Battle of Birtherism: Rightbloggers Divide on Whether Obama is Foreign-Born or Merely Un-American
Despite fresh pushback from some top conservatives, the longstanding rightblogger obsession with Barack Obama's birth certificate has not abated.
Even as prominent rightwing columnists and politicians tried to talk down the birther surge exacerbated by the Donald Trump campaign, the notion that Obama is not a citizen was given a new lease on life by the impending release of a book by Dr. Jerome Corsi, cleverly titled Where's the Birth Certificate?
This looks like a schism in rightblogger ranks. But despite differing on one of the great issues in U.S. history, the birtherist and anti-birtherist factions are more united than divided.
Last week The Drudge Report plugged Corsi's birther book in a front-page "exclusive" entitled "BOOK TO REVEAL OBAMA'S 'TRUE' IDENTITY?" -- even though the book is not scheduled to be released for another month. Drudge described the book as "this year's high stakes publishing project" and asked such meaningful questions as, "Does Corsi definitively declare the location of Obama's birth?"
In other words, it sounds like a publisher's press release no one bothered to make journalism-like, but we doubt this bothered true believers: The Corsi book quickly shot to Amazon's top ten in pre-order.
Several of the brethren were as excited about Corsi's book as Objectivists awaiting the release of the Atlas Shrugged movie or pre-teens anticipating a Justin Bieber concert.
"This is going to be driving Liberals, Progressives, Unionistas, the MSM (yeah, I know a Ven diagram of these groups looks almost like a single circle) batshit crazy the entire summer," predicted Robbie Cooper of UrbanGrounds, who said he'd pre-ordered a copy himself. "I'm not sure what Obama is hiding," added Cooper, "but I know he's hiding something."
"Kool-Aid drinkers such as Whoppi Goldberg will screech and wail that [Obama] has already" produced a birth certificate, said The Freedom Medium. "There must be something pretty good in that Kool-Aid for Whoppi and the Obamaites to overlook the fact that an image on the internet that looks like it was Photoshopped by a 12-year-old is not proof."
Phil Brennan of The Cagle Post allowed himself to fantasize about a world in which John McCain is given the White House because Obama turned out to be Angolan or something. But despite his evident hatred of the President, Brennan couldn't enjoy his dream, because "the thuggish behavior of the pro-union forces in Madison Wisconsin" had forced him to conclude that, should Obama be expelled even righteously, there would be "blood in the streets."
Brennan decided finally to let the pretender Obama stay in the White House until the Republicans beat him in 2012, which he encouraged them to really work at it this time, even though this would "incur the wrath of the left-leaning media which would aim their poison darts directly at their hearts." (We believe Brennan was speaking figuratively here, and perhaps throughout.)
Give Us Liberty gave it to us straight: "ANY BIRTH CERTIFICATE THAT MAY EXIST...WILL SHOW THAT OBAMA LIED TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE...PLAIN, PURE AND SIMPLE...HE DEFRAUDED AN ENTIRE COUNTRY...HE COMMITTED THE GREATEST CRIME EVER AGAINST OUR COUNTRY AND ALL THAT IT STANDS FOR!..." Well, no wonder he doesn't want to admit it!
While this was going on, some big conservatives suddenly spoke out against the birther surge. Maybe they were troubled that the buffoon Trump was leading GOP Presidential polls; maybe they were afrighted by another poll that suggested birtherism is now almost a majority opinion among Republicans. (Let us not rule out conscience or a rising gorge, however unlikely these seem.)
Whatever: The Trump candidacy came under fire from National Review's Rich Lowry ("Trump absurdly promises to become a personal Scotland Yard for the birthers"). Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann publicly backed off birtherism. John Hawkins of Right Wing News beseeched the brethren to evade "the birther trap." Former Reagan and Bush White House official Linda Chavez denounced the "false charge that Obama has never produced a valid copy of his birth certificate." Even Republican
Nevada Arizona Governor Jan Brewer refused to sign a birther-inspired bill.
Ben Shapiro, who has written before on Obama's "tremendous love for Islam and radical Muslims," said at the Infidel Bloggers Alliance that the "stubborn belief that President Obama is born outside the United States" persists not necessarily because he is a foreigner, but because Obama "is not one of us."
No doubt his readers thought so all along, but Shapiro got more specific: "He is rather a member of the same global community that despises America and tolerates Islamism, that slams American consumerism and praises Chinese communism, that rips evangelical Christianity while ignoring Muslim-imposed clitorectomy."
Thus "Americans are desperately seeking an answer to a simple question: why does President Obama appear to be so un-American?" And this understandable concern comes out in the form of suspicions that Obama was born in or around the Central African Republic.
The Rat's Right concurred. "Why the refusal to place his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance?" he demanded. "Why did he object to wearing a flag lapel pin during the 2008 campaign? While hands over hearts and flag pins on lapels don't confirm one's patriotism any more than showing up for church every Sunday proves one's faith in God, it is logical to assume that Obama's abject refusal to participate in simple displays of patriotism signals something, isn't it?" He's got you there, by God! Maybe he didn't want to punch pinholes or get grease stains on his fancy suits.
Daily Pundit's Bill Quick disagreed: "It is [Obama's] mania for secrecy regarding every consequential element of his past," he said, that made people think he was born in Zanzibar or someplace like that.
In any event, they agreed that it certainly wasn't the fault of lunatics and hucksters seeking the money and/or votes of weak-minded people.
At Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism site, SusanAnne Hiller had a unique defense for the birther-friendly.
"While I won't rehash all of the issues here," she wrote, "I will note, for the record, that the left started the birther issue (and continually attacked McCain) and Obama is also a McCain birther as he co-sponsored the Senate Resolution declaring McCain a natural born citizen-clearly understanding the difference between being a US citizen and being a natural born US citizen and its importance."
You can follow her links if you're interested to see what the hell she's talking about, but the short version is that there was a brief dispute in early 2008 over John McCain's eligibility, which was swatted down by legislation by Democratic Senator Pat Leahy -- which Hiller apparently thinks was actually a plot to damage McCain, as evidenced by the doubts about his citizenship that persist to this day.
Hiller also wondered whether Obama was "intentionally withholding his long-form birth certificate to continue to perpetrate the notion that those who question him are crazy," or whether he was indeed a citizen of Chad or someplace like that.
Bluegrass Pundit shared her concern. " Were the people who questioned McCain's eligibility reverse racists?" he asked. "Where was the media outrage?"
Birtherism does indeed present a problem for conservatives who do not wish their movement to be seen as batshit crazy by independents. But if the diffusion of authority that comes with the blog and Tea Party era makes a party line hard to enforce, it also offers an excellent cover for mixed messages.
The audience for birtherism may be small but it is also real and specific; for them, there will be plenty of bloggers, columnists, racist emails, MSM talk show guests, and of course best-selling books to promulgate the Questions Remain! attitude. For the larger, less crazy audience, there will be serious people who harrumph that this birther thing really won't do.
This sort of niche marketing might not work with issues of war, peace, and the economy, about which most people are less inclined to screw around. But for birtherism, the ultimate identity-politics exercise, it's perfect -- win-win, you might say.
UPDATE. Jan Brewer is Governor of Arizona, not Nevada as originally rendered.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.