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Tilting at Windmills

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February 14, 2011

BIRTHER NONSENSE SPREADING IN STATE CAPITALS.... House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn't want to talk about it. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) doesn't want to talk about it. But their Republican allies in state legislature don't mind talking about it at all.

The opening of 2011 state legislative sessions has been accompanied by a spate of birther-related bills, the clearest indication yet that the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's place of birth will continue to simmer throughout his reelection campaign.

Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced bills requiring presidential candidates to provide some form of proof that they are natural-born citizens, a ballot qualification rule designed to address widespread rumors on the right that Obama was not born in the United States.

This is more than just annoyance about idiotic jokes at CPAC, this is about 10 legislatures advancing actual legislation in response to insane conspiracy theories.

Adam Serwer had a smart item the other explaining the "post-birtherism" phase of Republican thought: "Since the Republican base has long seemed impossible to sway from clinging to certain symbolic beliefs in the face of verifiable facts, conservatives have adapted to birtherism by making a joke out of it.... But by making jokes about it, conservative political figures manage to avoid taking a position one way or the other. They mollify the birther elements of the Republican base who simply can't accept the legitimacy of a black man in the White House by signaling agreement with them, while allowing Republicans averse to conspiracy theorizing to dismiss it all as a jest."

And while that's certainly true, let's not forget that in nearly a dozen state capitals, Republicans haven't quite gotten to the "post-birtherism" phase, because they're still stuck in the actual birtherism phase.

Also note, Dave Weigel explained recently that some of the GOP birther bills in state legislatures go even further than demanding proof of birth in the United States, and actually target Barack Obama specifically, removing any pretense of larger principles of transparency and accountability.

Congressional Republican leaders don't want to "tell people what to think," but would they at least be willing to characterize these crazy state efforts as ridiculous?

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

I'm OK with all of this 'birther' stuff if they also investigate whether John "Orange Julius" Boehner was born in "Tan"zania.

The really funny, but stupid, thing about all of this is that EVERY state in the union would have accepted Obama's birth certificate as legitimate.

The real question is, should every state have accepted John McCain's, who was born in Panama?
And yes, of course I would, and so did they.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner and company have made their deal with the devil and the bill is coming due. The Republicans have made their philosophy fact-free and independent of an objective reality. Thus you get people who will cross the line and start demanding proof where none will be accepted. The delusion will be fed. Before you know JB, they are going to come after you.

Journalists should start asking McConnell, Ryan, Boehner and Cantor just exactly when they stopped beating their wives and using cocaine. And when they deny it, should reply "Well, I hear you saying you have stopped, but I can't tell the people what to believe." Maybe then they would get it. Maybe the journalists too.

And, why yes, I do believe in the Easter Bunny.

Posted by: Darsan54 on February 14, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

One word:

Pathetic.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on February 14, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Now that's some job creation!

Or maybe the Reps can eliminate the EPA and Education Dept, and create a NEW department regarding Birthers, and other wingnut theories (UN Black Helicopters, floridation of water, Roswell, etc.) The Department of Wing Nuts.

Posted by: mike reilly on February 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

So, where's Mitt Romney on these bills? As I recall, his dad ran for President, and he wasn't born in the United States.

Posted by: David in Ny on February 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

"House Speaker John Boehner (R-Va.)" he is from Ohio isn't he?

Posted by: jdinsd on February 14, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The GP is a big tent party so it's no surprise that it includes people convinced that BHO is a Kenyan, and those who aren't yet convinced.

Posted by: Al on February 14, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

[Y]ou get people who will cross the line and start demanding proof where none will be accepted

Just like birther queen Orly Taitz. In one interview she said that even if Obama were to provide the "long form" birth certificate, she would still want him to resign. Because even absolute proof of citizenship doesn't solve their real problem with Obama (and we all what that is).

Posted by: Doctor Whom on February 14, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it about 6 years ago that the GOP was talking about amending the Constitution to allow foreign-born US citizens to run because they were thinking of nominating Ahnold?

Posted by: Tim H on February 14, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, please! This is just another way to say the "N" Word.

Posted by: DAY on February 14, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

To quote Tom Lehrer: "The outpatients are out in force."

Posted by: martin on February 14, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

1/3 of KIDS in Arizona live in poverty, millions of people are unemployed, and tens of millions of people do not have health insurance. Meanwhile the Republicans are wasting time passing bills trying to prove President Obama was not born in the US,

Talk about messed up priorities.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on February 14, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Fox Nooze Beck Limbagh Hannity et al for a successful campaign in the pledge to "Dumb Down America" Fully 30% of the population have been convinced to give up critical reasoned thinking. The efforts to divert the masses with the big lie have done wonders for their mission to return the once great Democracy into a feudal state of rulers with money and groveling masses.

Posted by: John R on February 14, 2011 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Black black blackity black black.

Posted by: psychobroad on February 14, 2011 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

"But by making jokes about it, conservative political figures manage to avoid taking a position one way or the other. They mollify the birther elements of the Republican base who simply can't accept the legitimacy of a black man in the White House by signaling agreement with them, while allowing Republicans averse to conspiracy theorizing to dismiss it all as a jest."

Beyond birtherism, this is a good part of Limbaugh's schtick as well, and a habit among my conservative acquaintances, whatever the topic.

Some folks seem to think that "I was joking" and "I am an entertainer" preclude other categories of discourse. No, you can work on multiple levels. A related problem: when "I am entitled to my opinion" (as Boehner states the birthers are) conflicts with being fundamentally mistaken on some point. You are, in some sense, entitled to believe the world is flat, or to make "jokes" to that effect. But nobody owes you any respect for it. Our conservatives desperately want a world in which nobody contradicts them.

Posted by: CRA on February 14, 2011 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Well ... they could say, it isn't about whether Obama was really a citizen (and what about Canal-Zone baby McCain?) but to prevent "such things" from being an issue in the future. But it does draw attention to Obama now, so the "kill two birds ..." ...

Posted by: neil b on February 14, 2011 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

If this presages the Christine O'Donnellization of the Republican Party, then by all means go for it, I say. We all know how that turned out.

Posted by: Rasputin22 on February 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of birthers, did orly ever pay the penalty assessed by the judge?

Posted by: CDW on February 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Administration, Obama's campaign committee and the Democrats need to start taking this very seriously. These state initiatives are designed to keep Obama off the ballot; under most of these bills, a ruling has to be made as to the sufficiency of documentation, and that ruling will be in the hands of Republican state officials. Unfortunately, they can't be relied on to play fair on this.

Democrats need to mount a strong, effective campaign accusing the supporters of these bills of being anti-democratic and attempting to deny voters the right to make a choice in 2012.

Until now, this has been a subject for ridicule, but no longer.

Posted by: DRF on February 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Heads up, Steve -- Boehner's from Ohio.

Posted by: beejeez on February 14, 2011 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I predict that one of the southern states will vote to nullify Obama's birth certificate.

And threaten to secede if their nullification isn't respected.

Posted by: Bokonon on February 14, 2011 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's bad enough we have Cantor, please don't blame Virginia for Boehner as well. He's from Ohio, thanks.

Posted by: Jon on February 14, 2011 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think the process of joking about Obama not being born here is part of the process of simply accepting it as fact. And they laugh at it, but what it means is "Yeah, he wasn't born here, but we lost that fight, so now we're just laughing about it and moving on."

Posted by: Rick Massimo on February 14, 2011 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's campaign committee and the Democrats need to start taking this very seriously.......Until now, this has been a subject for ridicule, but no longer.-DRF

Why bother?

Without even knowing the 11 states specifically in play, I can all but guarantee all of them are the deepest shade of red anyway.

This is about shiny objects for people who are easily distracted with shiny things.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on February 14, 2011 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

As ludicrous as the birthers are, they don't deserve the cheap shot in this column about being unwilling to accept the legitimacy of a black man in the White House. Birtherism began during the election campaign; conversely, no one ever challenged the domestic U.S. birth of Jesse Jackson in the 1980s or Colin Powell in the 90s. What's different about Obama is three things: 1) he has a weird name, 2) he was born and raised outside of the continental U.S. (a statement everyone, either birther or sane, can agree on), and 3) his father was not even an immigrant, let alone a citizen. And, as to the final point, here's a thought for you: if the Obama parents' marriage had worked, the family would have relocated to Kenya, Obama would have grown up Kenyan, and today Hillary would be our president; in case of a Clinton restoration, the crazies would be equally out in force - why, you could probably book yourself a guided tour of the very one bedroom apartment in Crystal City, Va., where Vince Foster was murdered!

Posted by: bilben on February 14, 2011 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bilben, neither Jackson nor Powell ever got far enough to be seriously considered the front-runner. Birtherism really got started when Obama was seen as a serious contender for the white house.

At the base of all the spurious/non-spurious detail is the fact that many in the republican base can't accept what the leadership of a black man means about their place in American society.

Posted by: longde on February 14, 2011 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

These bills seems patently unconstitutional. The full faith and credit clause requires all states to accept whatever Hawaii or any other state offers as a birth certificate -- or anything else.

Posted by: Edward Furey on February 14, 2011 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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