This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
Normally we’d wait for Donald Trump’s “presidential campaign” to die a natural death, but his embrace of the birther lunacy makes for too sweet a target.
Trump’s taken to trumpeting his doubts about Barack Obama’s citizenship and demanding that the president produce his birth certificate. Obama – who appears to relish the spectacle – has turned the pseudo-controversy into comedy material.
Trump is one of a handful of Republican leaders (if that’s what he is) willing to sound like an actual birther. Michele Bachmann prefers artful coyness; all she wants is that Obama “just answer some questions” and produce his original birth certificate. Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee have alluded darkly to the president’s supposed Kenyan background.
Sarah Palin initially said the public “rightfully is still making it an issue.” Then she dismissed it as an annoying distraction. Then – to Judge Jeanine this month – she suggested that “obviously there is something there that the president doesn’t want people to see on that birth certificate ….”
We want to believe that – on the national level – not even Trump takes the birther hypothesis seriously. Obama’s certificate of live birth is a matter of record, and his arrival into the world was recorded in 1961 by two Honolulu newspapers.
Had he been born in Kenya as alleged, the cover-up must have lasted decades and involved thousands of people, including much of Hawaii’s Department of Health – all of whom began conniving in his quest for the presidency when he was still in the delivery room.
The problem is, a certain percentage of ordinary Americans will give credence to anything, depending on their cast of mind. Some believe 9/11 was an inside job. Some believe any number of things about the JFK assassination. Some believe the Holocaust never happened. Some believe that George W. Bush stole two elections. Some believe in astrology.
The birther delusion happens to be disproportionately lodged among Republicans; according to some polls, more than half of the GOP harbors a degree of doubt about the president’s citizenship.
When the Kool-Aid flows so freely, politicians get their feet wet. That’s how you get such absurdities as the bill in Arizona that would have required presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before getting a place on the state ballot. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer had enough sense to veto that one Monday.
The birthers do have a legitimate question: Why doesn’t Obama allow investigators to look at his actual paper birth certificate, now buried in the archives of Hawaii? Maybe there is something so shameful on it that Americans would recoil in horror – even though he was a newborn at the time.
More likely, he’s enjoying the way his potential Republican opponents are making themselves look foolish by pretending to take seriously what just ain’t so.