For Romney and the GOP, the perils of birtherism

The last couple of weeks, building up to the GOP convention in Tampa, Americans were reminded yet again how pervasive and pernicious the conspiracy theories on the right have become regarding President Barack Obama.

Obama was elected by a clear majority of American voters in November 2008. A former US Senator, he has been our commander in chief for nearly four years, leading the nation during a time of dire economic crisis, with two wars overseas and a much broader war on terror.

During that time, many conservatives have mounted attacks on his policies, which is only right and reasonable.  The party in opposition is charged with offering criticism and alternatives.  That’s how healthy democracy works.

Whether or not they are correct in their criticism is a matter on which reasonable people can agree, and voters will have their say soon.

But many Republicans have — at a time of serious peril for the nation — gone much farther, indulging in hysterical, vicious, and bigoted attacks. They have lied about Obama’s nationality, his place of birth, his religious faith, his loyalty to our republic and his racial attitudes.

Unfortunately, their candidate for president in 2012 has allowed himself to flirt with those same ugly passions.

Speaking in Michigan recently, Mitt Romney boasted that “no one has ever asked to see my birth certificate.  They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

The media has widely portrayed the statement as a joke, but watching the tape it doesn’t sound like Romney was making light.

It sounds like he was drawing a stark contrast between himself and his clear American birthright on the one hand and the shadowy questions that many of his allies have raised about Obama on the other.

When a party’s standard bearer embraces this kind of viciousness, things have proceeded very far indeed; but there is no reason to have any illusions about how widespread the GOP’s embrace of this kind of fantasy has become.

Earlier this month, a Republican county judge in Texas warned that if re-elected, Obama would “hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the UN.”

He argued that Americans would need to take up arms against the president, speculating that a “civil war” might be the worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile, conservatives are distributing a film, called “2016,” which advances the preposterous notion that Obama is secretly working to weaken America, as a means to right the wrongs done to his father and to his Kenyan ancestors during the colonial era.

These are ugly fantasies, no less delusional than claims by Republican members of congress that a staff-member of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who happens to be Muslim, is secretly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and is working to undermine national security.

Meanwhile, conservatives continue to peddle discredited claims that Obama himself is a closeted Muslim, or that Democrats have deployed the Black Panthers to steal elections, or that the president has removed work requirements so that people can lounge about on welfare.

It is impossible to see these attacks in any other light than as part of America’s troubled racial history.

With a black man in the White House for the first time, elements of the conservative movement question not his ideas and policies, but his identity, his validity, his faith, his very Americanness.

The GOP has, sadly, gone down this road before.

The “Southern strategy” has been a well-established tactic in American politics since the 1960s, with leading Republicans offering sly coded messages to anxious whites about the “real” America and complaining about lazy “entitlement people.”

In 1995, the chairman of the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman formally apologized to the NAACP for this behavior.

”Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization,” he told the group.  ”I am here as Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”

Wrong then and wrong now.

Some Republicans will view this essay as a sign of bias and suggest a kind of moral equivalency in the specious claims that Democrats often make about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  And journalists should indeed call out the left for their deceptions and rhetorical excesses.

But there is a world of difference between the hardball reality of American politics and the kind of orchestrated, racially tinged venom that now fuels much of the passion on the right.

With America’s population growing more diverse year-by-year, that kind of wolf-whistle campaigning can’t end well, for the country or the GOP itself.

Romney might very well win one election by appealing to the anxieties and resentments of white voters, but what kind of future does that portend for a republic such as ours?

Decent Americans will decide between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney based on a careful reading of their records as elected officials, and of their characters as leaders and family men, on their ideas about national defense and the economy.

There is a great deal of information available to help us cast informed votes.

But it is also our responsibility to repudiate McCarthy-esque conspiracy theories and whisper campaigns.  The first man who should take a clear stand against this kind of frankly un-American behavior is Mitt Romney.

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110 Comments on “For Romney and the GOP, the perils of birtherism”

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  1. PNElba says:

    “Primarily, this group recognizes that society has evolved and it is permissible for people to find their own way and if it feels good do it.”

    Kathy – thanks for giving us your definition of liberalism. I prefer to think that liberals stand for equal treatment and justice for all.

    As for the liberal accusing you seem to think is going on, I guess I see it one hundred and eighty degrees from your view. I see conservatives accusing our president of being foreign, an illegal alien, fascist, communist, socialist, unAmerican, America-hating, gutting medicare, gutting welfare rules. When conservatives start with the dog whistling, and many agree that is happening, please don’t complain when liberals call you out.

    “Obama’s vision is to take this nation in the direction of liberal thinking and that is concerning.”

    I continue to hear conservatives say this but just don’t see the evidence. Maybe you can provide some.

  2. PNElba says:

    But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”


  3. JDM says:

    PNElba: ” I prefer to think that liberals stand for equal treatment and justice for all. ”

    I can think of a few examples where the liberals can stand a little improve on this definition.

    Unborn babies aren’t getting equal treatment or justice.

    Christians aren’t getting equal treatment or justice.

    Tim Geithner isn’t getting equal treatment or justice.

    And the Romney dude in Iowa didn’t get a beer from Obama. He didn’t get equal treatment or justice.

  4. Walker says:

    Christians are an oppressed minority? Gimme a break! Where is the lack of justice in the case of Christians? Are they being blocked from voting? Denied loans by banks, or charged higher rates than other borrowers? Stopped and questioned by police? Told that they can’t marry?

    And Geitner? “When Geithner appeared in front of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, the ranking House Republican, Kevin Brady of Texas, said to the secretary, “Conservatives agree that, as point person, you’ve failed. Liberals are growing in that consensus as well.” (Wikipedia: Tim Geitner- Criticism) Geitner was dumped on by both sides equally.

  5. JDM says:

    Walker: “Where is the lack of justice in the case of Christians?”

    Ummm. December 25th. It has meaning. It was picked as the one day out of 365 as the one to celebrate the birth of one individual. It may or may not be the correct date. Who cares! Christians ought to be able to claim one day when the birth of their Savior took place.

    Tell that to a liberal.

  6. Walker says:

    And they’re being stopped from doing so somehow? Gee, I guess I missed this! Fill me in.

  7. PNElba says:

    Geez, is the “war on Christmas” now going to start before Labor Day? Can we at least wait unti after Thanksgiving to begin the crocodile tears concerning Christmas?

    JDM, choose any day you want to be the day your savior was born. No one is stopping you. I feel for your persecution.

  8. Kathy says:

    It’s a mistake to make a holy writ of the Constitution; the founders did a good job, but they produced a document that was meant to be amended.

    I’m not making a holy writ out of the Constitution. That’s not where I’m going at all.

    I am talking about the lack of restraint we see in today’s society as reflected in having to make room for everyone’s position and how that affects our nation.

    Once the door is opened to social demands, how far will it go? How will that affect our country?

    (i.e., the 93-7 vote to repeal the ban on sodomy and beastiality in the military.)

    Doesn’t anyone get repulsed anymore? If not, then the compass is broken.

  9. Walker says:

    I get repulsed by a lot of things, Kathy, but not by your example. CEO pay, bankers shady practices, unneeded wars, excess military spending, cutting taxes for the wealthy while gutting programs needed by the poor and middle class, on and on…

  10. Kathy says:

    PNElba: I prefer to think that liberals stand for equal treatment and justice for all.

    Ultimately, where does the standard for equal treatment and justice for all come from?

  11. Kathy says:

    Walker, we’re all in the same boat and there’s enough repulsion to go around.

  12. JDM says:

    Walker: “And they’re being stopped from doing so somehow? Gee, I guess I missed this! Fill me in.”

    Yeah. I’ll remind you what you said when the kids in public schools write an essay of what December 25th means to them, and wants to stand up in front of class and talk about the birth of Jesus.

  13. Kathy says:

    We believe faith and freedom must be our guiding stars, for they show us truth, they make us brave, give us hope, and leave us wiser than we were.

    RONALD REAGAN, State of the Union address, Feb. 6, 1985

  14. Kathy says:

    Listen, we can all hail our heroes and their definitions to empower our positions.

    We are Americans first; conservative and liberals second.

    Wisdom is how we use knowledge. I happen to strongly believe our morals and values are critical to a strong nation. Who we are inside emanates and is reflected in all our dealings.

    Change will come. We won’t always get it right. But hopefully, we will become wiser. And whether anyone here believes it or not is irrelevant: wisdom comes from God.

  15. Walker says:

    “Ultimately, where does the standard for equal treatment and justice for all come from?”

    Kathy, I get it from the Golden Rule. I’ve never understood why one needs anything more.

  16. Walker says:

    ” I’ll remind you what you said when the kids in public schools write an essay of what December 25th means to them, and wants to stand up in front of class and talk about the birth of Jesus.”

    JDM, you’ve got me confused with someone else.

  17. PNElba says:

    Ultimately, where does the standard for equal treatment and justice for all come from?

    Maybe you can clue me in Kathy, but please don’t tell me it comes from some Christian god. Because if it does, there seem to be a lot of conservative Christians that don’t follow the standard.

  18. PNElba says:

    93-7 Senate vote? Hmmm, I guess we can work together after all.

  19. Mervel says:

    I agree with Kathy in that to me the thing that is the most troublesome for the US is our modern culture, which seems to worship vulgarity, materialism, death and selfishness. These are not liberal or conservative issues they are cultural, hedonism in the end is about selfishness.

  20. JDM says:

    PNElba: “but please don’t tell me it comes from some Christian god.”

    We place our hands on the Bible to swear a (legal) oath. Where does that come from?

    It comes from the fear of the Christian God, who promises to judge with a righteous judgment on a day yet to come.

    Some people in our country’s past understood, and feared this awesome charge.

    You may pooh pooh this. Please allow those who still fear (this word is meant to connote respect – fear of consequence) God to behave accordingly.

  21. Walker says:

    “Please allow those who still fear (this word is meant to connote respect – fear of consequence) God to behave accordingly.”

    JDM, you’re living in a fantasy world here. Who is trying to stop anyone from using the Bible to swear an oath?

  22. Kathy says:

    Walker, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out the “Golden Rule”: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

    Other religions speak of the Golden Rule as well, but say “don’t” harm others. Jesus’ words are pro-active – “do” show kindness the way you’d like it.

    We are endowed by the Creator those things we think we’ve thought of on our own.

  23. Kathy says:

    Maybe you can clue me in Kathy, but please don’t tell me it comes from some Christian god. Because if it does, there seem to be a lot of conservative Christians that don’t follow the standard.

    PNElba, you’re right. But that doesn’t mean they can’t pick up the compass again.

  24. JDM says:

    Walker: my comment was in reference to the standard for equality and justice coming from God.

  25. Walker says:

    So what does that have to do with using the Bible to swear an oath?

  26. Walker says:

    Kathy, Chinese philosopher Mozi (c. 470 BC – 391 BC) said “If people regarded other people’s families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself.”

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I threw out my moral compass and got a moral GPS ap at the Ap Store. Works great! As long as I have wifi.

  28. JDM says:

    Walker: “So what does that have to do with using the Bible to swear an oath?”

    Well, if God was small enough to fit in your hand, I suppose you wouldn’t need the Bible. (the Bible represents God, hint hint).

  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    When the hell did people figure out how to use bold font and italics on this blog? Why am I always the last to know?


  30. Jeff says:

    I have a sense most of use who comment herein are qualified to be president but for various reasons have other interests. One of the reasons is we are intolerant of the ridiculous personal attacks and that makes us question someone who is willing to take on such a position. It makes us question their sanity.

    Mr. Obama does favor socialist ideas-and the healthcare bill is one example. And how often do the citizens turn to government for similar support-college grants and loans, economic development, school funding and so on. Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex and Jefferson warned of the people getting their hands on tax money- well the money has been flowing out for awhile and a in lot more directions since WWII. We still have Medicare and SSI and national parks too as social programs.

    Is the public(media) clamor (it is certainly not a discourse) which is directed at or between candidates an effort to ask ourselves how far we want to go from our principles? Can we look at the four year cycle as a gauge to see that back then, we didn’t have this or that and now we see the costs: do we really want it or should we have stuck with what he were doing? Is it our method for self review?

    Our society has become crude in its language, impolite as demonstrated by lack of courtesy and deference in broadcast discussions and salacious in its images– that is not progress. Did churches bring us this? No it was a lack of self-restraint. And we continue to say it reflects our freedom. It reflects our lack of will. We don’t want to legislate such restraint because we can’t. Too many accept such behavior. But we can apply it to ourselves and advocate for it. To be able to do anything s not as liberating as to be doing constructive things by casting aside destructive things.

  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I blame the lack of civility, whineyness, crude behavior, and self centered ness on the Baby Boom generation, the Me Generation. They were raise to be self-centered jerks who threw a tantrum when they didn’t get the new toy they saw on TV and they are in control now.

  32. Kathy says:

    No matter who we are (with all our faults), no matter what camp we’re in (with all its faults), when the truth is spoken, well, the truth sets us free.

    Love him or hate him, Christie said in his speech last night at the RNC that the American people want to hear the truth. Instead, we are dancing around with political paradigms which only muddy the waters even more.

    The cold, hard, truthful facts of our fiscal situation need to be told and then the American unity and sacrifice will kick in.

    We’re all in the foxhole together. United we stand, divided we fall.

  33. PNElba says:

    “Mr. Obama does favor socialist ideas-and the healthcare bill is one example.”

    Would someone please, please, explain to me how the healthcare bill is socialist.

  34. JDM says:

    PNElba: “Would someone please, please, explain to me how the healthcare bill is socialist.”

    If you are going to argue the textbook definition of socialism, I don’t think that is what is implied.

    The idea of Way #4 of Milton Friedman’s way’s to spend money is probably more accurate. i.e. “spending someone’s money on someone else. This is the most inefficient way of spending money, and I venture to add it is the common street definition of socialism.

    Way #1 is, of course, more efficient. i.e. spending your own money on yourself.

  35. Kathy says:

    Obama is favoring socialist ideas.

    We’re going to go one of two ways. Government taking care of us more and more or we the people taking care of us more and more.

    Which way is the ship heading?

  36. PNElba says:

    ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.

  37. Mervel says:

    I don’t know Knuckle if we can lay it totally at the boommer generations feet, maybe?

    As long as we measure our selves and our worth as the distance between you and me, as long as I am because you are not, or I measure my success as my ability to grab and take what you were not, I think we are in deep trouble.

    The very things that we think will bring us happiness carry with them the seeds of dissatisfaction. Somehow it seems that people in earlier generations understood that better, had more wisdom about it at least?

  38. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Isn’t Foxhole a trademarked term?

  39. Walker says:

    No khl, I think it’s a term of disapprobation for someone who get’s all his news from Fox News.

  40. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Ooooh! Good one Walker!

  41. Larry says:

    Nice turn of a phrase, Walker.

  42. Kathy says:

    High five Walker!

  43. Kathy says:

    And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow
    Birmingham. The segregated city of the south where her parents
    cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they
    have convinced that even if she cannot have it hamburger at
    Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she
    wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.

    Condoleezza Rice said this last night in her speech to the RNC.

    It embodies the spirit of the Republicans/Conservatives. No whining because I’m a woman. No whining because I’m black. But overcoming obstacles without bitterness.

    The character of us as individuals and how we handle what is not fair in life will collectively make a great nation.

    Failures and weaknesses are on both sides of the aisle. Yet, I ask, what is the fuel that keeps your political party going forward?

    The minorities and the poor among us have the same capacity to overcome as Condoleezza Rice and so many others. Do we help them? Yes. But we don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. And we certainly don’t create more entitlement programs to coddle them lest we remove the spirit of their unalienable rights given to them by their Creator which gives them the power to overcome.

  44. Larry says:

    I am sorry that neither Condoleeza Rice nor Colin Powell have ever sought the Republican nomination. These are people who represent the best of the Republican tradition: those who rise to the top solely because of their talent, hard work and persistence. No shortcuts and demonstrated achievement in their field before entering politics. These are truly self-made people who we would be fortunate to have in national office.

  45. myown says:

    Instead Republicans offer more wealthy white males who are clueless about the struggles of the average citizen and whose proposed policies will only make things worse for seniors, the middle class, low-income workers, students and immigrants.

    Republican policies the past 30 years have made it much more difficult for low-income and middle class people to move up the economic ladder today – like Rice and Powell were able to back then.

  46. Larry says:

    Don’t you know another song? You sing the same one, day after day, topic after topic. You are presented with examples of positive experiences and all you can say is that was possible then, but not now. I’ll remind you that 30 years ago Reagan and the Republicans were excoriated by the same kind of liberal one-notes we’re hearing from now. Now, you’re going to tell me that those were the good old days when people had opportunities in the Republican party?

  47. myown says:

    And Republicans give us candidates who openly lie because they know their true-believers will take it as gospel and they have their own media that is too lame to report the truth. The Romney campaign even admits, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.

  48. Larry says:

    You accept the opinions of the liberal media, which are no better than the opinions of the conservative media, as facts. It’s no wonder you think everyone else is lying. Learn the difference between fact and opinion.

  49. myown says:

    Larry, there you go again. Do you know what a fact is? There is no point in debating with you since any fact you disagree with you either dismiss as liberal opinion or you try to trash the presenter. What exactly is not factual with what I said or the info in the links I gave?

    It is a fact that the ability to climb the economic ladder in the US has diminished.

    It is a fact that Ryan’s speech contained blatant lies.

    Try presenting data (aka facts) for discussion instead of trying to be an ideological bully.

  50. PNElba says:

    “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” Lindsey Grapham

    I don’t know. It seems the Republicans have plenty of AWG and are well on their way to generating many more.

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