In a stunning move, President Barack Obama released the long form of his birth certificate yesterday. Although the quasi-racist fear mongering of conservative birthers had a tangible effect on public opinion, Obama missed a valuable opportunity to save this final nail in the conspiracy coffin for a more opportune time.
There was a time when I was never really interested in getting involved in political discussions. I was an impartial observer who saw faults with both parties and just didn’t want to waste my time. Some folks would call that apathetic, and maybe they’re right.
In any case, all that changed when Bush was somehow “reelected” in 2004. Bush…the man who lied to the country on many levels to get us into war. The man who raided Social Security. The man who outsourced jobs, ended bedrocks of international peace including the chemical weapons treaty, the man who started domestic espionage and torture. How could that happen?
It was at that moment, *after* the election that I realized that I had to get involved personally. I realized *everyone* who valued freedom and democracy and the American Dream had to get involved personally. It was one of those rare epiphany moments that sneak up on you and give you a good solid kick in the ass every once in a long great while.
One of the first things I discovered was how truly extreme the new conservatives were. This wasn’t Ike’s Republicans who were capable of respectfully disagreeing, but doing what was best for the country in the end. This wasn’t even the Republicans of Tricky Dicky, who when caught doing bad deeds would resign in shame.
This was a whole new brand of far right, authoritarian, corporatist bullies. People that were capable of taking a war hero like John Kerry and smearing his name with a slick, corporate funded campaigns and blatant lying to turn him into some type of “treasonous communist”. This new brand of extremist Republicans would say anything, do anything to win.
You cannot compromise with people that have only fear and hate in their hearts. Trust me, I tried it for years. Attempts at rational discourse are wasted on these extremists. All we can do is understand that they are going to attack with a rabid viciousness, and use their own aggression against them.
As Obama said while campaigning for the presidency in 2008, “We know their playbook.” Now, I know Obama has a good heart and wants the country to progress, but I wonder if he ever really understood their playbook, because in every major battle he has started off with a compromise position, then yielding to Republican obstructionism and hostage taking until the final product is either severely weak or ultimately ineffective. This latest move of releasing his full birth certificate was shortsighted and a waste of political capital.
The movement for change and reform in America consists of millions of people who understand that the only way to progress is to make that progress happen. You don’t do that by selling out your reforms for a kinder, gentler form of plutarchy, you do it by taking them head on, and making that change happen.
The legions of astroturfed Tea Partiers who are even a step beyond the extreme right in the GOP were quick to pounce on this birther issue as a way to make Obama, a black man with a strange name seem like some foreign usurper here to destroy America (as Glenn Beck would put it).
Death threats shot through the roof. Militia and white supremacist organizations came out of the closet. There were prayers for Obama’s death and calls for a “Honduran-style military coup.” The culture of hate was so strong that incidents of domestic terrorism shot through the roof, including the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).
We on the left were using their fear and hate against these nuts very effectively. Obama already released the legal tender for Hawaii records: the Certificate of Live Birth. There are newspaper records announcing his birth. In June 2008, Politifact started an entire category to dispel various rumors about Obama’s citizenship. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/jun/27/obamas-birth-certificate-part-ii/ FactCheck.org examined his birth certificate in 2008 and concluded it was a valid document. The rumor debunking site Snopes called the birther claims FALSE. McClatchy called the conspiracy claims “just plain nuts.”
There is no better way to demonstrate what they really think than by giving them just enough rope to hang themselves, and the birthers were masters of auto-erotic asphyxiation. By continuing to rant on this conspiracy about America’s President’s birth place, the birthers made every other far right diatribe they would ramble on about seem just as pathetic and desperate.
Now, all that is gone, and it will be much harder to expose them for what they really are: liars who spread fear to push an extreme corporate and authoritarian agenda.
At the very least, the timing of this release is politically naive. Releasing Obama’s full birth certificate in early October of 2012 would have been genius, and a huge last minute boost. Saving it for a time after a big gaffe or some other misstep would have worked as well. This was a huge amount of political capital, and these aces in the hole are very rare, and once used gone forever.
Obama literally gains nothing by releasing the long form at this point. Donald Trump is already claiming “victory” for “forcing” him to do it, and now demanding even more documentation releases.
Mr. President, you have to understand in no uncertain terms that these people don’t care about doing what is best for the country, they are interested in one thing and one thing only: destroying you in order to derail the movement for change and reform. You must utilize the resources available to you better if we are ever going to take our country back from their grasp.