Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Win For Bachmann

If today's interview on ABC's Good Morning America is any indication, Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), who is considering a presidential bid, is ready for prime time.

George Stephanopoulos had a legitimate excuse to bring up the "birther" issue (video and relevant portion of transcript, here, from ABC News) because one of the congresswoman's supporters in Iowa has introduced in Des Moines a bill which reportedly would require presidential (and vice-presidential) candidates to produce a birth certificate. Bachmann neatly switched the issue to a similar bill, vetoed yesterday by Governor Brewer, in Arizona. Implying- without stating- that she agreed with the governor of her own party, Bachmann commented "I have no problem giving my birth certificate, it wouldn’t bother me at all. I’ve got one, its authenticated, take it." Bachmann had casually and effectively inferred that President Obama could also offer a birth certificate, but did so without explicitly calling on him to do so or doubting his American origin. Nor did she definitively state that Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.- not a good idea to tell your most avid supporters they are stupid, ill-informed, or simply wrong.

After Bachmann pirouetted from (the discomfort of) Iowa to (the comfort of) Arizona, Stephanopoulos, understandably anxious to get a straight answer out of the the Minnesotan, explained "According to the bill ‘a candidate for president or vice president shall attach to and file with the affidavit a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate certified by the appropriate official in the candidate’s state of birth.'" Bachmann stated "right" and Stephanopoulos continued

Well I have the president’s certificate right here. It’s certified, it’s got a certification number. It’s got the registrar of the state signed. It’s got a seal on it. And it says 'this copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding.'

Alert the press! After a couple of years of controversy (legitimate or otherwise) over Barack Obama's birth, George Stephanopoulos has uncovered the birth certificate of the son of Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Hussein Obama!

Except that he hasn't. Stephanopoulos unveiled Obama's Certificate of Live Birth, which does in fact include the assurance "this copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of any birth in any court proceeding." (On his blog, Stephanopoulos referred to it as the Certificate of Live Birth though while linking to, which inaccurately labeled it "the original birth certificate.") It is possible that the original birth certificate, recently sought unsuccessfully by the Governor of Hawaii (an early supporter of Senator Obama), does not exist- and may never have existed. But after he commented about a bill requiring "a birth certificate," Stephanopolous intended to misinform the audience when he contended "Well I have the president’s certificate right here." Not surprising, then, that Stephanopoulos hesitated (ever so slightly) between the words "president's" and "certificate," casually omitting "birth."

Wisely, Bachmann let it go and, summoning her inner machismo, asserted "I take the president at his word and I think– again I would have no problem and apparently the president wouldn’t either. Introduce that, we’re done. Move on." Stephanopoulos had set out to get his guest on the record as being revealed as a "birther"- or opposing the action of a supporter in the critical, early state of Iowa- and had accomplished neither, in effect agreeing with Bachmann's conclusion "I guess it's over."

It was a good, and failed, effort by a veteran journalist.... and a seasoned performance by a veteran politician.

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