It’s not because the president is black, of course. It’s because those upstanding Americans who cheered as US President Barack Obama’s predecessor rode roughshod over the Constitution in his “war on terror” have found a new enthusiasm for a strict adherence to the US’ supreme law. Specifically, they’re interested in a clause requiring the president to be born a natural-born citizen (although that doesn’t mean to say that they’re not still worried that Obama is secretly Muslim).
A long-brewing conspiracy theory has it that Obama entered this world as a subject of the British crown in east Africa because his father was Kenyan. A Hawaii birth certificate and birth notices in the Honolulu press went some way to dampen the feverish speculation when it emerged during Obama’s election campaign.
But now the issue has returned with a vengeance, driven in part by a high-profile CNN presenter, right-wing talk radio and a video of a woman haranguing her Republican congressman, prompting her supporters to recite the pledge of allegiance. Now, members of Congress are sponsoring a bill to require all future presidential candidates to show their birth certificates.
At the heart of the supposed conspiracy is Obama’s failure to produce a paper version of his birth certificate, because Hawaii digitalized its original records some years ago and now provides a printout of the electronic record. That printout shows he was born in Honolulu in 1961 — a fact that was verified again on Tuesday by the state’s health director, Chiyome Fukino.
He said: “I ... have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii state department of health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen.”
But that is not good enough for what has become known as the “Birther Movement,” which would have the world believe that Obama was born in Kenya and smuggled into the country by his American mother, or some variation on that theme.
CNN business news presenter Lou Dobbs, who is openly hostile to the new administration, told viewers that the question of Obama’s place of birth “hasn’t been dealt with.”
Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh told listeners last week that the president “has yet to have to prove that he’s a citizen.”
But the real impact has been a video that has attracted hundreds of thousands of hits on the Web.
It shows Republican Representative Mike Castle addressing a town hall meeting on health care in Delaware last month when a woman suddenly stands up, waving a bunch of papers. She says it is her birth certificate and demands to see the president’s.
“He is not an American citizen, he is a citizen of Kenya,” she shouts to applause from others in the audience.
Castle insists that Obama was indeed born an American. The crowd boos. As he tries to change the subject, the woman demands that everyone recite the pledge of allegiance. The entire hall stands, faces the US flag, with their right hands on hearts and begins reciting.
The incident reflected an undercurrent of suspicion among those who see Obama as un-American because of his politics or race, aside from the theory that he is secretly Muslim because his middle name is Hussein.
Ten members of Congress are sponsoring legislation to force future presidential candidates to find their birth certificates — widely seen as a tacit endorsement of the conspiracy theorists.
The tone of the questioning has raised unease at major networks. Dobbs’ producers have expressed concern over his repeated dwelling on the question of Obama’s origins. The president of MSNBC, Phil Griffin, told the New York Times that the issue was being driven by the fact that the US had elected a black president.
“It’s racist. Just call it for what it is,” he said.
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