YA RLY!

So today we learned that Barack Obama was, in fact, born in Hawai’i, just like he always said he was.

Okay, “we” is kind of misleading. Most of us already knew Obama was born in Hawai’i, because, you know, he released a Certificate of Live Birth back in 2008, and also, because he said he was, and his grandparents said he was, and there was that birth announcement, and he had a passport, and because (and this is the key point) we’re not racists who assume that Obama can’t be an American because he isn’t white.

But still, a sizable percentage of Republicans had managed to convince themselves that Obama was not an American. Indeed, the issue is arguably the only reason anyone takes Donald Trump even sort of seriously as a presidential candidate. So you’d expect today’s release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate to be the impetus for some soul-searching among the right, as well as some frank admissions that this was a stupid thing to even flirt with.

I know, right? That one always kills me too. No, seriously, it was time for the birthers to circle the wagons, and time for the right to sort of mutter, “Uh…did something happen today?”

The birthers don’t surprise me, of course. You’re not going to invest that kind of time and energy into a good conspiracy theory only to let a little thing like airtight proof mess up your groove. And so it’s no shock that Orly Taitz, the Pope of the Birther Movement, is skeptical. Yes, skeptical!

First, let’s look at that birth certificate. It says Obama’s dad was “African,” just because he was from Africa. Red flag! Red flag!

“Look, I applaud this release. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” so-called “birther queen” Orly Taitz told me in one of her many media interviews this morning. “I credit Donald Trump in pushing this issue.”

But she still has her suspicions. Specifically, Taitz thinks that the birth certificate should peg Obama’s race as “Negro” and not “African.”

“In those years … when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African’,” Taitz says. “In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro’.”

Yes, Orly is basing her argument on the fact that Obama’s birth certificate isn’t racist. But! He also might be using a stolen social security number!

In an interview with Washington Wire,  she now says that Mr. Obama once used a Social Security number that was not assigned to him. Oh also, she claims he graduated from Columbia University in nine months, not two years, as he claims.

Yes, because we all know that if one was able to get a degree in nine months, that would be something one wouldn’t brag about.

Needless to say, Taitz is just the tip of the iceberg; there is literally no evidence that can convince the fringe right that a black man Obama was born in America.

But surely the Republican Party mainstream would rise to the occasion, right? I mean, they’re actually running the House. They’d take the opportunity to declare themselves satisfied, right?

Yeah, right:

This morning I noted that Obama’s release of his long form birth certificate gives leading conservatives and Republicans an opportunity to show a bit of leadership. They could, if they so chose, take this moment to declare, forcefully and unequivocally, that it’s time the birthers among them dropped this talk once and for all.

They could, if they so chose, place the blame for this situation — which is a profound embarrassment to the country — where it belongs: Not on Obama, but on those who continue to traffic in the slander that the President wasn’t born in the United States. With state legislatures currently advancing birther bills, and with others still insisting that Obama’s long form certificate doesn’t settle the issue, they could state clearly that it’s time for the country to move past this debate once and for all — that it’s simply unacceptable to continue trying to humiliate and delegitimize the President in this manner.

The early returns are not encouraging.

Yes, from Sarah Palin, who credits Donald Trump with “forc[ing] the issue;” to the RNC, which calls his birth certificate release a “distraction” (as opposed to birtherism); to Newt Gingrich, who says, “All I would say is, why did it take so long? The whole thing is strange;” Republicans have lined up to take potshots at Obama for responding to criticism from Republican crackpots.

Look, I can understand that some people don’t like Obama. But facts are facts. And the fact is that Obama was born in Hawai’i in 1961. This has been proven and proven and proven again. Indeed, I now have more proof of Obama’s birth in my possession than I have of my daughter’s, and I was in the hospital when my daughter was born.

At this point, anyone trafficking in any of the Obama conspiracies — from birtherism to DreamsFromMyFatherism to whateverism — should be mocked and ridiculed like the fringe conspiracists they are. And if the GOP wishes to nominate a fringe conspiracist for president, the press has an obligation, not to ask whether the conspiracy might be true, but to ask what kind of party throws its lot in with conspiracy and racism.

This entry posted in Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

37 Responses to YA RLY!

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    As everyone sane already knew, Obama was born in Hawaii. I’m glad he finally released the most-official form; sorry that he felt he had to, since other candidates didn’t have to reach the same bar.

    Now I think it’s time for him to do what he should have done four years ago, which is to release his academic records and performance information, a bar which other presidential candidates ARE expected to reach, and which Obama was given a pass on.

  2. Pingback: Political Byline » Blog Archive » Confirmed: Orly Taitz is a moronic screwball

  3. 2
    Sundown says:

    And the goalposts move once again!

  4. 3
    mythago says:

    Sorry, Robert, but you only get one wingnut-document-demand per administration.

  5. 4
    Robert says:

    I’m not making any demands. Just noting that most presidential candidates release their academic performances. If George W. Bush was willing to let reporters look at his transcripts, why isn’t Obama?

  6. 5
    chingona says:

    If it turned out he got As, would you vote for him?

  7. 6
    RonF says:

    Like I figured, he was born in America. I do support the bills in the various State legislatures requiring that candidates disclose things like birth certificates to show that they’re qualified for the offices they’re running for. Then we won’t have this again. Of course, I support bills in the various State legislatures requiring that people prove they’re qualified to be voters as well.

    Things like academic records have been disclosed by Presidential candidates for some time now, so that’s not a crackpot demand, it’s asking President Obama to do the same thing other candidates have done. Or is he too far above the little people to bother with things like that? Accountability to the voters is not the strong point of Chicago politicians, and this fits the mold.

    and because (and this is the key point) we’re not racists who assume that Obama can’t be an American because he isn’t white.

    Just can’t resist playing the race card, eh? It’s like a reflex. Or maybe it’s an obsession. Why actually address a question when you can slough off answering it by attacking the questioner? The more meritless the better, it seems.

  8. 7
    MisterMephisto says:

    RonF said:

    Just can’t resist playing the race card, eh? It’s like a reflex. Or maybe it’s an obsession. Why actually address a question when you can slough off answering it by attacking the questioner? The more meritless the better, it seems.

    Ron, the only reason that this has come up is because Obama isn’t white. You can try to dress it up as much as you want, pretending that it’s motivated by a “true dedication to ensuring that only citizens get to be president”. And maybe in your minority case, it’s true.

    But it’s clearly not the motivation of the majority of the birthers and Tea-Partiers, as they’re the same folks repeatedly using racist imagery to decry his presidency rather than actual rhetoric. If his name had been John Smith and his skin tone significantly lighter, he would have never been asked about his birth certificate in the first place.

    Even if it really is some kind of lapse in the enactment of the law that this hasn’t been better scrutinized in the past, it’s a lapse that’s only being paid attention to now and over-scrutinized to such a degree because he’s black. And that is racist.

  9. 8
    B. Adu says:

    Did anyone read this. It makes the argument that its not so much Obama’s blackness directly, but his origins.

    It’s like what certain people damn American black people for is what makes them American.

    Intriguing.

  10. 9
    Ampersand says:

    The point is that in professional life black people are often subject to random, arbitrary standards on the basis of race, and it’s profoundly disheartening to watch this happen to the first black person to become president of the United States, because it implies that there’s really no end to it, regardless of one’s personal talent or the heights one manages to achieve.

  11. 10
    Robert says:

    If it turned out he got As, would you vote for him?

    Nope. But I’m not voting for him under any conceivable circumstance. I guess maybe instead of Kang/Kodos, but they’d have to show me a birth certificate first.

    If his name had been John Smith and his skin tone significantly lighter, he would have never been asked about his birth certificate in the first place.

    So why was the issue raised for John McCain, and Barry Goldwater, and George Romney? (And going back a little bit, for Chester A. Arthur.)

    So the “zomg racism you wouldn’t do this for a white guy” argument is non-operative, and historically ignorant. It’s been done for white guys. McCain’s eligibility was a whole huge hairy deal.

    Now, are people who are racist using Obama’s bad early handling of this issue as a club with which to beat him? Sure. But big whoop; if they weren’t hollering about the birth certificate they’d be hollering about something else. The underlying question about eligibility for office is still quite valid even though objectionable people also raise it; we can talk about highway policy as a legitimate interest even though Hitler was a huge fan of highways.

  12. 11
    chingona says:

    A majority of American voters chose him for president without knowing his grades. Now that we”ll have four years to judge him on, I can’t think of anything less relevant than his grades. Is anyone going to change their mind about him based on his college grades? For those who already didn’t like Bush, his Cs just reinforced their dim view of him, but it didn’t stop him from being elected.

    Releasing the grades is convention. Obama ignored it, and nothing happened. No one is bound to comply with convention.

    As ridiculous as the birther thing is, at least it revolved around his actual eligibility for the office. Complaining that he didn’t release his grades is like complaining that he won the nomination by relying on caucuses.

    And RonF, this is so obviously and blatantly racial that you make yourself ridiculous by trying to call out Jeff. Maybe you think in your mind that there is no racial issue for you, but I challenge you to offer any rational reason that people became so obsessed around Obama’s birth, when this had never been an issue for any other candidate in the history of our nation. In a presidential election when his opponent actually wasn’t born in the United States, no less.

  13. 12
    chingona says:

    So why was the issue raised for John McCain, and Barry Goldwater, and George Romney?

    The question with all of them was what constitutes “natural-born.” No one suggested they fabricated their birth story. And do you really think that if John McCain had won, we’d still be debating it at this level three years into his term?

    If Obama had been born abroad, to an American citizen mother, you could have a similar discussion. He might very well still be eligible.

    The birther issue is well beyond that.

  14. 13
    Robert says:

    You left out Chester A. Arthur, and it was indeed suggested that he fabricated his birth story.

  15. Here is the link to the part of Wikipedia’s article about Chester A. Arthur that refers to questions about his birth. Leave aside for the missing citations and assume that the Wikipedia account is accurate. I am wondering, given the way the Irish were seen in the late 19th and early 20th century in this country if the questioning of Arthur’s birth is not a parallel to Obama’s, even in terms of its racial component, rather than an example of how the same question about origins has been asked even about white presidents.

  16. 15
    chingona says:

    Thanks, Richard. I was just coming back here from Wikipedia and was thinking the same thing.

    ETA: In particular, that his father was foreign.

  17. 16
    Mandolin says:

    B.Adu:

    Wow, thanks for linking that.

  18. 17
    Robert says:

    That would seem to be an argument that it’s about class and position in society, then, Richard, and has nothing whatsoever to do with race. That’s an argument that has much more resonance, and which also brings in Bill Clinton who was attacked as an illegitimate president in ways that echo the dislike of Obama. Also Palin to some extent.

  19. 18
    MisterMephisto says:

    Robert said:

    That would seem to be an argument that it’s about class and position in society, then, Richard, and has nothing whatsoever to do with race. That’s an argument that has much more resonance, and which also brings in Bill Clinton who was attacked as an illegitimate president in ways that echo the dislike of Obama. Also Palin to some extent.

    So, because the one instance in the past where it was taken at all seriously was about a guy who was white, but was considered second-class because he was Irish, you’re suggesting that the racism issue is a non-starter?

    Seriously. We’re looking at the two times when “the president may not be a citizen” was raised as a real and heavily scrutinized issue, and both were motivated by the ethnic history of the man involved. And you’re trying to claim that somehow neither one could possibly be a racism issue?

    I admit. I’m boggled by your (non-)logic.

  20. 19
    Rainicorn says:

    I guess it’s largely the loathsome Donald Trump’s fault that Obama had to do this, but really, who was he hoping to convince? Who did he think would be satisfied? The most amateur of internauts and trollologists could have told him NOT TO FEED THE DANG TROLLS.

  21. 20
    Robert says:

    The bias against the Irish was not ethnically-based, it was class. The early generation of Irish immigrants were not particularly discriminated against (any more than any wave of newcomers) because they were an upper- and middle-class wave. It was when the poor Irish came in large numbers that the distinction between “lace” and “shanty” Irish emerged, with significant discrimination against the latter.

    “Both were motivated by the ethnic history of the man involved” is a conclusion, not a supporting fact. The evidence for class bias seems significantly stronger – note that eligibility issues surrounding rich white Americans did not gain traction, while eligibility issues surrounding poorish white Americans (and one poorish black American) have. We observe considerable resentment against politicians like Bill Clinton (and note the severe opprobrium directed against him for going to *Oxford* and subverting the ‘place’ assigned to his class) and Sarah Palin, both of whose Constitutional eligibility was simply factually unassailable and who instead faced attack on other facets of eligibility (loyalty to America in Clinton’s case, loyalty to the American intellectual class in Palin’s).

    Race explains some things about opposition to Barack Obama but is not a distinguishing factor in the eligibility question. White people have undergone the same scrutiny, and when the cases are compared it becomes clear that economic class and outsider status are the common factors.

  22. 21
    Charles S says:

    And Obama’s ‘outsider status’ comes from being black.

  23. 22
    Robert says:

    No, his outsider status comes from being the poor son of a foreigner, and spending his childhood overseas being raised by Marxists. That foreigner happened to be black, but if his dad had been an Arab or an Israeli or Chinese or a Frenchman he would have had the same (or a very closely-related) suspicion and wariness.

    In fact, I would argue that him being black helped reduce the gap of his outsider status, because it provided a visual referent that people could assign to an unambiguously American context, and made it possible for him to redefine his own identity as a young adult in a way that could find acceptance among at least most of the American people. He’s the first black President, which people can get behind, not the “first raised-by-Marxists-in-Indonesia president” which would be a narrative that would get no traction whatsoever in mainstream American life.

  24. It seems to me the distinction needs to be made between the fact that people are questioning Obama’s eligibility to be president on grounds that, technically speaking, are not racist because they are not claiming it is his race that ought to disqualify him–and let’s even grant that the motivation behind the questioning might have had little or nothing to do with Obama’s race per se–and the racist way in which that questioning has been used and in which it has played out regardless of the intent of the people doing the questioning.

    ETA: My point is not to suggest that the questioners’ motivations were not racist, but that even if you grant that they were not, you can’t escape the racism that colors almost every aspect of how this issue has played out.

  25. 24
    Elusis says:

    Just a little drive-by between teaching classes…

    In much of the pseudo-scientific literature of the day the Irish were held to be inferior, an example of a lower evolutionary form, closer to the apes than their “superiors”, the Anglo-Saxons . Cartoons in Punch portrayed the Irish as having bestial, ape-like or demonic features and the Irishman, (especially the political radical) was invariably given a long or prognathous jaw, the stigmata to the phrenologists of a lower evolutionary order, degeneracy, or criminality. Thus John Beddoe, who later became the President of the Anthropological Institute (1889-1891), wrote in his Races of Britain (1862) that all men of genius were orthognathous (less prominent jaw bones) while the Irish and the Welsh were prognathous and that the Celt was closely related to Cromagnon man, who, in turn, was linked, according to Beddoe, to the “Africanoid”. The position of the Celt in Beddoe’s “Index of Nigrescence” was very different from that of the Anglo-Saxon. These ideas were not confined to a lunatic fringe of the scientific community, for although they never won over the mainstream of British scientists they were disseminated broadly and it was even hinted that the Irish might be the elusive missing link! Certainly the “ape-like” Celt became something of an malevolent cliche of Victorian racism. Thus Charles Kingsley could write

    I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw [in Ireland] . . . I don’t believe they are our fault. . . . But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much. . . .” (Charles Kingsley in a letter to his wife, quoted in L.P. Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts, p.84).

    “In 1317 one Irish chronicler opined that it was just as easy for an Englishman to kill an Irishman as he would a dog[...]

    “In addition, some Irish immigrants married recently free black slaves and were subject to a brutal discrimination. They were often called “white Negroes.” Throughout Britain and the U.S., newspaper illustrations and hand drawings depicted a primordial “ape-like image” of Irish faces to bolster evolutionary racist claims that the Irish people were an “inferior race” as compared to Anglo-Saxons”
    - from Wikipedia

  26. Thanks, Elusis. That was more my point, but I didn’t have the time to look up sources.

  27. 26
    Jake Squid says:

    Thanks for that, Elusis. I wasn’t looking forward to finding my old comments on the subject or looking for the citations for the info you put out there.

    How quickly we forget which people weren’t considered white (or fully white) in our recent past.

  28. 27
    Elusis says:

    Sorry about the Wikipedia one, but it was quick, and led me rapidly to the longer quote I led off with. Which makes the “it’s class, not race” argument fold up into a little ball of null hypothesis and vanish neatly, I think.

  29. 28
    mythago says:

    And by “raised in Indonesia by Marxists” Robert means “went to school in Indonesia from age six to age ten, and otherwise grew up in the US.” Because after all, childrearing does not start until age six and stops before age eleven.

    I would argue that this is such horseshit that even Robert has to qualify his remarks by talking about ‘closely related’ suspicion and wariness – as if racism has nothing to do with any negative reaction Americans have to, say, people of Chinese birth. (Ask a fourth-generation Asian-American how many times people say “So where are you from?”.) Obama’s father was not simply a foreigner or a Marxist or a Muslim; he was African, and he impregnated a white woman.

    Are we really supposed to believe that if Obama’s father were a Parisian that the birther narrative would have played out just as it did?

  30. 29
    RonF says:

    chigona:

    Maybe you think in your mind that there is no racial issue for you, but I challenge you to offer any rational reason that people became so obsessed around Obama’s birth, when this had never been an issue for any other candidate in the history of our nation.

    Easy. People – a very few people – became obsessed about it because when it was raised by Hillary Clinton’s campaign (that noted right-wing bastion) he refused to answer the question. Instead he offered non-answers, derided the motives of those who asked the question, claimed that it was taking up time (when all it took was one phone call from his lawyers), etc., etc. When you act like you have something to hide, especially when you come from a political background as sleazy and corrupt as Illinois politics are, it’s natural that some people will react by thinking you do have something to hide.

  31. 30
    RonF says:

    It seems that the issue was raised not only for Chester Alan Arthur, George Romney and Barry Goldwater but also others: Christopher Schürmann (Labor, 1896), Charles Evans Hughes (Republican, 1916) and Lowell Weicker (Republican, 1980). Positing the standard caveats regarding Wikipedia articles it would not seem that race or class was an issue. Hughes’s ethnic background was British and was appointed Secretary of State, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which would argue against people holding his class or race against him. And Schürmann was German, an ethnic group held in very high regard in the U.S. (at least before the 20th Century).

  32. RonF:

    Quoting Mythago: Are we really supposed to believe that if Obama’s father were a Parisian that the birther narrative would have played out just as it did?

    I think you miss the point, which Mythago makes: Even if questioning Obama’s origins is part of a long (un)dignified history in American politics, the real issue is not whether others’ backgrounds have been questioned, but whether the particular way it has played out in Obama’s case has anything to do with race. I think it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t.

  33. 32
    chingona says:

    Ron, there’s a big difference between debating what, exactly, is meant by natural-born citizen and saying that someone is lying about their birth and is really a foreigner.

    The only example that is similar at all is the Chester Arthur example, and even setting aside the Irish thing, just because something happened once to a white guy doesn’t mean there is no racial motivation when it happens to a black guy.

    Also, Hilary Clinton flirted with racist dog whistles repeatedly in the primary. It was ugly. You won’t catch me or probably very many people here defending that. But once the election was over … she let it fucking drop! Whereas the Republicans have only ramped it up.

  34. 33
    mythago says:

    When you act like you have something to hide

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. It takes a very special kind of partisan PvP mindset to treat the rejection of nutbar conspiracy theories as “Aha, you have something to hide!”

    Do you also believe that Sarah Palin needs to show videos of Trig’s head crowning to disperse nutbar conspiracy theories that he’s really Bristol’s kid? What does she have to hide?!?!?!!

  35. 34
    RonF says:

    I’m afraid I don’t understand “PvP”.

    From what I’ve heard, such a video would be the only thing that Andrew Sullivan would accept ….

    Nutbar conspiracy theory? I suppose it must seem like that to some people. At this point I’ll sign on to that opinion as well. But based on my familiarity with the kinds of things that come out of Illinois politics I had to consider that the possibility, while very small, was not zero. Palin’s parentage of Trig, while apparently of consuming interest to some people, doesn’t affect her Constitutional qualifications for office, so the analogy doesn’t really hold.

    The idea that there are some people for whom the birth controversy gave a quasi-respectable facade to their racism certainly makes sense. And God knows I personally ran into more than one person who opposed his candidacy based on his race. I had a couple of very unpleasant confrontations on that one. But I figure that the vast majority of people involved were using the birth controversy as a means to advance their opposition to his policies, not his race.

    just because something happened once to a white guy doesn’t mean there is no racial motivation when it happens to a black guy.

    True. But that’s not my argument. My argument is that it means that it isn’t automatically based on racial motivation when it happens to a black guy.

  36. 35
    mythago says:

    RonF: The Trig Birtherism is about Palin’s credentials as a pro-life, pro-family candidate.

    And I see that you, too, are a fan of Capaldi, and his advice that when your argument goes sour, retreat to a general statement of principle that’s pretty much undisputed to pretend that’s what you really meant all along.

    Nobody has claimed that any criticism of a black guy is motivated by racism. You knew that, of course: that’s why nobody is saying “The only reason you disagree with Obama’s health-care legislation is UR RACIST”. And again, as you know, we’re not talking about ‘any criticism’, but about the specific fevered fantasy that Obama was not born in Hawaii and is therefore not a citizen -a fantasy that has been thoroughly debunked for years and, curiously, was only raised as to the one black guy in the race. And continued to be raised despite overwhelming evidence.

    I mean, hell. you kept raising questions about the evidence despite (as Amp pointed out) that those questions were fully answered before.

  37. 36
    MisterMephisto says:

    RonF said:

    True. But that’s not my argument. My argument is that it means that it isn’t automatically based on racial motivation when it happens to a black guy.

    Except no one’s arguing that it’s “automatic” because he’s black. They’re arguing that the way it’s playing out in this case is solidly racist, and that the last time it was raised for more than like 5 minutes it was pretty racist, too (i.e. Chester Arthur).

    And let’s be honest: that’s not what you said.

    You said back at #6:

    Just can’t resist playing the race card, eh? It’s like a reflex. Or maybe it’s an obsession. Why actually address a question when you can slough off answering it by attacking the questioner? The more meritless the better, it seems.

    Implying that, in a discussion over whether the Birtherism obsession against Obama is motivated by racism, that any discussion or allegation of racism is “just playing the race card” out of “reflex”. That’s just as “automatic” an assumption on your part as the one you claim you’re fighting against.

    Even though there’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that there are, in fact, solidly racist overtones to the movement.