Liz Cheney and Lou Dobbs have recently defended the "birthers," the dumb group of internet psychos who think it's impossible that a black man could've been democratically elected president. Where did they come from and what do they actually believe?
Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. Here is is birth certificate. Hawaii was and is an American state. When Barack Obama was elected, he was 47 years old and had lived in the US since 1971. According to the Constitution, the president must be a natural-born citizen 35 years old or order who has lived in the US for 14 years. Barack Obama is eligible to be the president. It's that simple. Unless you're in America's fastest-growing group of nuts with modems, the Birthers! Then it is much more complicated, and stupid.
Who Are They? Where Did They Come From?
It's hard to say who was the first Birther. It was obvious that a segment of the American people would reject the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency, as they rejected Bill Clinton and as others rejected Bush (though Bush actually legit wasn't elected fyi). It is just weird that they all decided on such a lame and easily disproved conspiracy theory.
So. Right. First off, a black man named Barack Hussein Obama becomes a Senator and delivers a rousing speech on national television. Certain people are going to assume he is a Muslim, and certain other people are going to try to convince everyone that he's a Muslim. Rumors and smears like this are hard to track back to individuals, as they form and are molded in lengthy chain email forwards and pseudonymous message board posts. But Andy Martin, a crazy and litigious antisemite, is credited with amping up the Muslim rumors mere weeks after the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His "press release" was picked up, of course, by Free Republic, a message board for the nuttiest of the right-wing nuts. Martin's "secret Muslim" theory led to the "Islamic madrassa" story.
In October of 2008, Martin filed another of his many, many lawsuits, this one against the state of Hawaii, demanding they "verify" Barack Obama's birth certificate. At this point, though, Martin was claiming that Obama's "real father" was a radical Hawaiian journalist, so it is not entirely clear if he is actually a birther, or just a fucked-up attention-seeker.
Jerome Corsi, bizarro all-purpose conspiracy theorist and smear artist, has done more than perhaps anyone else to further the Birther movement. As the superstar co-author of the anti-John Kerry Swift Boat book, he had a platform and an audience of die hard crazies willing to promote anything he wrote. And so he detours into claims that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery while promoting his book of more traditional smears and innuendo. And he writes for World Net Daily, a daily repository of conspiracies, lies, and insanity. The right-wing "news" site publishes a new piece on the Obama birth conspiracy every day. You've got to keep the suckers coming back! Don't forget to stop by World Net Daily's Birth Certificate Store!
Alan Keyes has weighed in, of course, with yet another of the many lawsuits.
And there is 9/11 Truther Philip Berg, who apparently just decided he needed a new conspiracy theory, and so he filed his own suit, and attempted to take it to the Supreme Court.
But in a "movement" like this, the real major players are the hundreds of hapless morons who believe the conspiracy, not necessarily the ones trying to sell it to them. You can find them in every comments section on the internet.
What Do Birthers Believe?
It is hard to pin down and explain what the birthers actually believe, because it an ever-shifting series of assertions, arguments, and insinuations that change on a dime depending on the audience and facts presented, but we will give it a shot.
Basically, birthers believe that Barack Obama is not a legitimate president, because he was not born in the United States. But, faced with rather overwhelming evidence that he was born in the United States, some birthers are even now changing their stories and claiming that he's not eligible because he was born a dual citizen (of the US and either Kenya or... Britain), making him, again, not eligible.
But these are the more popularly accepted theories:
- Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Obama's mother was living in Kenya with Obama's father, and after his birth, she took him back to Hawaii to register his birth, because... she knew one day he would run for president? Birthers claim Obama's paternal grandmother admitted to being present during Obama's birth, in Kenya.
- Barack Obama is a citizen of Indonesia, where his sister was born.
- Barack Obama's real middle name is "Muhammed."
- Barack Obama's birth certificate is a forgery.
- Barack Obama's birth certificate isn't a forgery, but they used to give those out to people who were born overseas (this was what they had to settle on once Hawaiian officials confirmed that his birth certificate was real).
- Hawaii didn't give out birth certificates to kids born overseas at the time of Obama's birth, but his mother lied about where he was born (and sent out two newspaper announcements!) in order to procure one.
But the details don't make sense, and don't matter. Here's a representative paragraph from a birther website:
Depending on what his long copy vault birth certificate states, this may or may not deepen the problem. If it states either of the two hospitals and the hospital records prove that he was in fact born in one of the Hawaiian Hospitals, then the location of his birth will definitely prove he is entitled to be a US Citizen in accordance to the 14th Amendment. This of course does not necessarily give him the necessary status of a natural born citizen.
If Obama issues another birth certificate that states, also, that he was born in Hawaii, in a hospital, he still might not be a natural born citizen. They'll come up with a reason why, however, should this chimerical document ever surface. For fun, here is another sentence from the same site: "If his long form birth certificate states he was born at home, then this in itself does not prove that he was born, and in fact could lead to greater problems."
WAS NOBOMA BIN LAUDEN EVEN BORN AT ALL?
Those Who Would Grant Them Legitimacy
These are the worst of the worst. These are the semi-"repsectable" "mainstream" pundits, writers, and politicos who know Obama is eligible to be President, but stoke the fires of nuttery in order to keep the base riled up, and maybe to win the attention of a few more suckers. From Lou Dobbs to Liz Cheney to Camile Paglia to Sean Hannity, hacks who don't give a shit will throw the birthers a bone to retain their ears and eyeballs.
A more insidious form of conspiracy stoking is the sort of concern trolling performed by "intellectual" hacks like Jim Geraghty, who list and describe the theories, say they don't necessarily believe in all of them, but conclude that there just isn't enough evidence to be sure. These provide cover to the craziest and most extreme of the nutjobs: see, even the respectable National Review agrees with me!
Why This is a Bad Thing
Quite simply, the crazier and more radical the right wing fringe gets, the more dangerous they get. "Mainstream" voices legitimatizing their radical beliefs just intensifies the nut's feeling that something needs to be done, because the country is in a crisis. Encouraging people to believe the president is illegitimate encourages them to believe that he needs to be removed by any means necessary. It's stupid. It's dangerous.
And while it's fun to watch it destroy the Republican party, a radicalized Republican party controlled by the far right fringe still has a decent chance of coming back into power. That's the way the system works.