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April 15, 2010


The reason the birther myth is not going away is that Brendan and other liberals like CBS News and the New York Times are working to keep it alive. Obama's place of birth is no longer of interest to conservatives (with very few exceptions.) Liberals love this story because it makes conservatives seem kooky.

This survey was supposedly designed to determine the nature of tea partiers. IMHO this survey was actually designed to find a way to smear them. Hence this question and the focus on it in reported stories.

Nobody cares anyway. After all, Jerry Brown ran for President, and he was born on an altogether different planet.

Go Duke!!

Incidentally, note this loose writing from the CBS News article:
Although the Constitution requires American presidents to be natural born citizens, as many as 30 percent of Tea Partiers say they think President Obama was born in another country

That sentence implies that being born in another country means that one is not a natural born citizen. In fact, someone born of American parents could be a "natural born citizen" even if s/he was not born in the US.

E.g., John McCain was born in Panama Canal Zone, where his parents were serving as naval officers. Only a handful of far-out leftist kooky media thought it was worth questioning his status as a "natural born citizen."

I haven't seen a full legal analysis, but I think that having an Amerian mother would make Obama a "natural born citizen" no matter where he was born.

Whenever certain young-at-heart Obama partisans feel the need for a rockin' moral superiority / righteous indignation fix, they trot out the Birther Monster. It always works, and they never get tired of it.

Rob and David, thank you for all your intelligent, informed and perceptive comments. Whenever I come here I always look through the comments, hoping to read something from you.

Couple of things:

@ Rob: good one!

@ David: true, and they tried that in the '60s with Gov. George Romney (born in Mexico).

For Brendan, I ask one question - are the respondents to these poll questions to be taken so seriously? How do we know it's what they honestly believe? Couldn't they just be so full of hate and contempt for Obama that they say he isn't legit like a teenager full of angst who snaps at his/her parents and demands to know their "real" parents are?

Okay, so that was technically three questions - sue me.

"The reason the birther myth isn't going away..."

is because nearly 60% of the members of a very prominent and vocal political/ideological movement embrace the myth either as an actual possibility (the 29% of Tea Partiers who "don't know" if Obama was born in the U.S.), or as FACT (the 30% of the Tea Partiers who believe that Obama was born "in another country").

"IMHO this survey was actually designed to find a way to smear them. Hence this question..."

Oh, please the Tea Partiers (or at least nearly 60% of them, anyway), "smeared" themselves by answering the birth question truthfully, but in a way that makes them look bad.

Tea party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, tend to be Republican, white, male, and married, and their strong opposition to the Obama administration is more rooted in political ideology than anxiety about their personal economic well-being, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. - NYT summary

The Tea party wants less Big Government but they don't offer any suggestions as to what should be done to reduce the government presence in society. They are more concerned with cutting taxes than with reducing the federal deficit. While they are generally content with middle class government benefits (Social Security & Medicare) they overwhelming think that there should be fewer Federal benefits.

My view is that they will keep the "debate" at an ideological level simply because they needn't rely on or provide any substantive policies or programs. It is easier to be against "big government" (while taking any benefits it provides) than it is to speak out against specific programs.

So, I think the NTY is generous in saying that the movement is "ideological". Personally I find it to be based on a high level of emotionalism. I look forward to the day when they (Tea Partiers) promote actual policies or changes in policy, as opposed to being against simple abstractions such as "big government" or "government interference".

No doubt much of what Howard says is true. Many tea partiers are motivated by a lot of emotionalism and deal in simple abstractions rather than offering complex solutions to difficult problems. The same could have been said of plenty of mass movements, among them civil rights, no-nukes, both anti-abortion and pro-choice, anti-war, global warming and anti-globalization. Indeed, the appeal of the Obama campaign was largely based on just these sorts of emotional and simplistic yearnings: hope, change, fighting for the middle class. The tea partiers are heirs to a rich tradition of gut-level protest. As the prophet said, you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

BTW, it's hardly contradictory for people who have paid into Social Security and Medicare for decades to want to get some return on all those years of contributions into what was sold as an insurance program.

daniel, how can you criticize a "Don't know" answer? Things reported by the media are sometime incorrect.

E.g., in 2002, almost everyone believed that Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs. Yet, people who said they didn't know whether Saddam had WMDs turned out to be correct.

The Tea party wants less Big Government but they don't offer any suggestions as to what should be done to reduce the government presence in society.

If the Tea Party types get control of government, that point will be a concern. However, government isn't going to be reduced under Obama. It has already been massivly expanded, with further expansion planned via Cap 'n Trade, etc. The issue at hand is how much more will government be expanded.

The Tea Party has a clear position against further expansion. Furthermore, I imagine they'd support repeal of the Health Reform bill, which would be one way to reduce government presence in society.

"Many tea partiers are motivated by a lot of emotionalism and deal in simple abstractions rather than offering complex solutions to difficult problems."

Hah! Imagine the outcries of "condescension!" and "elitism!" from
Tea Partiers and their supporters if those words were written by a liberal. If those had come from a New York Times piece, David would be tsk-tsking away. Bill O'Reilly would call the author of the N.Y. writer a "pinhead." The chryon on the Fox and Friends Screen: "N.Y. Times: Tea Partiers are 'Emotional' and 'Simple.' "

Yikes, a few clarifications. "If those..." should be "If those words..."

and "...Bill O'Reilly would call the author of the N.Y. piece..."

Here's a link showing what the Tea Parties stand for http://www.thecontract.org/the-contract-from-america/
There's more detail at the link, but here are their 10 points

1. Protect the Constitution
2. Reject Cap & Trade
3. Demand a Balanced Budget
4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform
5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility &
6. End Runaway Government Spending
7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care
8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy
9. Stop the Pork
10. Stop the Tax Hikes

The persistence of the birther myth is troubling. Its origins are clear (Jerome Corsi's book and interviews loom large) but its durability is surprising.

Responsibility for the myth's persistance may lie partly with the news media who have not effectively publicized reports such as FactCheck.org's birth study.

Some anti-Obama blogs and news outlets may hope to preserve the myth as a way to smear the President. I suspect many mainstream media and commentators now relish the use of the politically passé and toothless birther falsehood as a way to ridicule unsophisticated rightwingers. So many in the political media /political commentary world benefit.

A much more consequential myth is that "Bush lied about Iraqi WMDs to trick us into invading Iraq". That falsehood had and still has a devastating effect on our country.

Brendan and the CBS News /New York Times pollsters should look into the origins, growth, persistence and popularity of that myth.

What puzzles me is why, given that we know for certain that President Obama was born in Honolulu in 1960, he has not obtained and released to the public a copy of the long-form birth certificate contemporaneously prepared by the hospital. If the contemporaneous document can't be produced because all the long-form certificates from that period have been routinely destroyed, the President could have an authoritative official from Hawaii explain that. This seems like Crisis Management 101. Sure, the short-form certificate created in 2007 by Hawaii is legally sufficient to establish citizenship, and sure, producing the contemporaneous document won't satisfy all the doubters, but it would certainly undermine one of their principal arguments.

If there's some benefit to the White House in letting the myth persist, I don't know what it is. So is their unwillingness to produce the contemporaneous document simple obstinancy, or are they just incompetent?

I have also wondered about their passivity in counteracting the birther myth.

Following a comment above, maybe Obama or people in his close-knit group of advisors (Axelrod, Plouffe, Emanuel, Jarrett, Michelle?) see the politically passé and now toothless birther falsehood as an easy way to ridicule, and thereby marginalize, rightwingers.

Obama and his advisor group had absolutely nothing to do with creating the myth. They just don't seem too committed to correcting it. Of course, they are pretty busy with other things right now, so maybe this issue is simply off their screens.

A good question is: What real harm to Obama is caused by the persistence of the birther myth among unsophisticated rightwingers?

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