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Posted at 10:38 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Why did Huckabee think Obama 'grew up in Kenya?'

By Adam Serwer

Yesterday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told conservative radio host Steve Malzberg that President Barack Obama had "grown up in Kenya," and cited the president's father's background as proof that Obama has an abiding hatred of Western culture:

HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits --

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

Huckabee also flirts with post-birtherism, saying that he's "not as confident that there's something about the birth certificate" because "I'm convinced if there was anything that they [the Clintons] could have found on that, they would have found it, and I promise they would have used it." He doesn't want anger birthers by smacking the conspiracy down as idiotic, so instead he deduces that Obama was born in the U.S., not because Obama was born in the U.S. and it's stupid to think otherwise, but because the evil Clintons would have smoked him out if he hadn't been.

You can't unblow a dogwhistle like this, but a Huckabee spokesman tried to walk it back saying that, "The governor meant to say the president grew up in Indonesia," which (a) isn't true (he only lived there for four years) and (b) still doesn't make sense in the context of Huckabee's remarks about Churchill and"Mau-Mau guerrillas."

"When the governor mentioned he wanted to know more about the president, he wasn't talking about the president's place of birth - the governor believes the president was born in Hawaii. The governor would, however, like to know more about where President Obama's liberal policies come from and what else the president plans to do to this country - as do most Americans."

The president is a citizen, but his "policies are alien" is the new post-birther joke of the moment. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) recently told the Tea Party Patriots Convention that he wasn't one to "question the existence of the president's birth certificate," but "But when you listen to his policies, don't you at least think, what planet is he from?" The notion that we "don't know enough" about Obama is also a transparent nod to conspiracies about Obama's background -- between his two autobiographies, we probably know more about the president's personal life than just about any other person who has held the office. 

Huckabee's remarks seem like a rehash of Dinesh D'Souza's birtherism lite, that the president is motivated by a philosophy of "Kenyan anti-colonialism." There doesn't seem to be any real explanation for why the Democratic policy platform becomes "Kenyan anti-colonialism" when Obama is involved beyond some Republicans' reflexive need to portray the president as inherently foreign.

Another source for Huckabee's belief that the president grew up in Kenya, however, may have been a discredited Newsmax column from 2009 by former speechwriter James C. Humes that utilizes a fabricated anecdote and includes most of the relevant smears in Huckabee's remarks:

That offensive act without explanation gave substance to the reported story that when President Obama walked into the Oval Office for the first time and saw the Churchill piece, he said, "Get that goddam thing out of here."

Perhaps Obama, who grew up in Kenya, took umbrage at Prime Minister Churchill's actions in 1953 of wiping out the Mau-Mau, the Kenyan terrorists who made a specialty of slitting throats of sleeping white and Black Kenyans.

Again, this anecdote was drawn out of thin air. But it contains most of the misconceptions about the president's background Huckabee repeated yesterday.

It's also a reminder of how painfully unoriginal D'Souza's thesis really was. Conservatives were already using the president's race and heritage as the Rosetta stone to all his political beliefs; D'Souza's innovation was merely giving it a faux-intellectual label. 

Stripped down to its core, this kind of argument isn't any more complex than arguing that all of the president's political beliefs come down to his race and ethnic heritage. It's remarkable that conservatives don't seem to believe that making them reveals far more about them than it ever will about the president.

By Adam Serwer  | March 2, 2011; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  2012, Labor  
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Next: CNN and John King get played


Cause he's a hayseed hick with a head bump from falling off the turnip truck

Posted by: caothien9 | March 2, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Of course, Huckabee read the D'Souza book and swallowed it hook, line and sinker and just plowed ahead in his interview without questioning the truth of the assertion. It is interesting that within a day or so, he has been advised that the better way to cover up his gullibility is to claim he misspoke. Don't these guys ever rehearse with their advisors?

You would think he could have learned the truth a few days earlier and not have to engage in the "oops, did I say **that**" coverup.

Too soon old, too late smart.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 2, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Where do they get these folks? Gawd, the GOP is just chock full of mental midgets, science-deniers, birthers and flag-waving triumphalist fools. On a *good* day.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | March 2, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Adam, why did Obama think there are 57 States?

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 2, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

And the republicans still don't have a serious candidate for President. The party that dedicated itself to the nullification of Obama forgot to develop a person with a provenance America might like and with an inspirational messaging mind, during the mean time.

Now the meanies and the has beens are ascendant. The party has too little time to bring forward an unknown, so I guess it has to be Jeb. Too bad about Florida though. Also, someone has to give Rummy the hook or the re-invention of the Bush years can't start.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

shrink2, did either party have a nominee this far before the 2008 election?

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 2, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Since polls show Birthers are the most likely voters in a Republican primary, Huckabee has to appeal to their stupidity.

On the Churchill bust, the Conservative/Teabagger claim about offense has been discredited and that bust was always on loan. However, there was some controversy in England when Blair lent it to Bush. From The Guardian in 2005:

"A bronze bust of Winston Churchill, owned by the British Government Art Collection and paid for by the taxpayer, is at the centre of a row after it was loaned by Tony Blair to George W Bush.

The renowned Jacob Epstein sculpture that sits in President Bush's Oval Office was loaned to the White House four years ago, on orders from Blair's office, in an unprecedented act outside the strict remit of the collection."

Posted by: FauxReal | March 2, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

{shrink2, did either party have a nominee this far before the 2008 election?}

Of course not, but the major players had already shaken out. We aren't even near to figuring out who the players are in this election.

{Since polls show Birthers are the most likely voters in a Republican primary, Huckabee has to appeal to their stupidity.}

I think the Repubs have painted themselves into a corner with their own propaganda. They've appealed to teh stoopid to win in small localized elections in 2010. And now they are forced to do the same for a national election because their base demands it.

Posted by: Alex3 | March 2, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"did either party have a nominee this far before the 2008 election?"

The GOP nominees for 2008 declared as follows:

Guilani - 11/13/06
Paul - 1/11/07
Hunter - 1/25/07
Huckabee - 1/28/07
Romney - 2/13/07
Thompson - 3/11/07
McCain - 4/25/07,_2008

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 2, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

There are 57 primaries and caucuses.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 2, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

So, we can scratch Huckabee and Barbour for 2012. Igits.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 2, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Adam, why did Obama think there are 57 States?

You really think the two "mistakes" are comparable?

Huckabee said Obama grew up in Kenya then used this falsehood to support his argument that Obama sees issues differently than most Americans. He further references Obama's alleged childhood in Kenya with respect to how he feels about Brits. He said Kenya/Kenyan 4 times in the transcript above.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 2, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Democratic nominees for 2008 declared:

Gravel - 4/17/06
Kucinich - 12/12/06
Edwards - 12/26/06
Dodd - 1/11/07
Clinton - 1/20/07
Biden - 1/31/07
Obama - 2/10/07
Richardson - 5/21/07,_2008

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 2, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse


Anti-gay pastor arrested for public __________ asks gay community for forgiveness

Fill in the blanks (incl the one in the url) with the M-word.

Also here:

Storms, who is no longer affiliated with any church, says he runs a lawn care business out of his van...

he characterized those protests as "hateful." asked for the forgiveness of those he had hurt with his anti-gay rhetoric. "I was very proudful, arrogant," Storms said. "I have been vicious at times in my condemnation of others." Would he return to Southern Decadence to denounce the crowds? "No, no," he said.

There's your Family Values. A "moralist" evangelical with a sx and pron addiction, and after destroying his FAMILY (with young children), he now runs a lawn care service out of a van. Truly pathetic.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 2, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Huckabee knows the power of words. Whether true or not you plant a seed. Propaganda and rhetoric are the tools of the conservative movement. Truth is not necessary, only the end result. If lying and half truths serve the purpose then so be it. He later retracts his statement regarding Kenya but the damage is done, the seed is already planted.

Posted by: harlantj | March 2, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

You know to be a minister, Huckabee sure doesn't seem to have a problem with lying because he seems to do it a lot. Even worse, he's out here on national television lying about Obamacare, etc. I guess the collar comes off when you become a politician.

Posted by: ruthella10 | March 2, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

It's all Obama's fault.

If he could produce his original, birth certificate, it would shut them all up.

The BMV demanded a birth certificate before my son would be considered for a drivers, learner permit.

Seems a natural born, American son must have a birth certificate before he can drive a car.


Obama could become president without one.

This whole kettle of fish has turned rotten.

Rotten in DC.

Posted by: battleground51 | March 2, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

All, last word on the Erick Erickson mess:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 2, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Somehow I would have been disappointed had battleground not been a birther. Proves that I can still spot 'em.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 2, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

@Jake...why didn't you look up how to spell clarence before taking on your new id.

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 2, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Huck's misstatements are another sign that the GOP really doesn't have a plan for governing. Combined with the intransigence of Gov Walker in WI, it is abundantly clear - even to those who aren't paying close attention to politics - that the GOP is bereft of ideas of how to govern, and is more interested in a power grab than in running an effective government.

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 2, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Battleground you are a true idiot...


In order to take a short cruise from Tampa to Mexico my wife and I were required to provide "birth certificates". Before 9/11 we took this same weekend cruise with a simple driver's license.

I contacted our home states...Michigan and Kentucky...and guess what they sent for a "birth certificate". The EXACT same type of document Obama produced long before he was elected...a document that was attested to by a REPUBLICAN Governor.

battlegourd when you take a break from the kool aid perhaps you'd like to google the word digital and find out what the implications of the "digital age" are for storage of information. The sheer ignorance of some of you folks is truly breathtaking. Forrest Gump would look like Einstein at a birther's convention!

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 2, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"And now they are forced to do the same for a national election
because their base demands it."

Yes we have talked about this at some length over the last two years. I've called it the cost of playing House. If you tack that far to the right to generate and sustain the anger necessary to have a good show two years after the shellacking the Republicans suffered in 2008, you can't just say thanks for the rage, now go away. They can not slide back to the center as the kind, inspirational and oh so moderate party of the Shining City on the Hill collection, for Fall, 2012.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

No, Alex3, the major players had NOT shaken out. At this time 4 years ago, Obama had just announced and McCain had not yet (H/T to suekzoo).

ashotinthedark, yes.

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 2, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I guess the "stress" of the campaign just "did" America a favor and flushed another potential candidate down the tubes. It appears that the only ADULT left in the mix is that "playing-hard-to-get," alleged non-candidate Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey--a hand's down formidable candidate.

Posted by: dozas | March 2, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Christie won't run, it seems to me there are only two people, people who with enough money, could make some kind of run at Obama and still bring the base along somehow, i.e. put out the tire fire going on between the Palin people and the Rove/Gillespie/Barbour establishment, a truce required to get out the vote, Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

ashotinthedark, yes.
How are the two "mistakes" similar?

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 2, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

This is a stupid piece. What is the point? I don't know why he did it but I hope he had a good reason?

Everyone who hearts Frank Rich already thinks that.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Why are people still engaging the senile joked (aka clawrence12)? Don't waste your time with this doddering prune.

Posted by: Observer691 | March 2, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse


Largely agree with your post about Cristie...would add Marco Rubio to that list as well. I think both of them are too smart to serve as sacrificial lambs to Obama in '12 but when '16 rolls around watch out.

Again I consider Rubio to be a typical Florida Republican crooked politician who served the special interests and quadrupled his income during his term as Speaker of the Florida House...but..

He is dashing, charismatic, good looking, very bright and conniving and he is Hispanice! We can decry identity politics all we wish but there is the problem of reality. Rubio is probably the only chance the R's have at getting a substantial block of Hispanics to vote for their candidate...I mean imagine the impact of the FIRST Hispanic President.

Of course they could appease the Hispanics by offering up Tom Tancredo or Jan Brewer or maybe even Sharron Angle...snark snark.

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 2, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

2016 is a different story, that will be a contest.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

shrink2, Gov. Christie says that he could win the White House:

ashotinthedark, they are at least "similar" in that Obama really knows there are 50 States and Huckabee really knows Obama was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 2, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"But I’ve got to believe I’m ready to be president, and I don’t. And I think that that’s the basis you have to make that decision."

You don't get to walk that back, he is setting up for 2016, as is Rubio. 2016 is going to be great, unless something bizarre or terrible or both happens, 2012 is a forgone conclusion

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

AS: "It's remarkable that conservatives don't seem to believe that making them [this kind of argument] reveals far more about them than it ever will about the president."


Posted by: converse | March 2, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

ashotinthedark, they are at least "similar" in that Obama really knows there are 50 States and Huckabee really knows Obama was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.

Posted by: clawrence12
Ok...but one mistake was made once and did not serve to further one of Obama's talking points.

Meanwhile, the other was made 4 times in an interview, was the basis for the point Huckabee was trying to make and furthers the talking point of the Right that Obama is an not like you and me. Also the back-up for Huckabee's argument, that he meant Indonesia, is also inaccurate since Obama didn't "grow up" in Indonesia in any meaningful sense of that phrase.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 2, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I often like reading Adam's posts but he's prone to some embellishment. The facts alone, w/o the embellishment, are generally plenty damning so why kick it up a notch? For example, Huckabee's remarks were sloppy, buffoonish and even noxious to some extent but he didn't quite go so far as to indicate Obama has an "abiding hatred of Western culture" (he implies Obama is less American than many of us and may have some hostility toward Britian and old style imperial use of power--but he doesn't quite broaden that into the kind of consuming hatred of all things Western and American that you suggest). Nor did Huckabee quite say the Clintons were evil -- perhaps he thinks that but his comments only indicate that he thinks their political machine is so tough and thorough that they would have uncovered any "birth" issue. On the other hand, I was sort of suprised that you didn't pick apart the comment Huckabee's flack made about Obama -- that the "governor would like to know more about...what else the president plans to do to this country." That kind of comment strikes me as beyond the pale and should warrant an explanation and apology from Huck.

Posted by: wswest | March 2, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

shrink2, then-Sen. Obama also said he wasn't ready to be President, yet every Dem (even Hillary eventually) let him walk that back.

ashotinthedark, I said "Indonesia AND Hawaii" (Emphasis Added).

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 2, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

2016, is so many years away and Republicans are having a hard time dealing with that reality, but they better have fun playing House. Rove was right, they should have never taken their eyes off the prize: getting their guy (sorry but it is true) back into the White House. The absurd tenure of Michael Steele, the flirtation with people like Palin, the dalliance with the more radical aims of the tea baggers, from the perspective of 2012, mistakes were made.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 2, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

It's beyond pathetic the way the Republicans can do nothing but keep recycling the same slurs and distortions of the truth they introduced in the 2008 campaign. They've alienated everyone except white racists. They cannot expect voters to stay at home in 2012 as many did for the midterms in which, by the way, more votes were cast for Democratic candidates than Republican, though key races kept the Dems from retaining their majority in the House. Teabaggers and birthers will never amount to more than 20% of the electorate at best and they, along with the richest 1% of the population, are all the GOP has left.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | March 2, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Is it "beyond pathetic" that Obama refuses to consent to the State of Hawaii opening whatever vital records it has?

Posted by: clawrence12 | March 2, 2011 8:17 PM | Report abuse

There's no need to really analyze this age-old tactic--it's an appeal to racial fears and, thus, is blatant racism. And Huckabee is a racist for having created this bit of racial fiction.

More of the press really needs to call him out on this. He knows the president did not grow up in Kenya and did not know his father. If he was really that interested in knowing more about the president, he could have started his research by reading his autobiographies.

This is just the kind of fearmongering that provokes some skinhead to find a gun....


Posted by: macktan894 | March 2, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Let this be a warning to everyone who cares about the Constitution..

Thomas Jefferson said the following:

The slaves should be freed and when they are they must be colonized. They should never be allowed to mix or be in our government.

Jefferson continues..If the blacks are not day one race will exterminate the other.

Jefferson the Virginian, Dumas

Posted by: dancingrabbit | March 4, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse

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