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My Birther Problem

PH2009073002985.jpgThere's something I don't understand about the Birther movement. Something serious. Something fundamental.

Imagine Barack Obama was born in Kenya. So what?

This isn't like Bill Clinton murdering Vince Foster and running drugs through the Arkansas airport. It's not like George W. Bush having foreknowledge of 9/11. As I understand it, the argument here is that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, but that his mother said he was born in the United States and even had relatives lie to that effect. Presumably, she also told young Barack that he was born in Hawaii. The big reveal here is...what? That Barack Obama's American mother desperately wanted to be certain that her infant child had American citizenship?

It's about as lame a conspiracy as I can possibly imagine. This is like charging that his mother and father smoked pot and baby Barack got a contact high. It's a conspiracy theory for the sake of being a conspiracy theory. It has, in practice, precisely zero implications for the character or comportment of Obama. I guess the dream is that it would disqualify him from office, but it wouldn't even do that. And so long as we're going to run Obama out on a conspiracy, wouldn't you want something that would actually turn the rest of America against him? I mean, the guy attended Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years. You can't think of something?

It's not even as if Americans actually care when political leaders are foreign. The governor of California is from Austria. The governor of Michigan is from Canada. One of Florida's senators is from Cuba. This conspiracy is distinguished by the fact that if every word is true, then nothing at all is different. It's like spending 10 years of your life trying to prove that the desk your wife said was from Ikea was actually purchased at Target. Who cares?

Photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 5, 2009; 7:09 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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To me, this looks really simple. The birthers think that if they can prove Obama isn't an American citizen, he won't be President any more -- or if he is, it will be evident to everyone (just as it already is to them) that he is an illegitimate president.

This is their magic bullet.

They do not believe he is legitimate. If he is legitimate, the country they imagine does not exist. If he is, they no longer own that country, as they have believed they did for generations. For a certain number of millions of people, the America of Barack Obama simply cannot be home.

It is the exact same mindset that led Southerners to refuse to permit black soldiers even as the Confederacy was collapsing around them: if blacks could be soldiers, their entire theory of slavery was wrong. If Barack Obama can be a successful, honorable, and popular president, their entire theory of America is wrong.

Which it is, of course.

But heaven protect us from the havoc, violence, and insanity some of these people are likely to cause in the coming months and years.

Posted by: bcamarda2 | August 5, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Ok, Ezra, the gig is up. Show us your birth certificate. Also we need at least 10 witnesses.

Posted by: bubba777 | August 5, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

It would, apparently, disqualify him because his mother was three months short of the age at which she could give birth to a "natural born citizen" if he was not born inside the country. Something about having to have lived in the US for three years after the age of 15.

Qualifies as things I wish I didn't vaguely know...

Posted by: evietoo | August 5, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Who cares you say. This is the problem with you left wing commies. You trash the constitution and along with Acorn you install a foreign dictator and then you wonder why people care. Because this is our country thats why we care.

Posted by: CraigMcGillivary1 | August 5, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

From the US Constitution:

"No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States. "

The "or a citizen of the United States..." seems as if it would open up the eligibility to anyone who is a citizen, not necessarily limiting the role only to those born in the US.

Maybe they view Chicago as an alternate nation - and thus disqualified Obama from the 14 yr residency requirement?

The thing that puzzles me is the desire to look past any clear and obvious facts in an attempt to assert a "universally acknowledged truth" (though the truth is universal only to those who don't need facts to support it.)

Strange those people were less interested in the hanging chad crisis of 2000, and the widely believed truth that votes of many minority Floridians who supported Gore had been somehow disqualified by the Republicans of the state led by the brother of the man who eventually won....

Posted by: anne3 | August 5, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

bcamarda2 explained it so well.

and i do agree with bcamarda regarding the havoc that these people can cause.
in a similar vein, when i saw the video of catherine sebelius, who always appears to be so calm, reasonable and gentle, surrounded at close range, by that hostile and brazen mob, shouting her down, to the point where she simply had to stop speaking, i thought it was a very frightening moment.
that kind of close-range intimidation crosses the line.
i can imagine that she may still be feeling very shaken-up from that event.

Posted by: jkaren | August 5, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I think the emotional core for many of the Birthers is that if Obama wasn't born in America then he is "other". It's tribal.

Posted by: simmonslcsw | August 5, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

John McCain wasn't born in the US. Just sayin'.

Posted by: tl_houston | August 5, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

bcamarada2 is correct, but for one thing: it isn't "heaven" who needs to help us. It is WE who must help us. Find out where your representatives are appearing this month and go oppose the mob yourself. The teabaggers and birthers et. al. are a "fringe". They need to play one on television.

Posted by: gmarshall1 | August 5, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Point very well taken, gmarshall1. Thanks.

Posted by: bcamarda2 | August 5, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

bcamarda2 and simmonslcsw are exactly right. And "other" is a polite way of saying "racist."

Birthers do not want a legitimate black president. The true-believer birthers (not the ones who are just along for any ride that bashes Obama) are not the Republicans who would've voted for Condoleeza or Powell.

Attacking Clinton on his behavior at least validated him as "one of us," even if he was characterized as a bad seed. To birthers, Obama is "one of them." And we know what "them" is.

Posted by: itch | August 5, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Because they are racists. The Birther conspiracy would "prove" Obama wasn't a Real American, and thus his election wasn't the result of the pure Norman Rockwell America of their imaginations changing into the multicultural ghetto of their nightmares, but the result of a conspiracy by "them": blacks, liberals, global warming scientists, ACORN, hippies, PETA, etc.

Posted by: Zagrobelny | August 5, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse


"or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution"

At the time of the Constitution is important here. Nobody alive today could use that loophole. It was included so that people like, say, Alexander Hamilton who was born in the Carribean, but who was an American, could become President.

Posted by: Castorp1 | August 5, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Because then their hatred would be justified.

That's why most people don't care about John McCain being born in the Panama Canal Zone (except as an academic question, I suppose).

Posted by: westofthedc | August 5, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Some people care a great deal. That's because it isn't about race (directly) or conspiracy or anything else. Like the Clinton "scandals," it is all about delegitimizing the president.

Posted by: pj_camp | August 5, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It's obviously quite important! First of all, she shouldn't lie to me. If the desk is from Target, then why'd she tell me it's from Ikea?

More importantly, Target is where those kinds of people shop. We shop at Ikea. She went slumming down at the Target and is trying to pass it off as something from Ikea.

The utility and long-term function of a reasonable piece of furniture is nothing in comparison to the socioeconomic implications of the initial point of purchase. Obviously.

Posted by: tylerstone | August 5, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Yes (as pj_camp says) it is largely about delegitimizing Obama to make him incapable of acting as the national spokesperson to Congress and the world - that was the object of the attacks on the Clintons. But the racial thing also brings in another dimension which is a recurring theme of the civil war outcome non-accepters.

But we shouldn't overlook another significant subtext: justifying the overthrow of the elected POTUS, including by assassination. Obama is getting 50 death threats PER DAY apparently.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | August 5, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

You'd make one lousy lawyer. If you can win on a technicality, go for it.

Posted by: ostap666 | August 5, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse


kin ahora
may barack obama be surrounded with a hedge of protection and a legion of good angels always.

Posted by: jkaren | August 5, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I agree with most comments stated here. bcamarada2, u got it right.

It also shows how sad the new Republican stragegy is:

"If you can't beat them... try any desperate thing you can think of to try to DISQUALIFY them."

Sad, just sad.... I wonder when they'll try to pull a Tonya Harding.

The whole "birther" movement has a tinge of racist undertones. Would this many white people be questioning it if the man was white? I seriously doubt it.

Btw, if the mother actually had come up with this weird conspiracy so that her newborn son could be a "natural-born" citizen, and one day become POTUS (which, btw, is as likely as aliens doing rear-end probes on drunk farmers out in fields late at night), go blame the mother. Sheesh!!!

I agree with Erza, who gives a d@mn.

Posted by: JERiv | August 5, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, on the nose. And this reminds me of another "changes nothing" conspiracy theory: extra-terrestrial life. If aliens land on the Mall, what exactly will be different? We'll still have wars. We'll still have lettuce. We'll still have Rush Limbaugh. We'll still have capitalism and starvation and Paris Hilton. People who were believers in the one true God will still be believers in the one true God. Atheists will still be atheists. Knowledge of life on Pluto will not force us to have single payer healthcare. Radio signals from Alpha Centauri will not prevent Japanese beetles from eating the leaves on my apricot tree or slugs slugs from attacking my kale. My younger daughter will not say, "The existence of alien life makes me want to be potty trained, so I'm done with diapers now." My wife and I will still disagree over the merits of Waldorf salads. I mean, I'd think it interesting and cool (or horrifying, depending on which movie the aliens model themselves after) to know once and for all that ETs exist. But will it change the day-to-day experience of living for almost any human on Earth? Nada.

Posted by: JonathanTE | August 5, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Polling shows the majority of birthers are white southerners, primarily older white southerners. The point of all this for them, "He is not one of us." They simply can't believe a person of color whose name is Barack Hussein Obama is the president of the United States of America. It's about identity and racial hatred. Therefore it's irrational. As for the examples of other politicians. They are all white. They aren't an issue.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | August 5, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for articulating in words what an image of faces across the country would look like if one day Obama proceeded to the Rose Garden after rifling through his baby books having found stuck between two photos his "other" birth certificates (you know, the REAL ones) waving several withering pieces of paper stamped "Indonesia," and another one stamped, "Kenya," and another one stamped "Hawaii."
The image of the response: a visual "duh" with cloud bubbles above everyone's head because they're all thinking, "I knew it! Hawaii isn't a state!"

Posted by: lindapilgrim | August 5, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

There's something to be said for rule of law. If someone was elected to Congress who turned out not to have met the constitutional minimum age requirement, I think just about all of us would agree that that person should be removed from office even though it may not matter much in the grand scheme of government.

What I think is more important is the emotion and anger surrounding the birther movement and their unwillingness to accept clear evidence (such as contemporaneous birth announcements in local Hawaii papers) that their claims are unfounded. Some of it may be racism, but some of it is just hostility among those who didn't get their way in the last election. There was a similar reaction to Clinton: the anger at him existed when he was elected, long before the Lewinsky situation. Vince Foster, Whitewater, and other "scandals" were used to delegitimize him even though there were few policy decisions people can point to that were so awful.

Some people are so locked-in to their ideology that if someone with a different view wins an election, then any legal means are permitted to return the nation to its "true" purpose. That such an approach may be counter to the democratic process of majority rule becomes a trivial afterthought.

There was some parallel among the left regarding Bush. Some argued he was illegitimate in 2000 because he "stole" Florida (even though from what I've read he would have won under most recount scenarios) and Gore won the popular vote (though neither candidate was campaigning to win the popular vote because the popular vote doesn't matter in our system). And some claimed that he was illegitimate in 2004 because he "stole" Ohio. But I don't recall the level of vehemence that the birthers are mounting against Obama, or the resistance to reasoned argument.

Posted by: dasimon | August 5, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I agree--the birther conspiracy theory makes no sense on its own terms. It can only be understood as an expression of a deep hatred of Obama plus a strong xenophobia.

Don't forget that John McCain was actually born in Panama (obviously, he was a natural-born citizen because both his parents were citizens). Nobody seemed to think that disqualified him from being president.

Posted by: HBurton1 | August 5, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

There is no clause requiring the parents of natural born citizens to have lived in the US for 3 years after 15 before the birth. The relevant law dates clear back to 1795 and says that foreign born children of American parents are natural citizens, full stop.

There is some case law regarding the issue of children born in the US and then repatriated to the countries of their parents’ citizenship, all of which says they are still natural citizens. Most of the case law about natural born citizens has to do with the exclusion of some people who were born in the US – African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans – and occurred in a setting of trying to find legal standing for racism. It has all been swept aside by later decisions.

Based on case law, the only people with standing to challenge the citizenship of the President or of a candidate for President are Congress. As it happens, Congress passed a resolution, 378-0,that President Obama was “born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961” as part of HR 593, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming a state.

Far from being serious about “the rule of law,” the birthers and their friends are making it up as they go along. Sour grapes and racism are the relevant references here.

Posted by: PatS2 | August 5, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

§ 1401. Nationals and citizens of United States at birth

(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years

of course, in this case, the applicable portion of the code says:

(a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;

Posted by: RSR-phl | August 5, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I guess it would be a big deal if he wasn't a natural born citizen, because that is what the constitution requires. As he is a natural born citizen, born in the state of Hawaii, he is constitutionally eligible to serve. McCain was born in the Canal Zone, at the time a territory of the U.S., so he too would is eligible.
But to say it's no big deal if he is not a natural born ctizen, because people don't care about the rules, is wrong. The rules matter and should not be so easily dismissed. No one cares about the other office holders being foreign because their citizenship is not a requirement to hold office. In the case of President andf Vice-President, it is.

Posted by: rixtex | August 5, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse


Regarding rule of law, the case law on what constitutes a "natural born citizen" is not entirely clear. It may not mean "born in the US," only that the person was born a US citizen or is a citizen by any means other than naturalization.

As for standing, it's not clear that a candidate for president or a member of Congress would be able to sue. Removal of Obama from office would not provide a remedy to a candidate since it would make Biden president, not redo the election. And since Congress can impeach, it's likely courts would dismiss a case by a member of Congress as a political question.

While it's all well and good for the House to pass a resolution, I don't see how that would affect the situation if it's factually inaccurate. If the House passed a resolution saying that Obama was 20 years old and therefore ineligible to serve, would that resolve the question?

Not that I support the birthers in the slightest. Again, it's a little scary how many Republicans refuse to believe Obama was born in Hawaii. It may be a testament as to how marginal self-identified Republicans have become as their party has shrunk.

Posted by: dasimon | August 5, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

"It would, apparently, disqualify him because his mother was three months short of the age at which she could give birth to a "natural born citizen" if he was not born inside the country. Something about having to have lived in the US for three years after the age of 15."

WRONG. There has NEVER been any legal limitation on the transmission of citizenship to the child of a natural-born citizen of the United States like Stanley Ann Dunham. The statutory issue this affects is the transmission of citizenship by ANOTHER foreign-born but naturalized citizen. If you were not born in the US but became an American citizen, you needed to be older than 15 to transmit it to your child.

Posted by: btavshanjian | August 5, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse


Just noting that § 1401(g) was not the law that was in effect for those born from Dec. 1952 through Nov. 1986. The law at the time required both parents to be citizens. That's why the birthers think they have a claim if Obama was not born in Hawaii.

Posted by: dasimon | August 5, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I just want to say, after watching the utter madness that has consumed The Washington Independent's comments for the past couple of days, how civil everyone is being here. Either you've got some good comment moderation going here, or they just don't know about you yet.

Posted by: HerooftheBeach | August 5, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Dasimon, you are mistaken. I was born abroad to a non-citizen mother and a US-citizen father in 1957. There was no question whatsoever that I was born a US citizen. No US authority has ever questioned it, even though my birth certificate is, of course, foreign; I was put on my father's passport (as was the custom back then), then issued a US passport of my own when I was a kid, without hesitation. In fact, when my parents asked back then whether I could be a dual national at birth (owing to being born of a non-US mother in her native country), that country refused, saying I was naturally born an American.

You cite a law firm's website; only a citation of US statutes is helpful here, preferrably at length. Law firms, after all, get things wrong all the time.

Posted by: PQuincy | August 5, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

It's racism/xenophobia that has been frighteningly legitimized by some politicians and pundits. It's that simple.

Posted by: michaelterra | August 5, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's what the State Department says:

Birth Abroad to One Citizen and One Alien Parent in Wedlock: A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) INA provided the citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child's birth. (For birth on or after November 14, 1986, a period of five years physical presence, two after the age of fourteen is required. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen are required for physical presence in the U.S. to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.

If Obama had been born in Kenya, he would not be a U.S. citizen by birth.

Posted by: mijnheer | August 5, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I think the contrast between the Birthers and the 9/11 "Truthers" is overdrawn. There IS a big claim somewhere back of the Birther nit-picking, namely that Obama is really an agent of America's enemies -- the same fear, as I understand it, that led to the natural-born-citizen requirement in the first place. True, they're not really making this claim in any rational way, but as others here are noting, what's the surprise that they're not being rational?

As to the Truthers, they have very similar trouble. I got stuck talking to one at a party about a year ago, and killed maybe 45 minutes feigning interest in 9/11 conspiracies to see what he had to say. (It wasn't a real interesting party.) The guy couldn't explain why the government would go to the trouble of knocking down the buildings with explosive charges, then faking videos of planes hitting them, while presumably spiriting away four commercial flights and their occupants to parts unknown and getting hundreds of other people to go on TV and say they'd eyewitnessed aircraft hitting the buildings. Why not simplify all this and just claim that al Qaeda set the explosive charges themselves, or even arrange to have real planes actually hit the buildings? (A government this diabolically skillful can surely make that happen, either by tricking someone into flying them or flying them by remote control.) The theory didn't make sense even in its own terms, let alone in real-world terms.

In short, I came away thinking that this was conspiracy theorizing for its own sake, just as you're saying about the Birthers. Maybe they just don't make conspiracy theories like they used to. At least in the old days, the Bavarian Illuminati were thought to be actually running the world and stuff.

Posted by: JeffersonSmith | August 5, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

PQuincy: "Dasimon, you are mistaken. I was born abroad to a non-citizen mother and a US-citizen father in 1957. There was no question whatsoever that I was born a US citizen."

I can't speak to your situation, but I agree that I was mistaken as to what the law said at the time and how it was changed in 1986. Section 1401(g) did bestow citizenship for children of a citizen and non-citizen if the citizen parent was physically present in the US for at least 10 years, at least 5 of which were after the age of 14. The 1986 law changed the numbers to "5 years, at least 2". (see footnotes on amendments)

This change is relevant to the birthers, since Obama's mother would not qualify under the provision at the time. She was 18 when Obama was born and so could not meet the 5 year requirement, though she would have met the 2 year requirement under present law.

(Again, not that I think the birthers have any real claim that Obama was not born in Hawaii and therefore was not born a US citizen.)

Posted by: dasimon | August 5, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Let's be quite clear about this: the underlying motivation of birtherism is racist. As someone elseblog, it's like an extension of Goldwater's reflection in late life: you can't say "n****r, n****r", you can't really talk about states' rights, but you can ask for the long-form birth certificate.

Now, if the Supreme Court were more like a constitutional court in other countries, it would be in a position to provide advisory rulings on things like the natural-born citizen clause. Dismissing the birther cases on standing just feeds their paranoia.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 5, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

"While it's all well and good for the House to pass a resolution, I don't see how that would affect the situation if it's factually inaccurate."

dasimon, I think the argument would be that, technically, it is Congress that certifies the electoral vote, declares a winner and invites that person to take office as president. So if Congress decides somebody is eligible, that would settle the matter in the eyes of the courts; as someone else said, it would fall under the "political question" (i.e. no-business-of-the-courts) doctrine.

And BTW, Bush did not win Florida 2000 under "most recount scenarios," Gore did, according to the National Opinion Research Center audit of the ballots that a consortium of media organizations sponsored afterward. What's confused you is sloppy (or mendacious) reporting about that audit, which seized on the fact that the particular kind of limited recount Gore was suing for would not have won it for him. In other words, the audit proved that Gore's legal strategy was wrong, not that the people of Florida, statewide, had actually tried to vote for Bush.

But anyway, the claim that Bush "stole" Florida was at best a metaphor; the people who argued this weren't conspiracy theorists and, as far as I know, all acknowledged that ultimately the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the U.S., had the power to shut down the recount in Bush's favor. They happened to think that doing this was deeply WRONG, but not that it was some kind of secret conspiracy. Plus, unlike the Birthers, they weren't insane.

Posted by: JeffersonSmith | August 5, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Birthers are merely another incarnation of the GOP's eliminationist strategy that we last saw with the impeachment of Clinton. Why risk losing a (public) debate if you can eliminate your opponent and win by default? They see the same polls we see. They know America doesn't like them. That's why they're invested in repeating the myth that America is a "conservative nation". When reality is against you, alter it.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | August 5, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Not to get all legalistic and everything, but, as you briefly noted, even if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya he would be a native born US citizen. No one denies that John McCain was born in the Panama canal zone.

Native born is in contrast to naturalized. One US citizen parent is enough. When my daughter Kathy (born in Italy) turns 35, she will be eligible for the presidency.

Posted by: rjw88 | August 5, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Is this the first time anyone has said this? Yglesias has just dropped it into his Twitter feed--I guess some things are so obvious that everyone forgets to say it.

It is well said here.

Posted by: CorkExaminer | August 5, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

rjw88: To get all legalistic, if Obama had been born in Kenya, he would not be a U.S. citizen by birth. Go back and have a look at my previous post at 1:53 p.m. and the post by dasimon at 2:06 p.m.

Posted by: mijnheer | August 5, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

JeffersonSmith: "the audit proved that Gore's legal strategy was wrong, not that the people of Florida, statewide, had actually tried to vote for Bush."

I don't think we're in any real disagreement here. The "butterfly ballot" that resulted in a substantial number of votes for Pat Buchanan would have been more than enough to swing Florida to Gore. Since these were clear overvotes, it would have been impossible to determine (rather than assume) voter intent.

Under the recounts actually requested or undertaken, it seems that Gore still would have lost. And if the election is lost under the law, then it's perhaps badly litigated, but it's not "stolen."

But I think the term "stolen" is more than a metaphor; it was an attempt by some people to delegitimize Bush. I agree that those people were not in general conspiracy theorists, but I don't think the birthers are either for the most part. I think they're just so wrapped up in their ideology that they can't accept that they lost the election and are highly resistant to any fact that might contradict their world view.

And that makes some kind of weird sense. A blind dedication to ideology often results in substituting preconceived views for facts, and when they conflict, one throws out the facts instead of adjusting the ideology to make it consistent with the real world. But that doesn't make ideologues into conspiracy theorists, at least not in my book.

Posted by: dasimon | August 5, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

George Bush attempted to prevent the votes in Florida from being counted accurately, attempting to win the election regardless of whether he actually got the most votes. And in fact the votes were not counted accurately; it's reasonably certain that if they had been, Gore would have won. I'm not sure whether an accurate count of all the votes in the state could have been performed Bush hadn't attempted to prevent this from happening. Gore proposed a state-wide recount, and Bush rejected the proposal. If Bush had agreed to a state-wide recount, I think that there is a reasonable chance that the technical and legal obstacles could have been overcome.

Based on the above, I do not believe that the election was "stolen" by Bush, because using that term would imply that Bush's attempt to prevent an accurate count of the vote was the primary reason why Bush was declared the winner, whereas I would say that the most important factor was Florida's use of flawed voting equipment. But that's a pretty fine point. Someone who claims that Bush stole the election in 2000 is sticking pretty close to the facts. Someone who claims that Obama is not a natural born citizen is making stuff up out of whole cloth. I think there is a rather large difference between the two.

Posted by: KennethAlmquist | August 6, 2009 6:06 AM | Report abuse

The big reveal here is...what?

This seems to have missed the real elephant in the room ... you have to be a "natural born" citizen to be eligible to be President of the United States.
Has the US Constitution now become so much a "living" document that it has now been given an abortion ?

Posted by: warnerme | August 6, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Just found what I think is a good explanation of the hostility behind the Birther movement from Daniel Larison: "The insistence that Obama was born outside America, or that he must be in some way foreign, may be the only way for extreme Americanists to account for how someone born here and raised for almost his entire life in the U.S. could come to have views that they regard as un-American and anti-American. Those who have elevated the nation into a sort of church or religion, and those who are most attached to this kind of national idolatry, cannot abide the idea that the President–the secular high priest of their religion–believes what Obama believes (or, just as important, what they imagine he believes)."

KennethAlmquist: a consortium of newspapers did a statewide recount of undervotes in the 2000 Florida election and found that Bush still would have won. According to Wikipedia, "The media recount study found that under the system of limited recounts in selected counties as was requested by the Gore campaign, the only way that Gore would have won was by using counting methods that were never requested by any party, including 'overvotes' — ballots containing more than one vote for an office."

Posted by: dasimon | August 6, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

This all started with the supporters of Hillary Clinton. (See Birther Berg.) It all rests on *Obama's* refusal to release almost all of his records. There is only his autobiography and that is without documentation. There's also NO documentation on his Hawaiian COLB that was released on the Daily Kos. Of course he was born in the U.S. but why all his secrecy? It's without precedent.

Posted by: OldDem1 | August 6, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

dasimon, thanks for the link to Larison's interesting comment (which I agree with). As to 2000, overvotes, etc. etc. etc., the bottom line is that Congress, an elected body, certified the elections of both Bush and Obama. As long as the people don't toss out its members in protest, then they've acquiesced as well. So in each case, the people get the government that about 55 million of them deserve.

Posted by: JeffersonSmith | August 6, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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