Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Did You Hear the One About Obama Being a Kenyan?

I am a little confused. Where is the notion that BHO is not an American citizen coming from? I watched "Hardball" with Chris Matthews yesterday, and I was totally dumbfounded. I laughed openly at the woman from Delaware who hijacked Congressman Castle's constituent meeting, because it was clear that there was nothing BHO could do, ever, to convince her that he is not a "Kenyan."
The easy way to tackle this is to suggest that because BHO is the first black POTUS, and he had the unfortunate luck of not being a direct descendant of American slaves (though there are apparently American slave holders in his family history), and was born in what I assume to some must be the foreign country of Hawaii, that therefore, he must be a Muslim plant, a Manchurian Candidate, or perhaps just illegitimate. That would be easy.

But it does make one wonder. Have any other U.S. Presidents had their citizenship challenged? Right now, I don't know the answer to that. Maybe others will let me know in the comments section. And there are ten GOP sponsors to a bill to insist that in future elections those running for POTUS must produce a valid birth certificate (as though they haven't at some point in the past already). Isn't that just a stealth way to get BHO to do what they think they want when he runs for re-election, thus catering to these sad, pitiful people?

Check out these other bits on this subject here, here and here. Oh, and can someone make Liz Cheney go away?


Anonymous said...

I think the only way to get rid of Liz Cheney is to pour a bucket of water on her.


Scott said...

Sometimes Chris Matthews frustrates me, but then there are those moments where he shows why he's been successful. I loved watching him make the Congressman squirm.

Personally, I love the "birthers." I support all right-wing whacko groups and hope these folks show up en mass at every Republican event.

The GOP is going to have to decide whether or not it is in fact a real political party offering real policy alternatives, or a bunch of psycho-morons. What the Matthews interview shows is that Republicans ARE going to have to choose. They CAN'T continue to pander to the fantasy-world right and be taken seriously by sane people at the same time.

Anonymous said...

But isn't he Kenyan? Isn't he truly an African-American? My wife is from a foreign country, I was born an American. Doesn't the identity politics regime dictate that my son is a hyphenated American?

You may recall that Sen. McCain's right to be elected President was also challenged. Several groups filed legal challenges to his eligibility since he was born in the Panama Canal Zone.

By the way, Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1959. It's fair enough that a certain generation might have questions about its status when he was born.

Obama has exploited his "foreignness" when it serves him politically—don't be surprised that there is a reaction to it.

As a foreign-born American (who will have two foreign born American children) I have researched this issue. The GPO has a good analysis on it here:

Slate has a quicker easier discussion of McCain's situation here:

Mayor Plenty said...

This is absolutely frightening. "Playing to the crazies" is absolutely the way to describe this sort of paranoia, and it's what really disappoints me about U.S. politics. How much time and effort is wasted trying to tear each other apart?

Better Guy X said...

Anonymous #2, he's American. In 1961, dual citizenry for American citizens born of one foreign parent wasn't acknowledged in the US yet. Moreover, Africa is a big continent and Kenya is part of it. Identity politics you reference would try to say he's not "black," not of West African descent. But he has self-identified as black and aligned himself with the group's interest.

As for foreign-born presidents. Calvin Coolidge may be Canadian. He was born at a family vacation home which actually may be located in Quebec, not Vermont.

Clancy said...

To a certain segment of the population, no Democratic president since FDR has been "legitimate." Mostly, these folk were fringe right-wingers who believed everyone to the left of Lindberg was a commie bent on destroying America. The New Deal was socialism incognito. Truman sold out China and subjected the U.S. to the undue influences of the U.N. Kennedy blinked and entered in to nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviets. Johnson brought even more socialism than Roosevelt. While these "challenges" often simmered well below the surface, they started to become more visible during the Carter administration as mainstream politicians on the right became more blatant about exploiting them.

However, this segment of the population did not become completely deranged until Clinton. Remember that they lobbed charges that the Clintons murdered people and that the POTUS was a rapist. Funded by equally nutty millionaires and enabled by segments of the mainstream press and in the GOP, these elements almost succeeded in removing Clinton from office because he couldn't keep his zipper up. Think about how crazy that is on the surface.

It's not a whole lot different for Obama. During the election, you may recall, certain segments on the far right wing actually started circulating an "Obama Death List," similar to the Clinton list of the 1990s, that purported to detail all the "untimely" deaths of those who crossed Obama's path. Strangely, a good portion of the list was identical to the original Clinton list. To me, the Birther angle is simply a variation of this (now) long tradition of the fringe objecting to Democratic leadership. The xenophobia and racism have likely always been there (again, the same people accused Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton of fathering children with black women), but it's far more powerful a tool now that a black man is their target.

It really frustrates me when people compare this to the McCain situation. In that case, there were legitimate Constitutional questions as to what constituted "natural born" and whether it applied specifically to McCain. Congress actually entered the fray to side with McCain as natural born, not only because it seemed obvious, but because a previous Congress left the status of his birth (because of the timing) ambiguous at best.

BTW, a good tutorial on the birther phenomenon can be found here: