Friday, April 29, 2011

The Issue is Still the Birth Certificate

     Mr. Obama recently handed the birthers a tremendous opportunity—if they're smart enough to take it. Yes, I'm referring to the official-looking document that appears to be the long-form birth certificate that he'd spent three years and more than $2,000,000 trying to hide.
     For the past few weeks, I was encouraged by attempts by state legislatures to require presidential candidates to show proof that they were "natural-born citizens" of the United States. After all, the Constitution reserves to the states the power to choose electors who, in turn, elect the President. Before the 1830's, state legislatures chose the electors. Since the 1830's, all states adopted a policy of allowing voters to choose the electors. Regardless of which method is used, it's officially the states that choose the electors.
     Only a few days ago, I was cautioning some birthers about the approach they were taking to the issue. To these people—probably Internet trolls and not real birthers—the issue was all about Obama's birth certificate. I advised the real birthers in the group not to be taken in by this tactic.
     By focusing on the reasonableness of the bill itself—that is, the bill that would require all presidential candidates, and not just Obama, to show proof of natural-born citizenship, they would be on solid ground. By allowing Obama's birth certificate to become the issue, they would be accepting two disadvantages:
1. They would be turning the bills into a referendum on Obama. In so doing, they would alienate a lot of Democrats who might otherwise support the bill.
2. They would be placing themselves in the position of having to prove that Obama's long-form birth certificate doesn't exist. Of course, it's impossible to prove a negative.
     Now that Mr. Obama has produced a convincing document (whether paper or virtual, real or forged), where do we go from here?
     If the issue is all about Obama, the birther movement is dead—not just for now, but forever. Let's suppose that it's later discovered and proven that the birth certificate is a forgery. It's next to impossible to restart a movement after it has been declared dead. Like grandfather's clock, it's “stopped short, never to go again.”
     As soon as Donald Trump started making noises about running for President, I smelled a rat. Just as Ross Perot was a stalking horse for Bill Clinton in 1992, Donald Trump smells like a stalking horse for Barack Obama in 2012.
     Then there was the video clip of Donald Trump playing the foil for a small group of Obama supporters. In seconds, they had made the birth certificate issue a referendum on Obama, and Trump let them. Smart people don't make stupid mistakes like that. That's when I knew that Donald Trump was a Trojan horse in the birther movement.
     Obama claims that he was able to present his birth certificate only because he had convinced the hospital and the State of Hawaii to waive a law forbidding its release.  It may or not be true that there is such a law, but think about it for a moment.  Is there a law forbidding Obama from releasing his copy of it?  Of course not.
     So how is it an advantage to birthers that Mr. Obama has shown something that looks like a birth certificate? As I said, it's an advantage only if the birthers are smart enough to seize the advantage.
     There are only two possibilities: Either the legislative approach to the issue is a partisan issue, and it has been "thrust deep, deep and forever into some nameless and ordinary grave;" or it's a non-partisan issue and very much alive.
     Since it can no longer be framed a referendum on Obama, it's no longer controversial, and it's no longer a partisan issue. A lot of Democrats and other Obama supporters may be convinced to support the so-called "birther bills." The question of whether the Obama birth certificate is genuine can go into stealth mode until the bills are passed.
Obama's handlers no doubt are hoping that the birther bills, defined as referenda on Obama, will go away now that he has produced the much-demanded document. Instead, we should frame the bills as commonsense measures to avoid the kind of wrangling we've been suffering over the birther debate. If we do, we may find that Mr. Obama has painted himself into a corner.
     Thank you, Mr. Obama.

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