There is a bizarre intellectual dance taking place around the topic of Barack Obama’s birthplace.
The world has been artificially divided into “Birthers” and “anti-Birthers” when in fact I suspect a large percentage or even majority of the population is neither and simply wants all the evidence released so that we can move beyond the issue. For most people, who have had to show their own birth certificates at various points in their lives, the notion that a presidential candidate should release his or her birth certificate to prove qualification for office reflects neither pro- nor anti-Obama sentiment, but a “what’s the big deal?” attitude.
It also seems that the supposed intellectual poles have been reversed.
People who supposedly are irrational and driven by hatred demand to see the evidence. People who supposedly are rational and driven by dispassionate intellect demand that the evidence not be seen.
Isn’t this the exact opposite of what should take place? Or have the labels been misapplied?
We can push and probe as to George W. Bush’s military record even though most of the claims made clearly were crank and politically motivated (and based on forged documents). We can lament that 35% of Democrats as of May 2007 still believed George W. Bush knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance, or that Truthers still claim 9/11 was an inside government job, even though we have had commissions and investigations which prove otherwise.
We can deal with accusations of John McCain’s alleged misconduct during imprisonment even though such suggestions were beyond the pale, and also questions as to whether McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone disqualified him from the highest office in the land:
The Senate has unanimously declared John McCain a natural-born citizen, eligible to be president of the United States….
But Sarah H. Duggin, an associate law professor at Catholic University who has studied the “natural born” issue in detail, said the question is “not so simple.” While she said McCain would probably prevail in a determined legal challenge to his eligibility to be president, she added that the matter can be fully resolved only by a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision.
“The Constitution is ambiguous,” Duggin said. “The McCain side has some really good arguments, but ultimately there has never been any real resolution of this issue. Congress cannot legislatively change the meaning of the Constitution.”
And when we confront crank and politically motivated theories, we do so with the best evidence we have available. And if we don’t have all the evidence, we go out and get it.
We regularly rebut and rebuke crank theories with evidence, and by pointing out the lack of evidence to support the theory. We don’t do what so many pundits are doing, and saying thing such as “oh, well even if we release the evidence, they won’t believe it.”
Yes, it’s true that die-hard conspiracy theorists never will be convinced, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to convince the large segment of the population which will be convinced.
Why isn’t everyone who believes the “Birthers” to be driven by hatred and racism, and motivated by politics, doing what Obama’s family friend and the new Democratic Governor of Hawaii wants to do, rebut and rebuke with the best evidence?
I think a large part of this is the fear of being labeled a “Birther,” which is the functional equivalent of being called a “racist” by the mainstream media and by organizations such as Media Matters, Think Progress and their progeny. As I have pointed out before, you don’t need to doubt Obama’s birthplace or eligibility to be labeled a “Birther”; just ask Scott Brown.
We have reached the point that merely expressing normal political and legal inquisitiveness will result in a charge of Birtherism or racism because it now involves Barack Obama, even though similar questions as to John McCain’s eligibility for office were raised in the 2008 election cycle.
I repeat, whiter-than-white John McCain had his eligibility questioned because of his birthplace, so how is it necessarily racist that the same thing takes place as to Barack Obama? The racist charge is just a way of shutting down the conversation, a convenient excuse for epistemic closure.
As I’ve posted before, I think the circumstantial evidence supports the view that Obama was born in Hawaii, and there is no credible evidence otherwise. But to reach this conclusion, the one thing neither I nor anyone else can honestly say is that all the evidence has been reviewed.
And personally, I’d love for the records to be released and show that Obama was born in Hawaii, so as to put this politically losing issue behind us. I’d much rather focus politically on Obama’s destruction of the health care system and bankrupting of the country, than be drawn into the birthplace dance.
But I also have pointed out that Obama’s strategy of concealing the records and dismissing the “Birthers” as cranks is not working in the longer term. While the charge of Birtherism can be used by Democrats to shape the political landscape, polling shows that there is a substantial segment of the population which doubts Obama’s legitimacy.
Instead of evidence and inquiry, we have this bizarre intellectual dance, driven by fear of being labeled a Birther or racist, in which otherwise curious reporters, bloggers and pundits try to out-do each other in proclaiming that they do not want to know what the best evidence shows. In order to prove that one is not a “Birther,” is seems that pledging allegiance to the “anti-Birther” movement is required.
Thus, it is not surprising that even people — like me — who believe Obama was born in Hawaii are afraid to touch this subject. Trust me, every time I do a post on this topic I am extremely careful because I know there are people out there just waiting to twist my words and take things out of context.
There are enormous risks for anyone intellectually honest enough to wonder why merely asking questions or seeking the truth constitutes a punishable offense.
How is it that have we reached the point that the most vociferous opponents of Obama want the same evidence that Obama’s most vociferous defender, the Governor of Hawaii, wants?
And how is it that these opposites who are attracted to the same thing cannot seem to get what they want?
Update: Trending, Chris Matthews, David Corn and Clarence Page all say put the issue to rest and release the original birth certificate (h/t HotAir):
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