Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Birther Movement Won’t Go Away, and for Good Reason

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs got it right when he bluntly said that the deal is that the legions who are adamant that President Obama is an illegal alien and should be dumped from the White House will never go away. Not only won’t they go away but in recent weeks they’ve gained even more steam, and they’ve got it ironically with the unintended help of birther opponents. Every newspaper, magazine, talk show host that damns the birthers as a bunch of wacky, paranoid, Obama haters stirs the pot even more. They do it simply by acknowledging the issue with a column or a show. The birthers revel in that, and they should because there’s a canny, calculated,and politically cynical motive behind their Obama birth certificate agitation.

The clamor for Obama to produce his original birth document gained a noisy following long before the final presidential vote tally was in last November. It started the instant that he declared his presidential candidacy in February 2007. Take your pick: He was too black. He was not patriotic enough. He was too liberal, too effete, too untested. He was a Muslim, terrorist fellow traveler, and a closet black radical. The shock of an Obama in the White House was simply too much for many to bear. Obama defied the stereotypical textbook look and definition of what an American president was supposed to look like, and be like; namely a wooden image middle-aged, or older, white male.

Obama inadvertently gave ammunition to the incipient birthers during a campaign stop in late July 2007 when he quipped that he did not look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills. Obama got torched for saying the obvious and that was that his candidacy was different. Obama later admitted that it was a racial reference. The off the cuff remark simply reinforced the point that he and his candidacy marked a turning point in U.S. presidential politics and by extension race relations.

The Obama birth certificate hounders kicked their rumor mongering campaign against him into even higher gear when some mainstream papers found the birth certificate controversy good copy and grist to get the tongues wagging. The birthers spotted the opening and crudely cloaked themselves in the mantle of public spirited citizens and legal experts with no personal, political, let alone racial, ax to grind with Obama. Their sole goal they claimed was to insure electoral truth and accuracy, to make sure that all the legal requirements for holding a presidential office are met, and to head off a constitutional crisis. They even promised that they would put the matter to rest if Obama simply produced the original.

That was a lie. The birthers with an open boost from GOP ultra conservatives led by House Rep John Campbell and other House members who are pushing a bill that requires all future presidential candidates to produce their original birth certificates. That, of course, would apply to Obama as well when he presumably runs for reelection in 2012. The real value of the Birther movement is that it’s a tailored back door movement that can be used to destabilize, or at the least keep the Obama administration off balance on policy initiatives he’s pushing on health care, the economy, and a softer foreign policy outreach. They are fierce opponents of them.

Since Obama’s inauguration dozens of You Tube clips have been churned out on the controversy, legions of websites continue to recycle the rumor line about his certificate, and a mountain size stack of articles rehash the issue of whether the birth certificate that Hawaii produced is legit. More than two dozen lawsuits or petitions have been filed in various state courts contesting Obama’s U.S. citizenship (one of them was filed by political gadfly Alan Keyes). The Supreme’s Court’s refusal to demand that Obama pony up his birth certificate has done absolutely nothing to take any steam out of the movement. If anything, it probably added some vapor to it, by convincing more that the Courts or in cahoots with the Obama White House to keep the real “truth” about his imagined foreign birth secret from the American people.

The worst thing about the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate is not that CNN’s Lou Dobbs has latched onto the issue for ratings and to make mischief against Obama. Or that others in the media have even dignified the controversy by treating it as if it’s a legitimate issue. The worst thing is that none have connected the dots and seen the birthers as the shock troops to torpedo Obama’s political agenda. Their hope is that by sowing enough conspiracy paranoia about him they can do just that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on