Combat Birther Craziness! (Updated)
On one hand, you might feel as though you have to say something. On the other hand, though, sadly, you know it is futile. It’s like arguing with one of those folks who don’t believe that we landed on the moon or those who believe that we attacked ourselves on 9/11. There is no amount of evidence that will convince them that they are wrong.
I have gone out of my way to stay away from this craziness. This is the way that the conservatives have worked for over 40 years. It’s the Nixon playbook. If you can’t beat them on the facts… throw crap. This distracts the public and whips up the base, which seems to be exactly what they always want to do.
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Update: I’m sorry I’m breaking protocol and sticking my update in the middle of post. (I would say sue me, but I think that someone would.)
Now even the conservative WorldNetDaily is backing away from the surprise birth certificate that some birthers are pushing. Here is the birth certificate that is supposed to be Barack Obama’s and it is supposed to be Kenyan. Here is a real birth certificate (part 1 and part 2)from the same time period from Kenya.
There are, sadly, a lot of Birthers out there. A recent poll showed that 11 percent of Americans — including 28 percent of Republicans — don’t believe President Obama was born in the U.S. Another 12 percent aren’t sure.
So, at some point, you’re likely to find out that a friend or relative is a Birther. Your Uncle Floyd will forward you a chain e-mail that says Obama was actually born in Kenya and there’s a Kenyan birth certificate that proves it and hundreds of government officials and reporters are in on a conspiracy to hide the truth of his ineligibility for the presidency from the public. And you will wonder: How can I possibly deal with all the falsehoods in this e-mail without disappearing down a rabbit hole?
Well, wonder no more. In the spirit of public service, Salon has compiled this list of the most popular Birther myths, along with all the debunking you could ever ask for. Now you can just e-mail this list to Uncle Floyd and get on with your life.
Unfortunately, there is some small print involved in this offer. We can’t promise this article will convince Uncle Floyd that Obama was born in the U.S. and is the legitimate president. In fact, we can just about guarantee that it won’t have much effect at all. That’s just the way conspiracy theories work: Believers are unlikely to change their minds, no matter how much evidence you present.
Still, it’s worth a try.
Myth 1: Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
This is the big one. It may also be the most easily refuted. First of all, during the presidential campaign, Obama released a certification of live birth, which is the official document you get if you ask Hawaii for a copy of your birth certificate. There are allegations that what Obama released is a forgery, but state officials have repeatedly affirmed its authenticity and said they’ve checked it against the original record and that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii.
If that wasn’t enough, two Hawaiian newspapers carried announcements of Obama’s birth in August 1961. (Read the Honolulu Advertiser’s item from Aug. 13, 1961, nine days after Obama’s birth, here.) The traditional joke that Birther debunkers make is that his grandparents must have placed those announcements because they knew that he’d want to run for president nearly five decades later. The truth, though, is that the notices are even stronger pieces of evidence than that. Obama’s family didn’t place them — Hawaii did, as it does for all births. The announcements were based on official records sent to the papers by the state’s Department of Health.
Myth 2: Obama can’t be president because his father was a British citizen
Some of the Birthers — like de facto leader Orly Taitz — believe that Obama wouldn’t be eligible for the presidency even if he were born in the U.S. That’s because, in their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers included in the Constitution a fair amount of phrases they never really bothered to define. One of those is this explanation of who can be president: “No person except a natural born citizen.”
The Supreme Court has never ruled directly on the question of what “natural born citizen” means. So the Birthers have simply settled on their own definition — someone born to two citizen parents — and found a source,”The Law of Nations,” a 1758 book by the Swiss philosopher Emerich de Vattel, to back them up.
There are a couple of problems with this. Most important, Obama isn’t the first president with a non-citizen parent: Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president, was. His father was from Ireland and apparently did not become a U.S. citizen until more than 10 years after the future president’s birth.
Plus, even if the Founding Fathers did rely on Vattel as much as the Birthers say — always a dubious proposition — Swiss philosophy books aren’t legal precedent in the United States. British common law is. And in 1898, in the case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court looked into the meaning of “natural born” in the common law and concluded that a non-citizen’s mere presence in the U.S. is enough to make their child, if born here, a natural-born citizen. (more…)