove them wrong.
How hard should I work to try?

They deny the provided proof, so... what's left?
Plausibly, no future president can enjoy 100% authenticity.

Is a so-called birth certificate more palatable if it's a Republican that holds it? What about a Democrat with a less swarthy complexion.

Just wondering what would serve as sufficient proof for the birthers. Carbon dating of the paper? No. It could be someone else's birth certificate bleached out and Obama's name printed on top.

Help me out here. I'm trying to penetrate the wall, but for every scrap of proof a common citizen would provide, I can cook up a way to doctor the evidence to create a fake if you're willing to be imaginative and disregard Occam's razor entirely.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on August 4, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

One of the most facinating studies I heard was that conservatives, when shown evidence that contradicts a firmly held belief were likely to believe in their previous views EVEN more.

To that end any piece of evidence shown to prove Obama is a citizen only makes a certain segment of the populace believe even more firmly that he was born in Kenya.

Posted by: Archon on August 4, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, how do we know Obama was born at all? Maybe he was hatched from an alien pod or something.

But seriously, if people could believe Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster in a lovers spat (as reported breathlessly on Rush's radio program), when Hillary was traveling Japan on the day he was found dead, they will believe anything!

Posted by: Sam Simple on August 4, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

i am getting really sick of the incredible ignorance of the american public. it's time to have an IQ test before allowing people to vote.

ask one simple question - do you think obama was born in the united states. if they say no, sorry they can't vote - they're too f**king stupid.

Posted by: just bill on August 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

It's just one of many useful tools to demonize anyone not Like Us- be it Obama, or a Jew, or a cripple, or; well, you get the idea.

Posted by: DAY on August 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

For all I know, some folks find the whole bogus idea charming: "Isn't America great? Someone can be born in another country, work hard, and eventually become president of the United States."

Arnold for President?

Posted by: TonyB on August 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

It sure is a good thing that breathing is an autonomic reflex, otherwise all these fools would forget to take a breath and be even more brain dead than they already are. And what of the 15% of Democrats that are left after the 85% believe Obama was born here in the US. What do those 15% believe?

Posted by: nodak on August 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

This is even more hilarious to those of us who remember the right-wing attempts to change the rules to enable a Schwarzenegger presidency. Golden days of yore! Remnants of the movement still exist it seems.

Leading the charge was one of those flint-eyed blondes now so prevalent on Fox News. . . was it Melanie Morgan?

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on August 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

They believe that tax cuts raise revenue, too. Republicans are into believing all sorts of stuff that isn't true. It's what they do.

I'm beginning to find it more amazing that people are still surprised by this.

Posted by: biggerbox on August 4, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

98% of the people I polled think that Pigboy Limpballs needs the little blue pill to have sex with Dominican boys on a nighty basis and only paid a woman to marry him so the inbred knuckledraggers who listen to him will believe he's actually interested in women. It's not that I care what the proud child molester does with his money and spare time, but it sure would be funny to see him have a heart attack while doing a little boy "Larry Craig" style in a public men's room.

Posted by: spit-dribbling 'mercan on August 4, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I really think that the Constitution should be changed (or at least clarified)- I agree with what the Republicans were pushing a few years ago and said so at the time.

I see more and more problems arising in the future because of the “natural born” phrase, which as far as I know has never been legally defined but is usually interpreted to mean born on U.S. soil or the equivalent. This is a relic of the 18th century which should be repealed. Any U.S. citizen of age and not a felon should be eligible to seek the Presidency. Why, for example, should Governor Jennifer Granholm be ineligible because she was born in Canada (her parents moved here when she was six). And yes, I even think the Governator should be free to run if he chooses.

We live in a world now in which not everyone is the product of a marriage between the high school football quarterback and the homecoming queen - Obama’s history is a prime example. If we don’t fix this, we are going to encounter case after case in the future where the birth history is unusual, and we will get bogged down in fights over obscure birth documents. What unnecessary baloney! Any U.S. citizen should be able to run. That’s the American way.

Posted by: Virginia on August 4, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

toowearyforoutrage - Did you know that a private investigator hired by Democrats went to Hawaii and found birth announcements from 1961 in two separate Honolulu newspapers, announcing Obama's birth? Even then, that was not enough to dissuade the "birthers"! So, your point is well-taken.

Posted by: Sam Simple on August 4, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”

~Mark Twain~

Posted by: islandgeek on August 4, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Proving" one is a natural-born citizen, as in the sense of proving anything within the rules of evidence is actually pretty tough, which is one of the reasons this whole goofy thing still has legs (well, that and the fact that a lot of people want it to be true.) I could prove my date and place of birth because my mother is still alive and has had pretty regular contact with me over the years, so she could testify as to the date and place of my birth-- and that the person she gave birth to is me, sitting in this chair avoiding work. But think about it: short of testimony like that, how do you "prove" it? Documentary "proof" of date and place of birth is what would normally be called hearsay, which is why the Federal Rules of Evidence, largely adopted by all other courts as well, have carved out exceptions to the hearsay rule for this sort of thing (rule 803.) To not have such an exception would make proving even the most mundane facts, such as birth records, geneology, date of marriage of deceased persons, etc tedious to say the least.

But because a legal convention is relied upon to prove date and place of birth, and those in a position to testify as to the accuracy of the legal "proof" of the President's natural-born citizenship are all dead, the birthers argument is that unkillable zombie.

Posted by: wihntr on August 4, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

"For what it's worth, the reason poll results like these don't force me into unreachable despair is that I'm not convinced those who are wrong necessarily understand the constitutional implications. For some of those who question the president's birthplace, it may not matter whether Obama is a natural-born citizen (reality) or a naturalized citizen (fiction). For all I know, some folks find the whole bogus idea charming: "Isn't America great? Someone can be born in another country, work hard, and eventually become president of the United States.""

I'd love to be wrong.

Boy, I really wish I could believe that there were any more than an insignificant number of such people among the birthers. I'm inclined to suspect that the opposite is true: most of the birthers have convinced themselves that Obama can't be American precisely because they are so completely and vehemently opposed to him. I'd venture to bet that there's a very high degree of overlap between those who are convinced Obama's secretly plotting to a) turn this into a Muslim country; b) turn this into a fascist country; c) turn this into a socialist country; or d) get even with whites (or all of the foregoing) and those who are birthers.

Posted by: retr2327 on August 4, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Recent analyses show that of the people surveyed,

26% did not whom from which country we gained our independence

only 57% knew that George Washington commanded the continental army

- Many friends from New Mexico have to explain to people that it is a state in the US

- In many polls, only about 50% of high school students can locate New York [the state] on a map correctly

So ... 25% don't think Obama is a citizen --- that is about where
the data would put it ...

Posted by: bigtuna on August 4, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I've pretty much come to terms with the notion that 25-30% of Americans can't think their way out of a paper bag.

Posted by: Jon on August 4, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

@Archon: I heard a story about that study on NPR a couple of weeks back. What I found most interesting about the story is that they lead off by reporting that John McCain and Jan Brewer repeatedly made statements about immigration which are demonstrably false.

I found it interesting because I doubt NPR would report those same facts about McCain and Brewer in a straight reporting piece. NPR, like the rest of the media, simply report "Brewer insists illegal immigrants are decapitating Americans; Democrats disagree".

I have a theory that this pervasive 'he said/she said' reporting facilitates the phenomenon of people reacting to facts by clinging to their beliefs ever more strongly. News reporting presents facts as opinions, therefore people feel free to hold onto their incorrect beliefs in the face of facts which contradict them.

On the other hand, if the media would regularly call out Republican (and Democratic) lies as lies, people might be more reluctant to ignore facts.

Posted by: David Bailey on August 4, 2010 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

This is eerie - check out the lexicon at balloon-juice.com and the entry on `crazification factor.' The number 27 just keeps appearing...

Posted by: RJ on August 5, 2010 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

I would bet a large box of money that the percentage of people who believe Obama was born in Kenya tracks very closely with those who believe that Adam and Eve had dinosaurs for company in the Garden of Eden about 5,000 years ago.

Posted by: bluestatedon on August 5, 2010 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

But it was in the Globe newspaper in my grocery store on the racks near the checkout counter that said Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and they have proof! They wouldn't lie about this, wouuld they?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on August 5, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Sam Simple,
Yes, I knew of the newspaper ads.

...and just as we suspected, the Obama syndicate had contacts at the papers that ran the ad even though Obama was born in Kenya.


Naturally, if they can dismiss such proof they are at the level of the moon landing deniers.

wihntr's observation that eyewitness testimony is good enough for criminal proceedings is enough to make one giggle like a schoolgirl. Obama's mom swears she was in Hawaii when she gave birth to him. Like that would have ANY pull with the Birthers.

If this WERE a trial, how many birthers do you suppose would raise their hands if a judge asked the jury pool if anyone felt they could not review the evidence in an unbiased fashion.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on August 6, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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