Romney and the Birthers
Romney declared "I believe the president was born in the United States" on national television the day after he announced his 2012 campaign.
As noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney is trying to defuse the brouhaha over his “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” joke by reiterating that “I’ve said throughout the campaign and before, there’s no question about where he was born. He was born in the U.S. ”
While it’s true that he has been willing to suck up to Birther nuts like Donald Trump to court the right wing of his base, which I both understand from a tactical standpoint and despise as a leadership trait, it’s my recollection that Romney has indeed always eschewed the Birther claims rather forthrightly. Alas, with Google, Bing, and Yahoo all having switched their algorithms to prioritize recent pages, all my searches for “Romney: Obama born in America” turned up page after pages of stories about the present controversy. That frankly makes no sense; if I wanted that, I’d search Google News rather than the main search engine.
But I did turn up this April 2011 post by Daniel Freedman on Fox Nation titled “Romney to Trump: Obama Doesn’t Need a Birth Certificate.” Given its age and brevity, I’m going to take the liberty of quoting in its entirety:
According to Romney family lawyers it doesn’t matter if Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, Kenya, or even Paris: Because his mother was an American (and not even Donald Trump questions that), he is eligible to be President.
The Romney lawyers investigated this question in the 1960s, when Mitt Romney’s father, Governor George Romney of Michigan, was vying for the Republican presidential nomination. George Romney had been born in a Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico, as his grandfather moved there with his wives in the 1880s after polygamy was outlawed in the U.S.
While some opponents nicknamed him “Chihuahua George,” his suitability for the highest office because of his birth was never seriously challenged. The reason his campaign faltered was because of his shift in position on the Vietnam War: He went from being a supporter to opposing it, infamously claiming to have been “brainwashed” by military officials. After that Richard Nixon’s lead in the polls more than doubled.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that “No person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President,” and so the question is: Does natural born citizen mean born a citizen or born in the U.S.? The Founding Fathers were of course aware of both jus soli (birthright citizenship) and jus sanguinis (citizenship through parentage), but deliberately wrote “natural born” rather than something like “born on U.S. soil,” arguably to include children born to U.S parents outside the country.
Mitt: Obama Born Here, Period
Mitt Romney forcefully said Tuesday night that he believes President Barack Obama was born in America and that “the citizenship test has been passed.”
“I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office,” Romney told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow the day after he formally announced that he’s exploring a run for the White House. “The man needs to be taken out of office but his citizenship isn’t the reason why.”
This was literally at the beginning of his campaign. Has Romney subsequently backed off this position and I’ve missed it? If not, it seems odd to argue that his joke was intended as some sort of dog whistle; he’s already flatly rejected the Birthers.
Some will point to various comments that Romney has made along the way about Obama somehow being less than American, not championing American values, and the like. But, while some may assign these comments different meaning because of Obama’s race and the absurdly lingering questions about his national origin, the fact of the matter is that this sort of language has been used against every Democratic presidential candidate—and, indeed, many Democratic candidates for lower offices—by Republicans for as long as I can remember. That’s, for example, what George Allen was getting at with his “Real America” nonsense during the infamous Macaca incident six years ago. It’s all part of the notion that America is a unique nation chosen by God to lead the world and that, by extension, only God-fearing, salt-of-the-earth, country folk are really Americans; liberals, especially big city liberals and their cronies in the media and academia are, by extension, somehow less American if not anti-American.
I don’t like any of that. But it plays to a powerful sentiment among the base—and, I suspect, a not insignificant chunk of swing voters—and has worked well for decades at stoking support.
This is a pathetic rationalization, James.
Multiple Choice Mitt strikes again.
In one context he states the obvious: there is an insurmountable quantity of evidence proving that birthers are nuts.
In another context, he panders to a crowd with a birther shout-out that makes them cheer.
In yet another context, he permits two of the most prominent birthers, Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arapaio, to appear at his nominating convention.
Which he will no doubt further contextualize by saying that Trump is appearing because of his record as a businessman (4 bankruptcies and counting) and because many reality stars speak to party conventions; and Arapaio is not actually addressing the convention from the stage – he is merely addressing official delegates at an official event elsewhere in the city.
The Romney-haters are going to latch on to anything BUT Obama’s record and the economy, so why not get them all frothy over something stupid AND get a few laughs out of it?
Romney was trolling. He’s not that good at it, but it was a decent attempt. Hell, people are still biting about it.
I don’t read it that way Matt. James is reminding us that while Mitt was not a birther, many Republicans were, for reasons they thought “productive” at the time.
That’s why thinkprogress could come up with the claim:
7 Birthers Speaking At The Republican Convention
I don’t think those all are or were “active bithers” but they at least played the meme from time to time. As I read James’ piece, he recognizes the dark side of it. It is not all positive branding.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Republicans themselves play a very funny game with “the economy.”
They carefully do not talk about how we got here, and they carefully do not name their plan going forward.
It is really primitive campaigning, along the lines of “bad harvest, throw the chief in the volcano!”
@Jenos Idanian #13: Yes, Jenos, why not applaud Romney’s brave decision to damage his own campaign for the sake of a few laughs? What could possibly go wrong with Romney’s choice to make sure the news cycle with be dominated by discussion of he racist pandering instead of his “plans” to “fix” the economy?
What you are describing is a prejudice rather than a notion. Pretending that there’s a philosophy based on experience behind this prejudice is your attempt to give it a legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve.
This is really the difference being an honest old fashioned crank who has dozens of bad ideas about aliens, ESP, the gold standard, etc. and an authoritarian bigot who follows only prejudice.
@john personna: Meanwhile, we have a debt crowding $16 billion, no budget in about three years, unemployment that’s been over 8% for… good lord, at least a couple of years, a “stimulus” was passed under the “shovel-ready” lie and paid off Obama cronies…
FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!
@Jenos Idanian #13: Jenos, if you’ve looked at any polls recently, you’ve seen that America does indeed want FOUR MORE YEARS of Obama rather than voting for Romney who wants to be, to adopt your “defense” of him, Troller-in-Chief,
I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this post, James. What was the purpose of the joke, then? Who was his intended audience? or was it just a “botched” joke?
@Me Me Me: Yes, Jenos, why not applaud Romney’s brave decision to damage his own campaign for the sake of a few laughs?
Just who the hell did Romney “damage his own campaign” with? The only people who take this birther thing seriously are so obsessed with it (on both sides) that there’s no way in HELL they’d change their votes.
Romney was rewarding those of us who find the whole thing laughable, by yanking the chain of the Anti-Birther Jihadists and making them jump. Which is always entertaining.
@Latino_in_Boston: Botched? No. Mediocre delivery? Yes.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
As I say, no serious understanding of how we got here. All you can bring is incoherent shouting.
@Latino_in_Boston: I think it was a hamhanded way of poking fun of the fact that his opponent has this lingering question hanging over him and pointing out that he and his wife are Michiganders. Whether it was perceived that way by the crowd or not, I take him at his word that he was playing up his Michigan roots rather than trying to blow some racist dog whistle.
I don’t think it’s a good joke, for reasons I pointed to in my initial posting on this: it fails to recognize that, as a rich white guy, Romney has certain innate advantages over a black guy, especially one named “Barack Hussein Obama.” But jokes that fall flat aren’t therefore evil.
So, why does he bring it up at all unless it is to remind people, in his party, that he’s with them? Or to remind everyone that there has been some question about this among the idiots that comprise the majority of his party?
None of the following statements:
“Obama was born in America.”
“Did I mention that Obama was born in America?”
“Oh by the way, Obama was born in America.”
… is so direct as to say, “I wonder if President Obama was born in America,” or “When is the president going to prove conclusively to the satisfaction of real Americans, that he is an American? Yet each is a nod and a wink to the Birthers. Mitt is an empty suit.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
The 70% of Americans who reject Birthism.
Apparently trying to “cover his ass” for his last “plausible explanation” post.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Obama does NOT have a lingering question hanging over him.
It was a racist dog whistle.
@Me Me Me:
Who, according to Indiana Jones anagram, are all “jihadists”.
You know whose opponent has an ACTUAL and SUBSTANTIVE “lingering question hanging over him”? Obama’s. As in – TAX RETURNS.
@Me Me Me: The 70% of Americans who reject Birthism.
I’d wager that a very large majority of that 70% see the “issue” as a joke. They — like me — are totally turned off by the deathly-serious idiots who push it. And the just-as-deathly-serious idiots who on an Anti-Birther Jihad to keep anyone from ever even mentioning the issue with anything less than deadly scorn.
People like that — people like you lot — are fun to troll and send off raving. Which is why I posted that joke in the other birther thread:
Among the over 50% of the Republican Party who doubt that Hawaii was a state when Obama was born – yes, it is a “lingering question.” Honestly, among people who are reality-based it is not a “lingering question.”
I have to admit, I hope this “lingering question” is a subject that bubbles up constantly at the GOP Convention. It can only help the (non-suppressed) Democratic Party voter turnout,
@bk: You know who has access to all those Romney returns? The IRS — headed up by tax cheat and Obama crony Timothy Geithner. If there was something bad in those returns, it would have “leaked” by now.
And then blamed on “concerned” veterans of the McCain campaign, of course.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
The IRS does not leak. I remember a little while back when they dismissed a guy for just looking up celebrity returns out of curiosity.
They have standards and procedures, and you can be sure the returns of politicians are locked down tight.
Again, what kind of joke is this?
Hey everyone, let me remind you that large portions in our party believe this President to be illegitimate despite tons of the evidence to the contrary, while no one has ever questioned my legitimacy, hahaha. Isn’t that hilarious?
With this kind of talent I look forward to Romney’s HBO Comedy Special: Untaxed and Shameless, and Live From One of my Dozen Yachts.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
BTW, your whole meta-strategy of filling this thread with stupidity, to somehow dilute the criticism, may not be a total win.
Well, in the eyes of many Republicans he does – “WTF is that n**ger doing in the White House?”…
@Jenos Idanian #13:
So you’re complaining that Geithner did not leak the returns?
@Jenos Idanian #13:
I note this is an instance of someone writing “I’d wager” when they mean “I’m going to invent something in an attempt to cover my previous error.
You, like Romney & Joyner, keep using that word in a way that indicates you don’t know what it means.
@al-Ameda: Complaining? Nope. Just stating that I expect Turbo Tax Tim to live down to my expectations. And that he (or some lackey) hasn’t, I count as evidence (not “proof”) that there’s nothing politically useful to Obama in them.
If Joe The Plumber’s “confidential” records can be released, then Romney’s can be, too.
@Me Me Me: I note this is an instance of someone writing “I’d wager” when they mean “I’m going to invent something in an attempt to cover my previous error.
Or, alternately, “avoid another error.”
It’s a casual way of declaring an opinion. Get over it.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Tax Liens are public notices, you idiot.
Joe the Plumber Tax Liens For Tax Evasion
@Jenos Idanian #13:
I, for one, and satisfied that Mitt disclosed 23 years of tax records to John McCain, yet now he is suggesting that religious principles underly his reluctance to release more tax records to the American public. This is a deeply principled man – I was so moved by his beliefs I said a Rosary last night for his tax lawyer and his CPA.
I just don’t understand the logic behind stating Romney, who commands a powerful national presence/platform through being a US presidential candidate, sucks “up to Birther nuts,” but at the same time is somehow forthrightly eschewing Birtherism…
Trump had reached discredited joke status following the national humiliation he rabble-roused (forcing the first black president to show his papers a second time) and after his roasting at the WHCD. Romney’s made him relevant again, raising his profile and helping him have a platform for his bigoted conspiracy theories. For example on the same day Romney and Trump were sharing a stage at their joint fundraiser, Trump first made the network morning show and cable news rounds to spread his latest take on Birtherism, on Ayers-ghostwriter-ism and to argue the President was a failure academically who stole more deserving students opportunities through racial preferences. Romney didn’t bat an eye, and in fact he explained his evening event and his lack of repudiating Trump to the press as part of how he gets to “50.1%” of the vote.
So Romney’s played his part in maintaining the majority of the GOP base as either Birthers or Birther-curious and in helping promote Trump’s more general white resentment messaging, and the stench of that will never wash off.
Of course. Because a guy who makes 40K a year has just as much juice in our society as a a 1%er with political connections up the wazoo and a few hundred million in the bank.
Remember the story about nude “posture photos” of Ivy League students that came out back in the 90s? George Bush, George Pataki, Hillary Clinton, & Diane Sawyer were among those who had been photographed. Pretty juicy stuff. Did you notice none of us ever saw the photos? When you screw with people in that weight class, they tend to hit back very hard.
Really dude, if you want to see the joke, just look in the mirror.
I see no sign that “confidential” docs were released for the “little guy” either.
Sununu said this:
What major GOP campaign surrogate ever said such a thing about Kerry, Gore, Clinton or any other Democrat?
No, he hasn’t. He’s winked at them. Consider these two statements:
A) I believe the president was born in the United States, but I understand why many people feel otherwise.
B) I believe the president was born in the United States, and the people who claim otherwise are insane and despicable.
“Flatly rejected the Birthers” is B. What we get from Mitt and many other GOP leaders is much closer to A than B. And you are saying something close to A when you talk about “this lingering question hanging over him.”
If I said GWB’s role in planting the explosives in the WTC is a “lingering question hanging over him,” you would properly describe me as a truther. So you should explain why this remark of yours doesn’t make you a birther.
To control the date range in Google search results:
1) Click “Show Search Tools” at the bottom of the left hand column in the search results.
2) Enter a custom date range.
But I ordered sushi and beer, what went wrong?
@Jenos Idanian #13: Do you own a mirror?
@ john personna
I’m not well acquainted with the alleged persecution of “Joe the Plumber”, other than the fact that a few marginan commentators are obsessed with the subject.
It’s still “lingering” because high-level Republicans like Romney keep bringing it up over and over again to make their racist base cheer. It lingers because for a huge number of conservatives, it’s an axiom that a black liberal president is not a “real” American, and this is a major way they’ve all come to express and amplify that feeling to each other. You are nurturing bald racism by pretending that there’s a real “question” here.
When Romney said that the trees were all the right height in Michigan, that was what a ham-handed attempt to show off his Michigan roots looks like. You know that birtherism is not the same thing at all, and you convince no one when you try to class it as a an innocent slip.
marginan = marginal
That would explain why he is palling around with Donald Trump…
This is just pathetic. Last week you to took to the fainting couch about a third party ad that Obama had nothing to do with. Now you’re bending over backwards to defend Romney’s “wink-wink” to the racist wing of his part, which was actually spoken by Romney. You used to be better than this.
He’s just a racist. Or comfortable appealing to racists. Either way, functionally a racist.
Also, he’s a dick.
All Romney has is his white skin, so why not use it against the alien usurper who ruined the Bush years by blowing up the economy all on his own?
And this is why I question those who say they “personally” respect James even though they disagree with his politics. How you can respect someone who repeatedly provides cover and support for the racist, sexist and homophobes. James is the Duck one step removed; If you support a duck, defend a duck, and provide cover for a duck, then you’re probably no better than a duck.
James may not be a racist, but he provides support, cover for and defends racist, so again my question is how can anyone of conscience say they “personally” respect James.
So James, you think it’s a joke meant to play up Romney’s Michigan roots and not a dog whistle to the racists in the base of the Republican Party? Okay.
If true, then we have a candidate who is dangerously oblivious to American history and its impact on contemporary society. Name another issue that has had the impact on American culture that race/slavery has had. We fought a war over it, followed by 100 years of Jim Crow/apartheid, and the effects (while being denied by many Republicans) are still felt strongly by African Americans.
Hell, the Republican Party has spent 50 years covertly campaigning on this issue with the Southern Strategy–they recognize how important this is.
Into this fray Romney decides to make a joke that has clear racial connotations, whether intended or not. So you’re saying he’s either ignorant or our history, or stupidly unaware of how his comments would be perceived, or that he just doesn’t give a damn that his ‘joke’ rubs salt into this still fresh would of racism.
You made a great case for why he should not be president (or much else with authority either).
I really don’t think it’s ever been that covert.
“You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
I really appreciate your continued willingness to try and write out your reasoning on this. But, respectfully, your logic on this isn’t getting better…
It might not have been racist per sea — I’m willing to give Romney that much — but at least here you seem to admit that it was, at the end of the day, a joke that is deeply steeped in birtherism and was in no way making fun of birthers.
So if it wasn’t making fun of birthers, and it wasn’t poking fun at himself, then there’s only one other target left.
Again, this speaks to three interrelated aspects of Romney that many of us find problematic:
1. His overall awkwardness — he clearly doesn’t “get” humor or the implications of it.
2. His entitled nature — he expects that he should be able to get away with this — making a birther joke without being associated with birtherism.
3. His relative lack of understanding of his own position — kinda coupled with 1 and 2, if he doesn’t understand what was problematic about this sort of gaffe (and the gaffes he keeps making) then he really doesn’t get politics on a fundamental, retail level that’s pretty critical for someone in that position — especially someone who has been running as long as he has.
And he’s not getting better at this stuff.
@anjin-san: Here, cure your ignorance.
As usual, the “ignorance” is all yours. This is what you said:
Show us where the article you cited says anything about Wurzelbacher’s records being “released.” It doesn’t.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
You showed that someone at a state agency searched Joe’s records, and that they were caught and punished for it.
If we did not already have the word “buffoon” we would surely have to create it to describe you. Now if you only had even marginal entertainment value, you could aspire to reach “clown” status…
@James Joyner: James, you can’t be that hopelessly naive…there must be a thousand ways his speechwriters could’ve come up with to say “I’m proud of my Michigan roots”, but they deliberately chose to pander to the mouth-breathers.
Romney’s chosen time and time again to say absolutely anything, because he thinks the country owes it to him to make him president. He’s spineless & gutless.
Christ, Romney’s even raising money off the whole birther idiocy! What a despicable man he is.
A joke mocking birtherism is not the same thing as a ‘joke’ promoting birtherism. One more on a long list of simple things you’re too thick to understand.
Also, try to be more original:
@jukeboxgrad:Humorless Prat Lectures On Humor. Film At Eleven.
“Humorless” is a good word for someone who doesn’t understand the difference between a joke mocking birtherism and a non-joke promoting birtherism.