Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Doubters Need Not Apply

State your case, defend it, then blow it up.

That wasn't Chris Matthews, who on Monday evening engaged in conversation with Clarence Page and Mother Jones' David Corn and asked, nearly rhetorically

Well, what about going to that 20 percent or 23 percent we showed in the "New York Times" poll that doesn`t know, they just want evidence? Is that a group that has a right to get more documentation? And would Abercrombie`s position here be the right one, David?

Matthews was responding to the report that

Neil Abercrombie, who took over the governor's office in Honolulu this month, is pledging to burst the birther bubble. "I'm going to take care of that," he told the New York Times.

For Abercrombie, the dispute is personal. He was a friend of Obama's parents, Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama the elder who was studying at the University of Hawaii on an exchange from his native Kenya.

Though Abercrombie was not present at the birth of the younger Barack at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynaecological hospital on 4 August 1961, he did get to see the baby thereafter. He regards the ongoing background noise of doubts surrounding Obama's US citizenship as an insult to his late friends.

"[Obama's] a big boy; he can take sticks and stones. But there's no reason on earth to have the memory of his parents insulted by people whose motivation is solely political. Let's put this particular canard to rest," he said.

The governor is working with Hawaii's attorney general and health department to find ways of producing definitive evidence of Obama's Hawaiian birth. Full disclosure is restricted under the state's privacy laws.

The idea that Obama is not a natural-born American first surfaced in 2008 during the presidential campaign. In an attempt to kill it, the Obama campaign released his certificate of live birth and allowed it to be closely studied by fact-checking websites who declared it authentic.

Birth notices were also confirmed from the time in the local Honolulu Advertiser.

But at every stage, the birthers have responded with further demands and additional objections.

If not diabetic, or driving on New Years Eve, lift a toast to Governor Abercrombie for wanting to lay all the evidence out. And (on this matter), to Chris Matthews, who asked- really, commented-

Because we`ve got the poll that shows that only 58 percent are confident of his birth in this country. So what do you do about those other 43 percent? I`m just asking you. Why isn`t Abercrombie on the right trail here to at least go to the 20 or 30 percent -- you can`t -- obviously, the nutcases on the far right who hate this guy aren`t going to ever admit that you`re right, but why not get to the people who are confused?

Ignore Matthews' reference to "the nutcases on the right." More telling was his acknowledgement- all too infrequent in the mainstream media- that some Americans may not be "nutcases," or stupid, or racist, but simply confused. And that their views ("why not get to the people") are worth talking to.

But on the same network, MSNBC, a little later, Slate's Dave Weigel would tell Countdown guest host Sam Seder

....the Obama campaign put out the short version of the birth certificate that you can get if you lose yours and you don`t want to go through a lot more fuss. The one that`s public, the one that says born here, Island County Hospital, all of the information is basic. But it doesn`t have a baby`s footprint on it.

And they really thought that was the end of it. They put this on their website. That is what started the Birther movement. So feeding this frenzy -- well, I just completed my own sentence. That feeds the frenzy. Acknowledging that you need to prove something else just lets them prove -- argue that they need even more.

This is not how conspiracies usually end. The Warren Commission did not convince people that -- who want to believe another theory of JFK`s assassination that there was a -- that their theory was incorrect.

To Weigel, skeptics are in a "frenzy," so weak of mind they want to "believe another theory" and are cooking up "conspiracies." Curious, then, that the willfully ignorant better describes Weigel himself. He argued

This is not how conspiracies usually end. The Warren Commission did not convince people that- who want to believe another theory of JFK's assassination that there was a - that their theory was incorrect.

Gee, could that be because the Warren Commission's theory is not, contrary to what Weigel evidently believes, the official explanation of the assassination of President Kennedy? Given that a later, more thorough investigation found otherwise, the Warren Commission report lacks not only definitiveness but also the imprimatur of the U.S. government.

The idea that the question in the mind of a fair number of Americans about their President's birthplace should be ignored is not one held only by Weigel, of course. And it is not confined to the birther controversy, inasmuch as he wanted the media to give little attention to the ludicrous death panel charges propagated by former vice-presidential, and possibly future presidential, nominee Sarah Palin.

The analogy between the birther and Kennedy conspiracy theories is far less defensible. Many people believe, contrary to most evidence, that Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed John F. Kennedy, that there was no involvement by La Cosa Nostra or other organizations. But alleging a parallel between people who believe Barack Obama was born outside of this country (a very long shot) and those who believe the Warren Commission was wrong (arguable, but extremely likely) is astonishingly naive and remarkably ignorant.

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