published Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

“Birther” claims force GOP leaders to take a stand

By CHARLES BABINGTON

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It’s the conspiracy theory that won’t go away. And it’s forcing Republican officials and presidential contenders to pick sides: Do they think Barack Obama was born outside the United States and disqualified to be president?

As the Republican candidates tiptoe through the mine field, Democrats are watching. They hope the debate will fire up their liberal base and perhaps tie the eventual GOP nominee to fringe beliefs that swing voters will reject.

In recent days several prominent Republicans have distanced themselves, with varying degrees of emphasis, from the false claim that Obama was born in a foreign country. But with a new poll showing that two-thirds of adult Republicans either embrace the claim or are open to it, nearly all these GOP leaders are not calling for a broader effort to stamp out the allegations.

“It’s a real challenge for the Republican Party and virtually every Republican candidate for president,” contends Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. If it’s not handled well, he said, all-important independent voters might see Republicans as extreme or irrelevant.

Many Americans consider claims of Obama’s foreign birth to be preposterous, unworthy of serious debate. Yet the “birther” issue threatens to overshadow the early stages of the GOP effort to choose a presidential nominee for 2012. Real estate mogul Donald Trump has stirred the pot lately, repeatedly saying Obama should provide his original birth certificate.

From a political standpoint, it’s impossible to dismiss the matter as conspiratorial fantasy, akin to, say, claims that the 1969 moon landing was staged. In the latest New York Times-CBS News poll, 45 percent of adult Republicans said they believe Obama was born in another country, and 22 percent said they don’t know. One-third of Republicans said they believe the president is native born.

The same poll a year ago found considerably less suspicion among Republicans. A plurality of GOP adults then said Obama was U.S.-born, and 32 percent said they believed he was foreign-born.

In the latest poll, about half of all independents said Obama was born in the United States. The other independents were about evenly split between those saying he is foreign-born, and those saying they don’t know.

Ten percent of Democrats said Obama was born overseas, and 9 percent were unsure.

Obama’s birth certificate indicates he was born in Hawaii in 1961. Newspaper birth announcements at the time reported the birth, and news organizations’ investigations have rebutted the birthers’ claims. The Constitution says a president must be a “natural born citizen.”

Trump’s leap to the top tier of potential GOP presidential contenders in recent polls has frustrated party leaders who’d like the birthplace issue to go away.

The House’s top Republicans —Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor — say they are satisfied that Obama was born in Hawaii. But they have declined to criticize those who state otherwise, and Boehner has said it’s not his job to tell Americans what to think.

Trump, meanwhile, keeps fueling the fire. Even though many people doubt he will run for president, he has forced other Republicans to take stands.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania have been the most direct in rejecting the birthers’ claims. “I believe the president was born in the United States,” Romney told CNBC.

Santorum has no doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii, and he “believes this debate distracts us from the real issues,” said his spokeswoman, Virginia Davis.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour accepts the president’s word about his birthplace, his staff said.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told an Iowa audience, “I’m not one to question the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate.” He added a little jab: ”When you look at his policies, I do question what planet he’s from.”

When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos showed a copy of Obama’s birth certificate to Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who was ambivalent at first, she said: “Well, then, that should settle it. ... I take the president at his word.”

Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin gave mixed signals in a recent Fox News appearance. She praised Trump for “paying for researchers” to dig into claims of Obama’s foreign birth. But she added, ”I think that he was born in Hawaii because there was a birth announcement put in the newspaper.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has dismissed claims that Obama is foreign-born, calling them a distraction. But on a February radio show, Huckabee referred to Obama “having grown up in Kenya,” the birthplace of the president’s father.

Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. A spokesman said Huckabee’s statement was simply a mistake.

Aides to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said voters have not asked him about the birthplace question and he has not discussed it.

The issue has spread to several states where Republican-controlled legislatures have introduced or passed bills requiring presidential candidates, and sometimes others, to prove their citizenship. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, recently vetoed such a bill, calling it “a bridge too far.”

Democrats think the birthplace issue might fire up liberals, especially minorities, who in many cases have been dispirited by Obama’s frequent compromises with conservatives to pass legislation. Blacks who embraced Obama’s barrier-breaking election now see some Republicans claiming he has no constitutional right to be president.

The New York Times-CBS poll was worded in a way that might have subtly encouraged respondents to say Obama is foreign born. “Some people say Barack Obama was NOT born in the United States,” the poll’s callers said, but they did not offer counter arguments.

Moreover, some pollsters think respondents will seize a chance to call Obama a Muslim or non-citizen to convey something else: a dislike for him or his policies.

“Some people who strongly oppose a person or proposition will take virtually any opportunity to express that antipathy,” writes Gary Langer, who polls for ABC News.

Garin, the Democratic pollster, doesn’t buy it in this case. The birthers’ claims are so prevalent, especially on conservative TV and radio shows, he said, that poll respondents are likely to say what they truly believe about a much-discussed topic.

“There are high- profile people, including Donald Trump and many others in the conservative media, who advocate and validate this point of view each and every day,” Garin said. The big question about the birthplace issue, he said, “is the extent to which it drives a wedge within the Republican Party” and turns off independents in November 2012.

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patriot1 said...

The emperor has no clothes

April 23, 2011 at 8:54 a.m.
Julian1 said...

The enemies of reason have a certain blind look. The Birthers have that look.

April 23, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.
chet123 said...

Indian you are so right and wise.. couldnt fool you..got to get up early in the mouning to fool indian.....yes OBAMA is a racist, arab,terrorist, alien,communist,liberal,socialist,muslim, kenya, a monkey with elephant ears,an ogre with an insatiable appetite for feeding on little boys and girls and he lives underneath the bridge,and he is not a black man...his real color is GREEN...you are so right indians...you are so right!!!

April 23, 2011 at 3:42 p.m.
greenj76 said...

He might as well have been born elsewhere because his politics are anti-Christian and pro Muslim. Anyone who would cancel the national day of prayer just to go to a mosque is not worty of that office.

April 23, 2011 at 6:58 p.m.
rolando said...

"...the false claim that Obama was born in a foreign country."

That claim is no more false that the claim that theBama was born in the United States or its possessions.

Neither claim has been proven false...or true. The only acceptable proof is that required of every American on numerous occasions from getting a passport, attending school, or getting a driver's license -- a true birth certificate signed by attending physicians, appropriate state/possession officials authorized to certify a live birth, and bearing the impressed state seal. ANYTHING ELSE will simply not do.

It is obvious to all but theBama's boot-lickers that he is hiding something...my guess is it proves his Muslim faith. But then, it could be anything. He has, as indian said, spent millions hiding his past. Isn't it about time we forced the issue? Before the Mexican President decides to run as his VP? Or Osama?

April 23, 2011 at 7:20 p.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

Can any of you PROVE where he was born or are you just making sh-- up?

April 23, 2011 at 11:41 p.m.
ceeweed said...

A whole lot of goofy crap!

April 23, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.
Yano said...

Does Birther Koolaid come in any color other than white?

April 24, 2011 at 1:42 a.m.
acerigger said...

One of the most often-overheard refrains from the Republican Party and its far-right base is that President Obama is the worst president in American history. if what they're all saying were true why are they so clearly afraid to run against President Obama:

There are several reasons why the Republicans are dithering.

Republican voters are more convinced about the wacky birth certificate thing than they are about their preference for a nominee.

There's a long list of accomplishments which the president can ballyhoo against these negative event-driven gripes. In other words, in the absence of jobless numbers and high gas prices, there are quite a few positives.

Economic growth is up, and has been steadily growing since the passage of the president's recovery act. Unemployment is slowly declining. The stock market is up, thus stabilizing 401(k)s and mutual funds owned by middle class Americans. And despite what the Republicans say, the president and the Democrats cut the deficit by $122 billion last year: the largest single-year decline in the deficit in American history. The list goes on and on. As soon as the Obama 2012 re-election campaign gets cranking on these accomplishments, the mostly unpopular Republican candidates will be almost totally neutered. More so than now.

the Republican legislative record is ridiculous. Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and John Boehner have introduced ideologically far-right, inconsequential and symbolic bills that kill Planned Parenthood and NPR. They've passed legislation that cuts spending for pregnant women. They've passed legislation that magically circumvents the constitutional lawmaking process. They refuse to raise taxes on the rich while trying to gut Medicaid and kill Medicare, even though supermajorities of Americans support both of these crucial healthcare programs -- including majority support from tea party Republicans.

The modern Republican Party fancies itself the party of quick, decisive action. Shoot first and let God sort out the rest. You're either with us or you're with the terrorists. It's the party of swift military action. It's the party that's spending $500,000 in congressional money to fight gay people. It's the party of apoplectic, doomsday talk radio screamers. It's the party that mocks "femi-nazis" -- the party that refuses to "bend over" for the "little black man-child." This is what they say, and it's a whole lot of blustery, impotent noise.

There's one last reason why the Republicans are so cautious about declaring their intentions. They're cowards. And they're self-debunking the mythology that modern Republicans are bold, brave "Reagan-ish" leaders. They're cowards and so they're moving at granny-speed rather than light-speed to run against the president -- a real leader onto whom they're projecting their dithering and indecisiveness.

Not that I'm complaining. (B.Cesca)

April 24, 2011 at 2:20 a.m.
greenj76 said...

•President Obama decided that there will no longer be a "National Day of Prayer" held in May. He doesn't want to offend anyone. Where was his concern about offending Christians last January when he allowed the Muslims to hold a day of prayer on the capitol grounds. As an American Christian "I am offended." if you agree, copy and paste ... no matter what religion you are. This country was built on freedom!

April 24, 2011 at 7:07 a.m.
chet123 said...

greenj76...i agree with you 100%...for we do not lie(bear false witness) in this country,nor allow financial institution to commit usury against the weak in this country, for we drape our selves in family value (then leave the wife and kids by running off with the girl-friend (south carolina GOV.)we shall have no other GOD(except worshiping power and money at poor and working class expense) we respect the sabbath day and keep it holy(except pewing lies,behaving like Greedy pigs)we waves american flag(and draw them in when black president is elected...but we pray everyday....that this communist, socialist,maxist,kenya,arab,muslim,alien president go away and leave us GGOOD FOLK ALONE.

April 24, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.
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