How the Birthers Keep This Going

President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, conclusively proving he was born in the United States! So the birth-certificate conspiracy theorists can all pack up and go home, right? Wrong.

Remember from a while back that the smarter “birthers,” assuming there is such a thing, long since abandoned the simple argument that the President is a secret Kenyan, for the weirder argument that, even if he was born in the USA, his father’s Kenyan citizenship deprives him of “natural born citizenship,” rendering him ineligible still.

That’s clearly wrong (and please forgive the legacy tags that make this post a little hard to read). This may stop Donald Trump (for now… until he needs more publicity), but it won’t stop Orly Taitz, Leo Donofrio, or the hordes of other poorly credentialed lawyers who took up the fight as something, anything, to keep them busy while they wait to acquire actual meaning.

We’ve forced the Obama conspiracy theorists to change from being clearly factually wrong to clearly legally wrong, and that’s not much, but it isn’t nothing.

Update: see? Also this.


  1. MarshallDog · ·

    Doesn’t matter. It’s an obvious forgery.

  2. I mean of course :)

  3. What I love is that every minute liberals spend on this is one minute they are NOT figuring out how to win elections next year.

    1. Er, wouldn’t the same thing be true for the conservatives?

      1. No – the key difference is that it’s crazy conservatives driving this, but sane liberals who can’t help but respond.

        1. Yeah, but it’s either an issue that helps the conservatives – in which case the liberals are not wasting their time addressing it – or it isn’t – in which case the conservatives (crazy or not) are wasting their time bringing it up in the first place.

          Either way, I do think that both liberals and conservatives, taken as groups, are capable of doing more than one thing at a time.

          1. I think it helps conservatives exactly because liberals are distracted.

            Sure – they can do two things at once. But the media is generally only willing to cover one of them. That’s where the GOP wins.

            1. Yeah, but again, that means the GPO’s real initiatives won’t get covered either.

              1. Perhaps – but I kind of feel like the non-WH party gets spotted a little extra coverage. Plus I tend to think the Dems are on the defensive right now and they need to focus.

    2. oneiroi · ·

      I just love how every time conservatives do something, it’s still the liberal’s fault.

      The only way I think it’s liberals keeping it going, is if you subscribe to the idea that it’s a liberal media.

      When liberals are “not focused”, it’s not the Democrats who are bringing it up at city halls, court rooms, press conferences. It’s still conservatives.

      1. I don’t think it’s liberals fault that conservatives do something – they are just REALLY letting themselves be manipulated. Consider this: Per the stats I previously quoted to Lanfran there are more Democrats who believe Bush knew about 9/11 in advance than there are conservatives that believe Obama isn’t an American, yet which issue has far out-shadowed the other in media coverage?

        1. That’s probably because while it may have been more widely believed, the 9/11 conspiracy (to my knowledge) never had particularly significant support from prominent Democrats. Unlike the birthers and their Republican counterparts.

          At the end of the day, “Michelle Bachman says something crazy” is simply a way better headline than “Lots of grassroot Democrats believe something crazy”.

          1. Yeah – but does Bachman make it any more credible?

      2. You’re blaming us for the fact that your side’s politicos picked up a zany conspiracy theory, while ours stayed far away. Classy.

        1. No – I’m blaming you for prolonging the debate by being so thin-skinned about it. Intelligent conservatives ignored Truthers. Intelligent liberals can’t ignore Birthers.


        2. You’re really bordering on sophistry here. So:

          Republicans electeds keep alive an insane conspiracy theory; Democrats respond: they’re so thin skinned!

          Democratic electeds ignore an insane conspiracy theory; Republicans similarly decline to engage: they’re so smart!

          1. I think the problem is that you are telling the story wrong. So let me try to present the way it actually happened:

            A bunch of crazy conservatives came up with the idea that Obama wasn’t a US citizen. They used the internet to promote the idea and it gained some traction in the last two years (though still not as much traction as Trutherism did with Democrats). Liberals in the media felt both outraged about this AND sensed a golden opportunity, so they spent a lot of time asking prominent Republicans what their opinion was on the subject. I believe the term for this is ‘gotcha journalism’. Unfortunately for the Left none of the prominent Republicans asked this question have really been in a position where politically they HAD to take a firm stance. So they were intentionally vague and that just makes you guys bonkers.

            (It’s important to note that the jump from fringe crazies to mainstream political figures was actually initiated by the Left, not the Right.)

            So you double-down on the push to get more and more Republicans on record hoping maybe one of them will be the GOP nominee next year. Hence, where we are today.

            So maybe it’s not that you guys are thin-skinned at all. Maybe you just committed to a strategy that has so far backfired but you don’t want to give up just yet because maybe Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty will give you a Birther-esque quote and then it was all worth it.

            1. Yes, the poor conservatives. Hounded by the liberal media amd all their incessant “questions” and “reporting”. Virtually forced by the Left to engage in an intricate, sophistic tightrope dance where they attempt to pander to their crazy base while at the same time maintaining a thin veneer of respectability by clouding their birtherisms in weasel words.

              I feel for them. :-(


            2. I for one agree that we shouldn’t be allowed to ask questions probative of a candidate’s judgment! How dare we.

              But I dispute the notion that anyone had to ask people like Farah, Bachmann, Keyes, Hannity, and even Palin, etc., to be crazy. They just let it loose.

              Believe me, I’d like it if full-on half of your party wasn’t more interested in conspiracy theories than the work of governing, but we work with what we’re given.

              1. Ames – again, more people in the Democratic fold are Truthers than are Birthers on the Right.

                And we have no candidates yet that i am aware of. Likewise Boehner has no intention of running. Why the interest in his opinion?

        3. oneiroi · ·

          I still disagree with your assessment.

          The media keeps reporting on what conservatives are saying and doing.

          Yes, that sometimes makes liberals defend/attack/respond to what the media and conservatives are saying.

          That doesn’t then mean liberals are to blame for furthering it.

          I think that logic is like, blaming the victim for trying to defend themselves from someone else’s actions, “If you just don’t say anything, the bully will leave you alone!”

          1. Actually, that’s a perfect analogy. I was trying to think of that, so, thank you :)

          2. Per the little Search box Ames has 31 posts that mention Birthers. By contrast I have two and I think both of those were responses to Ames’ posts. I’m guessing that if you ran similar searches on a variety of reasonable liberal and conservative blogs you would get consistent results.

            So really, who’s issue is this?

            1. oneiroi · ·

              Seems a bit unfair and reductionist to say, look, you’re a liberal Ames, you bring it up this much, I’m a conservative and I don’t bring it up, so my point about liberals & conservatives are right. I’m sorry, neither of you are exactly the symbols of your respective ideologies.

              Just because you don’t bring it up, doesn’t mean other conservatives aren’t pushing it. Just because Ames brings it up, doesn’t mean either that all liberals are, or that as I said earlier, that Ames should be blamed for defending his position against other conservatives.

              What’s the point of even using that argument?

              1. You tell me – i am going to assume you rub elbows with intelligent liberals all the time. Do they talk abou this much?

              2. oneiroi · ·

                As I said, it really hasn’t been a concern unless someone, typically a conservative has brought it up.

                So I would say for the most part, blogs, friends, media sites, news outlets, didn’t mention it for a while until Trump.

                1. i guess Ames was ahead of the curve then with his 31 posts on the subject.

                2. oneiroi · ·

                  Once again…you’re not bringing up anyone else except you and Ames…

                  And still not talking how we can get to blaming the bullied for the bullying.

                  1. It’s a pretty simple path to follow that i already laid out but i will try again: This started out as a fringe issue. Then the media started asking a lot of Republicans to go on record on the subject. People like Bachman and Gingrich who have zero influence on the party leadership or potential for a real presidential bid joined the Birthers. The REAL party leadership like Boehner and McConnell and the REAL contendors like Romney and Pawlenty have been unequivocal. Next year’s election is not going to hinge on this issue so honestly – why is this even important? It’s important o liberals because they are hoping to convince the electorate that the GOP has gone mad – but that scenario only works if people who are not Birthers suddenly become Birthers…and that just won’t happen. There’s far too much discipline at the top.

                    1. Actually Boehner has been equivocal – saying that he takes the President at his word is not refuting the Birthers claims.

                    2. The President’s word still requires factual proof?

          3. When a wide swath of Republican electeds indulge the paranoid delusions of their base — something that never happened with truthers — are we surprised that liberal blogs will pick it up?

            1. To the tune of 31 posts? At an average of one post per day that’s over 1 month of your blogging life devoted to this issue. C’mon Ames…obsessed much?

              While Birtherism is silly and a distraction, even if the charges were 100% true it would have zero reflection on the way Obama does his job. So it kind of seems like you all are spending a lot of time worrying about conservatives calling you doodie heads. And I would say it’s much less about Republicans ‘indulging their base’ and a lot more about them not indulging liberal journalist playing ‘gotcha’.

              Here’s the reality: Few Independents are going to be swayed by the Birther stuff. Also, no one that I would consider a real contendor for the GOP nomination, meaning Romney, Pawlenty, Daniels and Huntsman, has been vague about the birth certificate stuff. Either they haven’t even talked about it or they have been unequivocal. So you whining about it in 31 posts sounds a bit like an exaggeration. And honestly, if this prsents a real obstacle to Obama winning re-election then he has much bigger holes in his game than I thought.

              1. Well, there are 2019 posts on this blog. So ceteris paribus this “obsession” makes up a massive… 1.5% of content.

                Aside from the fact that this is also a legal blog, and there are some legal aspects to the birther theory that are worthy of discussion.

                1. If I had 31 posts on my blog – which would be a similar % – talking about how Lanfrac was wrong about everything… wouldn’t you think I was taking things a bit too far? Maybe even obsessed?

                  The point is that a similarly intelligent conservative blog isn’t going to dwell on this issue the way liberals do. We’re smart enough to ignore it.

                  1. Yeah, but then again, there’s a slight difference between me, and then a movement supported by, what, around a third of the GOP electorate? And a significant number of prominent conservative politicians and commentators.

                    And by the way, if liberals complaining about birthers is a waste of time, isn’t your complaining about how liberals are complaining about birthers something like a waste of time squared, then?

                    1. Look at it politically. Do you honestly think there is a single person that would have voted for Obama in 2012 but won’t now because of this? And if so, really?

                      At the height of the 9/11 Truth movement Bush still won re-election. Go figure..

                      While 1/3 of the GOP electorate may not believe that Obama is an American citizen, it’s simply not an issue that will impact the election in any way. So in that context, yeah, the amount of attention liberals give to it is disproportional.

                2. Lanfranc is right. Though the Birthers are always wrong, they’re typically wrong in interesting ways. It’s a good jumping-off point to talk about standing and nonjusticiable political questions.

                  And I’d just run the calculation when I saw this comment… yeah. 1.5% of something isn’t a whole lot of something.

                  Also, a problem for comparison is, there’s not really a rubric to compare against. There’s no similar conspiracy theory embraced by liberal politicians who — while perennial also-rans, and unlikely to capture the nomination — nonetheless command media attention.

                  1. I believe Ralph Nader is also a Truther and he has exactly as much chance as winning the GOP nomination next year as any of the GOP folks who are actually questioning Obama’s citizenship… so why not discuss him too? Wouldn’t it be an interesting discussion of third party politics?

                  2. We have this debate a lot, but influence matters. It’s true that you’ll find crazies anywhere, but the microphone their party, and party functionaries lend them, is probative. Nader has none. He’s not even in our party. You might as well point to the BNP to tar the Tories. Either way, he’s not really comparable in influence to Sarah Palin, avowed Birther.

                    1. And what influence does Palin have on the GOP? Can you point to any policy positions they have adopted recently that reflects her influence? Likewise for any of the other prominent birther Republicans.

                      Also – just as a point of reference, why capitalize Birther and not Tea Partier?

                    2. Death panels.

                      Are you really disputing Sarah Palin’s influence over the GOP?

                    3. So the GOP has a policy position on death panels that was driven by Palin? That’s news to me.

                      100% She has ZERO influence on policy.

                    4. Well the GOP doesn’t really have that many “policy positions,” see, so it’s a weird question to even ask. It sounds to me like your Republican Party is composed of, well, Paul Ryan. The rest are No True Scotsmen. That about right?

                    5. Nice dodge but it’s not accurate – so I’ll ask again – what specific policy positions has the GOP adopted based on Palin’s influence?

                    6. I repeat, the GOP doesn’t have “policy positions.” It has messages. It’s what they do. And those, Palin does drive. For example,


                      I love that you’re so readily throwing her under the bus now. It’s such a happy reversal of 2, even 1 year ago.

                    7. So the Ryan plan wasn’t a policy proposal?

                      So now you want to hang your hat on ‘messaging’? You’re reaching Ames. Palin has nowhere near the influence that you want her to have. And that isn’t ‘throwing her under the bus’. That’s just me clearly reading more conservative literature than you.

                      And I still stand by my support of her as the VP choice. What became of her after is her own doing. Being a grown-up means admitting when you have made an error in judgement. Many of your liberal colleagues feel that way about their enthusiastic support for Obama now. You should try it sometime.

  4. For fuck’s sake. We all agree the birthers are knaves who in an ideal world would be eaten by wolves or other large predators because they are stupid. WHY IS ANYBODY STILL TALKING ABOUT THEM?

    1. For the record, ditto truthers.

    2. Because there’s an awful lot of them, and some of them happen to be Congresspeople, presidential maybe-candidates, or other people of certain prominence.

      And of course because some of them are just plain hilarious, such as Taitz.

  5. Haha, you’re pretty angry about that. Of course Ryan’s thing was policy, and of COURSE messaging matters. The GOP mainstream routinely apes and takes cues from Palin in opposing the America-ending-wreck-of-the-day, like the “Ground Zero Mosque,” health care, etc. I realize it’s important that you be able to handwave away the hacks that rule your party, but that’s getting pretty hard, I bet.

    For example, I think Palin’s star is starting to dim. But the thousands of articles over the past few weeks about, “has Palin lost her grip,” or whatever, are remarkable for what they presuppose.

    1. I really just don’t think you know what you are talking about. You have so many posts about Glen Beck and Palin that you sort of need them to be more important than they are. The opposition to Park 51 for example, while it was prety ridiculous, was diverse. It ranged from the 9/11 families themselves to Newt Gingrich to Rudy Giulliani to Harry Reid to Howard Dean. All of them were opposed. You seriosuly want to claim Sarah Palin drove all of that? And if she drove the GOP response, who drove the Democrat response?

      Again – I handwave it because I guess I understand politics better than you. GOP policy is driven by a few key people and Sarah Palin isn’t one of them. Maybe you just like to get hung up on the news cycle but I’m looking at actual policy. Palin, Beck, Hannity, Gingrich…none of them impact policy or legislation. And didn’t you tell us all that unless someone impacts legislation they don’t count? (Actually you have given so many different definitions of what it means to be influential I have lost track – but I think you claimed Ryan wasn’t influential less than a year ago because he wasn’t shaping policy).

      1. So what is your stringent definition of “influence”, then?

        1. I would lay out three sub-categories of politics in which someone can be ‘influential’

          A) Wonks: These are your Douthats and McArdles on the Right and your Jonathon Chaits or Matt Yglesisas on the Left. They drive intelligent discussion.

          B) Policy: Simply this is the ability to affect policy/legislation. These are your Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells on the Right and people like Nancy Pelosi on the Left (Democrats are a little harder to note because they hold the executive but I would also put the Clintons way up there on foreign policy).

          C) Media: This one is Ames’ favorite group and the ones he writes the most about. They get a lot of media atention and can drive popular opinion but they don’t really do anything with their influence other that motivate the base. On the Right you have Palin, Beck, Hannity and to a lesser degree people like Joe Scarborough. On the Left it’s your Arian Huffingtons, your John Stewarts and a good chunk of Hollywood.

      2. For extra bonus points, please distinguish it from “power” and “authority”.

        1. “Though I have exceeded all in auctoritas, I exceed none in potestas.”

      3. Yeah, you’re describing what you view as influential. I’d have a similar typology, if I was talking about who I consider to matter. I’m talking about who actually commands headlines and steers debate in the country as a whole.

        1. They steer debate in the same way that Paris Hilton steers debate with the women in my office. If you like pop-culture politics (which you have clearly shown a fondness for) then those are certainly your people. I just like to think the American public is smarter than that.

        2. The extent to which your party fell under the sway of birtherism rather conclusively proves you wrong.

          1. No one controlling the party is a Birther. Period. I defy you to prove otherwise.

            And i’m curious – if republicans were so easily hypnotized into becoming Birthers (not) what then brought so many Democrats under the sway of Truthers? Who was your Pied Piper?

          2. When I say “your party,” I mean your electeds and influential press people. Like Drudge, the GOP’s undisputed lead messager since 1996, who is also a birther. As stated several times, no Democratic politicians were ever Truthers. (Nader is not a Democrat; you might as well tar the Tories with the BNP.)

            I can’t explain why our voters got into a weird conspiracy theory (but again, I don’t buy that one poll you relied on). But I think it’s probative of which party is more serious about life that our politicos never picked up the ball and ran with it.

            1. But Ames – you and I both know that the ‘press people’ aren’t going to get elected next, aren’t going to drive the key debates and have zero impact on policy. The top ones aren’t even b list contendors. So essentially your 31 posts are about no one of real importance…but yeah, you should totally still make a big deal about it.

            2. So electeds are the only ones that matter in politics? I think you’re viewing this way too simply. The media defines the contours of debate, in a feedback relationship with actual policymakers. It’s harder than you make it out to be.

              Also, if you read out the embarrassing parts of your party, it is tautologically true that it will no longer be embarrassing. I just don’t think the rest of the country, or even many beyond you, will be fooled by such sleight of hand.

              1. I’m saying that the ‘colorful’ elements that you seem to focus on so much – are simply cheerleaders that fire up the base. They don’t do anything to shape who ends up in the offices that matter. If you look back at the GOP nominees the last one we had that was not an establishment candidate was Goldwater. So while this is an amusing distraction in 2011 it has nothing to do with the longterm. It’s the Ground Zero Mosque of this spring.

                1. I’m saying that the ‘colorful’ elements that you seem to focus on so much – are simply cheerleaders that fire up the base. They don’t do anything to shape who ends up in the offices that matter.

                  I think you’re imagining a political process that’s much more sterile than it actually is. Legislators don’t work in a vacuum, they’re influenced by a whole range of factors, including fundraising, phone and letter campaigns, angry voters at town hall meetings, opinion polls, the risk of primary challengers, and so on and so forth. All of those afford media and other personalities like Palin opportunities to influence the process, even though that influence may not be directly translatable into proposals or actual acts. So using that as a metric for infuence is much too narrow.

              2. So now only presidents make policy?

                1. I never said only presidents. But you tell me – name a Birther that makes policy in the GOP or even influences the people that do.

                  1. Nathan Deal? David Vitter?

                    1. Deal is a first-time governor, hardly making national policy. Vitter is a junior senator – also not influencing the national leadership to my knowledge.

                    2. In other words, Lanfranc: no true Scotsman. Small Party, they’re running here.

                    3. Yeah, this is getting ridiculous. These people are (or Deal was until recently) members of the United States Congress. They are the people who literally make policy. By voting on it.

                      If they don’t count as policy makers, the pool of people who do is getting so small, we might as well be talking about an oligarchy.

                    4. Ames’ most recent definition (of many) for influencial was the power to affect legislation i.e. mold the final product. Voting on it is sort of like saying the American people influence policy because we elect on the people voting for the policies. Technically true but not really in the spirit of this conversation IMO.

                      The larger point i have been trying to make is that while the Birther stuff is an interesting diversion in an off-year, it is going to have zero importance to the next election and any liberal attempts to inflate it’s importance is more about gamesmanship than them sensing any kind of threat to the Republic.

                    5. People are all so down on Democrats because Obama’s made some mistakes. It’s just silly! The President can’t even introduce bills!

                    6. The President runs the party which means the people drafting the bills report to him. His hand SHOULD be in all major legislation. Bad bills = a lack of leadership and poor guidance. But beyond that, he has plenty of things he is responsible for that have nothing to do with Congress or bills.

    2. Ryan became influential. It’s all very exciting for him. Further reply to follow.

      1. Wouldn’t you have to say that you are already influential if you persuade the entire GOP leadership to get behind your budget plan?

      2. No. He got the committee post because he was senior, and influential qua Republicans, not influential qua the country.

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