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The Nut Job as Political Force

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Posted on Aug 3, 2009
Flickr / brownpau

By Eugene Robinson

    If there’s been a more clinically insane political phenomenon in my lifetime than the “birthers,” I’ve missed it. Is this what our national discourse has come to? Sheer paranoid fantasy?

    I’m talking about the people who have convinced themselves that Barack Obama was not really born in the United States, and thus is ineligible to be president. Even some commentators who usually are among Obama’s most rabid critics have acknowledged that this idea is simply nuts. Yet it persists, out there on the farthest fringes of the right-wing blogosphere. Oh, and also on CNN, which is usually a little closer to reality.

    It has been definitively shown that there is not a scintilla of truth, or even the slightest ambiguity, in the whole “birther” idea. Officials in Hawaii have attested again and again that Obama was, in fact, born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961. When the “birthers” demanded to see his birth certificate, state officials produced it. Journalists have looked at this complete non-story from every angle and concluded that it is, in fact, a complete non-story.

    To believe otherwise, it’s necessary to explain the fact that birth announcements heralding the arrival of baby boy Barack Obama ran in two Honolulu newspapers in August 1961. So to be a card-carrying “birther,” you have to believe not only that Hawaiian officials conspired to fabricate records, but also that “they”—not state officials, necessarily, but the generic malevolent “they” who inevitably lurk behind the deepest, darkest conspiracies—somehow managed to alter or replace clippings in yellowing newspaper archives.

    That’s what the less crazy birthers have to contend. The alternative scenario—for those who really ought to put their tinfoil hats back on—is that somehow this was all planned back in 1961: “They” diabolically planted these birth announcements 48 years ago, establishing a false record, so that a chosen infant who was actually born in some foreign land—Kenya? Indonesia? Manchuria?—could be groomed, perhaps programmed, and someday installed in the Oval Office. Cue evil-genius laughter.


Square, Site wide
    These would be people who also believe that Stanley Kubrick’s comic masterpiece, “Dr. Strangelove,” was actually a documentary—and that Obama’s ultimate aim, as cleverly deduced by Gen. Jack D. Ripper, is to “sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

    There are probably people out there who think the world is flat, and they’re not worth writing about. The “birthers” wouldn’t be either unless you believe a poll released last week by Research 2000 revealing that an astounding 28 percent of Republicans actually think that Obama was not born in the United States and another 30 percent are “not sure.” GOP officials need to order more tinfoil.

    The survey, commissioned by the liberal Web site Daily Kos, found that 93 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of independents have no doubt—duh—that Obama was born in the United States. That only 42 percent of Republicans are similarly convinced is a fascinating indicator of just how far the Republican Party has drifted from the mainstream.

    Also beyond the Outer Limits of sanity is CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, who has been giving prime-time exposure to the “birther” lunacy—even while denying that he believes in it. Dobbs’ obsession with the “story” has become an embarrassment to the network, which has tried to position itself as untainted by political bias. CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein has pronounced the story “dead,” but insists that it’s legitimate for Dobbs to examine the alleged controversy, though in fact no controversy exists.

    The “birther” thing is only Dobbs’ latest detour from objective reality. For years, he has crusaded against illegal immigration by citing facts and figures that often turn out to be wrong. Television can confer a kind of pseudo-reality on any manner of nonsense.

    Is this an orchestrated campaign to somehow delegitimize Obama’s presidency? Is the fact that he is the first African-American president a factor? Is it that some people can’t or won’t accept that he won the election and serves as commander in chief?

    Maybe, maybe not. Trying to analyze the “birther” phenomenon would mean taking it seriously, and taking it seriously would be like arguing about the color of unicorns. About all that can be said is that a bunch of lost, confused and frightened people have decided to seek refuge in conspiratorial make-believe. I hope they’re harmless. And I hope they seek help.
    Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)
    © 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Dig-it, August 4, 2009 at 9:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s concentrate on keeping birthers employed and busy throughout the day.  They are not the types we want disgruntled for legitimate reasons.

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By Doc Nieman, August 4, 2009 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The birther movement, plain and simple, is made up of bigots who simply cannot accept that a black man was elected President of the United States. Any means of denial, no matter how crazy, will do.

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By hippie4ever, August 4, 2009 at 9:04 am Link to this comment

I concur that the birthers are NOT harmless. Consider what the Swift Boat wackos did to John Kerry, a genuine war hero. They smeared him with a broad brush of lies, and questioned his patriotism and military leadership; all to benefit GW Bush, a rich party boy who blew off national guard service during the Vietnam War. Of course the Swift Boat crowd had no problem with Dubbya’s draft evasion—because he was GOP.

Far from harmless, the Swift Boat campaign possibly cost Kerry the election (were the votes counted properly). The Birthers are sullying the integrity of documented truth; so did the Nazis during the last century. It could happen again, here, easily.

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By glider, August 4, 2009 at 8:57 am Link to this comment


No doubt deep seated racism make plays a part in driving these nut cases.  But it is ridiculous to assign it the significance you do here.  Witness the impeachment effort directed at a white democrat president over a blow job.

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By glider, August 4, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

“Call me a nutjob, but I’m not. I’m not a right wing conspiracy nut, as I wasn’t when I was called a left-wing conspiracy nut only a short six months ago.”

Happy to oblige you.  Revin, your a nut job!  I’m calling you out here.  You claim you were are some sort of left leaning individual.  Just what are your lefty beliefs?  Let me guess, 911 was orchestrated by Bush/CIA!  You will not find 40% of Democrats agreeing with that conspiracy theory.  That is not leftest ideology and does not excuse you from being a right wing fruitcake.

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By glider, August 4, 2009 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

“Is this an orchestrated campaign to somehow delegitimize Obama’s presidency?...
Maybe, maybe not.”

Wake up Eugene! There is no “maybe” to the question! Go check out the underground conservative network, the newsletters soliciting funds with fear mongering and lies, and the conservative talk radio nuts that dominate the airwaves in certain areas of this country. Racheal, last night had a piece suggesting the insurance lobbyists are helping with the funding and organization of this related townhall disruption effort!  Reminds me of the techniques the Nazis used to gain power.  Logic and truth have nothing to do with this story.

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By Bill Jones, August 4, 2009 at 8:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I pretty much ignored the birth certificate issue right up to the point where, almost without exception, all the corporate media whores suddenly started to run simultaneous smear campaigns. When Chris Matthews spends 10 minutes ranting about something being fantasy and delusion you just know there’s something there.

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By beegee, August 4, 2009 at 7:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

perhaps those of us on the left should start buying stock in Reynolds wrap. thanks gene for your so-often right on commentary.
my only concern about these birthers is that so many of them might be armed…they are dangerous, as dangerous as seriously misled, misinformed and hopelessly ignorant people can be.

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By dihey, August 4, 2009 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

Is “Birthers” a derivative of “Birchers”?

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By Louise, August 4, 2009 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

Go ahead Gene ... say it like it is, the “birthers” are simply racist!

“Colored” people are supposed to entertain us white folks. Sing to us, bounce balls for us, tell us jokes and dance for our children!

It’s ok for white folks to pretend to like them, if they entertain.

It’s ok to watch them make lots of money, if they entertain.

It’s ok for them to wait on us, cook for us, even raise our kids. But it is never, ever ok for them to have more smarts than us! And there-in we find the truth.

Isn’t it sad, truly sad that we find ourselves forced to address this situation with us and them? Isn’t it tragic that some minds are so small they cant find their slot in society unless they catoragise with us and them?

Racists can’t move beyond the us and them. The less than perfect have to have a lesser to make themselves feel more! At least the less than perfect who don’t like themselves, and can’t figure out how to learn to accept and like themselves. Rush Limbaugh springs to mind. And RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

Nobody seriously believes Obama is not a citizen of the United States. Nobody! Not the nut-cakes on the right, not even Lou Dobbs. But they all believe their little world is threatened if their little world is represented by a “colored” person. Even more freightening to them ... the threat of having to accept “colored” folks are just as smart, just as capable, and scariest of all ... just as good!

Sometimes more-so.

Now how is a hateful racist to keep their secret hatred in the closet when confronted with that kind of reality?

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By N'Awlins, August 4, 2009 at 6:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you think it sounds bad in the MSM, you should be down here in New Orleans and have to listen to ALL the local stations (except NPR) beating this dead horse again and again. I wish I could get out of here. These people are INSANE. All talk radio down here is right wing. They openly call all democrats “commies”, and those are the moderates!

Talk about polarization, each race hates the others guts and makes no attempt to hide it. I had hoped I would be safely dead of old age before Orwells nightmare became a reality. Now, I am living it.

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By Rodger Lemonde, August 4, 2009 at 6:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Individually they may be harmless. As tools of the cynical they can be a danger. The politicians with the good teeth and hair and no other redeeming qualities love these dolts. This nest of the brainless was kicked over with the Palin debacle.
The force here isn’t grass roots. It is a cynical sod ‘em all nurtured by monied interests that want to protect the status quo.

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By ardee, August 4, 2009 at 6:14 am Link to this comment


Gender: Masculine

Usage: Arabic

Other Scripts: ????? (Arabic)


As to the divisions in our society, especially the political differences…

A divided populace is so much easier to control, is it not?

Those on the left, especially those who have been engaged in politics for some time, should be very aware that the left is as divided as the right. There are extremists who hold views and opinions that seem rather strange or even ridiculous to the rest.

Those in power smile every day because we are so manipulated as to be unable to come together on any issues.

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By Inherit The Wind, August 4, 2009 at 4:42 am Link to this comment

Obama is a Democrat.
Obama is Black.
Obama has a Muslim name.
Obama has a Hebrew name (Barack).

Obama, for the GOP, MUST be destroyed. They MUST regain power, despite nearly destroying America.

But….Obama has never been caught with his pants down or his hand in the till.

So ANYTHING to destroy our President is fair game, whether it DeMint saying Health Care will be his Waterloo, or Limbaugh saying he hopes Obama fails.

Or the popularizing of an idiotic conspiracy theory, that, hammered long enough and hard enough is ALREADY becoming an article of faith among right-wingers.  Less than 50% of Republicans believe that Obama was born in the USA, despite MORE evidence of it than of any other candidate.

It’s all about an insane need to have power and using ANY method to get it.

It’s unbelievable that even Ann Coultergeist has denounced the Birthers.  Imagine: A right-wing movement too extreme and nutty for the Coultergeist!

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By Revin Floyd, August 4, 2009 at 3:39 am Link to this comment

This is a sad state of affairs! Why is it that when the case could be dealt with effectively by the courts, the media and the congress, it wasn’t, but now it is getting all the “Conspiracy Theory Whacko Wingnut” hype that has become so familiar to anyone not satisfied with the overtly offensive lies and “trust us or you one of them!” rhetoric “Your either with US or you’re With The Terrorists!” It’s really all a cat and mouse shell game that perpetuates this ever-growing unknowing, unquestioning and uninvolved kleptocracy we call a Free Nation, Our Country, The good ol’ US of A. Everything I was and still am for or against or questioning over the past 10 years that gave me the label of bonifide extreme lefty fringe element has a new name, I am now the extreme right wing whacko! Everything that was wrong with the right is now the character of the left. It really pisses me off. Forget about the legality of things, the legitimacy of the law or anything else. The US government disappears people whenever and wherever it suites their desire; Our beloved government gave up the rule of law so long ago, changing it over to the national interest and the security of our fascist corporate state’s existence. If Obama is or is not a eligible for the presidency seems the most important question if the rule of law has anything to do with anything… But now the laws are interpretable, interchangeable, and up for debate; all the while, we as individuals careen down the cliffs of despair. Problem is, we just refuse to give credit where credit is due—Let’s all put together a warm welcome and applaud the mob that rules the world! Bastards! The whole lot of em… And you too!

Call me a nutjob, but I’m not. I’m not a right wing conspiracy nut, as I wasn’t when I was called a left-wing conspiracy nut only a short six months ago. Now all I know is that every open source straight political commentary and economic analysis, every source of propaganda I used to trust to give me some solace that I wasn’t alone in thinking there is something seriously wrong with a lot of things has decided to call me names like wingnut and conspiracy theorist. Not happy with the shotty evidence presented? Not sure about things because everywhere you look, everyones a crook? Stuff it you right wing whacko conspiracy theorist nutjob… Thanks for that!

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By Outraged, August 4, 2009 at 12:44 am Link to this comment

Re: Eugene, regarding your comment; “I hope they’re harmless. And I hope they seek help.”

I do not believe these people are harmless.  I sense, for many reasons, that they are being used as a part of a more organized effort to subvert all viability of the legitimacy of the office of President of the United States by Barak Obama.

Other than that, sure….. I think that even white trash consider these “birthers” LESS THAN WHITE TRASH, so who do you think it is that supports them, aside from that megalomanic Dobbs…..huh?  Oh…. there are others.

Welcome to my world.

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By P. T., August 3, 2009 at 11:49 pm Link to this comment

It is the same kind of thing Bill Clinton faced, only now with race thrown into the mix.  Truth is irrelevant.  The point is to try to discredit your political opponent.

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