By MARSHA MERCER
You’ve probably seen the video. A woman holds up a small American flag along with a plastic bag containing her birth certificate and rants at her congressman for not pushing President Barack Obama about his citizenship.
“He is not an American citizen. He is a citizen of Kenya,” the woman declares. The crowd at the town meeting is clearly with her, cheering and applauding.
Then she wails, “I want my country back.” Aha, so that’s what this “birther” business is about.
There’s nothing like fear to make people yearn for a simpler time and place, and we’re living through a frightening, complicated period. Not only are we in a severe economic downturn and two wars, but also the first black president is trying to restructure the economy, health care, banking and the auto industry.
His political foes claim the president is turning the country socialist, and they stoke worries of higher taxes, massive deficits and Big Brother controlling daily life.
Anyone who upsets the status quo as Obama is doing has to expect a backlash, but what’s happening this summer is troubling. Right-wing Web sites, cable TV and radio talkers are using tactics of hate and desperation to stir emotion and undermine Obama’s legitimacy as president.
Opinion shapers who know better – Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and others -- are encouraging the fearful to believe the falsehood that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. In pursuit of ratings, clicks and cash, these talkers and sites insinuate that Obama is an impostor who sailed into office under false colors. They impugn the president’s motives and suggest he doesn’t have American interests at heart.
People are entitled to their opinions but not to their own facts.
Despite evidence to the contrary, “birthers” argue that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Other contend that since both his parents weren’t U.S. citizens, he doesn’t meet the qualification in Article II of the Constitution that a president must be a “natural born citizen.” The Constitution doesn’t define “natural born,” nor has Congress. Federal courts so far have declined to hear cases involving Obama’s eligibility to be president.
In the video, Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware quietly tells his angry constituent that the president is a citizen -- and the crowd boos. The woman stands up again and urges everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance right then and there, and they do.
Liz Cheney, a daughter of the former vice president and a former State Department official, was on Larry King Live defending those who believe that Obama is ineligible to be president. Asked if she thinks Obama was born in Kenya, Cheney said no, but she empathized with those who think that way, saying that people are increasingly uncomfortable with a president who is reluctant to defend the nation overseas.
Democratic strategist James Carville criticized Cheney for failing to declare the citizenship question ludicrous.
During the presidential campaign, Obama posted online a birth certificate showing he was born in the state of Hawaii. Birthers charged that the document was a forgery. After a fact-checking group examined it and said it was indeed real, birthers complained it wasn’t a “long form” certificate that would show the hospital’s and doctor’s names.
Last October, the director of the Hawaii Department of Health issued a statement saying that she had “personally seen and verified” that the department has Obama’s original birth certificate on record.
A Honolulu reporter went through the city’s newspaper archives from 1961 and found an announcement in two local papers of the birth of a son to Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama of 6085 Kalanianole Highway on Aug. 4.
Both PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org have run to ground assorted non-citizenship rumors, finding them false. The “noble truth,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, is that
Obama was born in Hawaii.
Still, some Web sites champion the few military men who have filed lawsuits claiming that Obama is not the lawful commander in chief. They make heroes of the few members of Congress who have gotten in on the act.
Rep. Bill Posey, Republican of Florida, introduced a bill that would require future presidential candidates to submit their birth certificates. Nine House Republicans have joined Posey’s cause. Like Liz Cheney, most say they personally think Obama is a U.S. citizen, but that this requirement will head off questions in the future. Wink, wink.
Now I want my country back.
© 2009 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.