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“When A ‘Gotcha’ Question Is More Than A Gotcha”: When It Reveals Something Worth Knowing About Scott Walker

I’m no fan of John McCain’s (to say the least), but there was at least one moment in his 2008 presidential campaign in which he did the right thing by standing up to the crazies in his party, even if it might have meant some political risk. At an event just before the election, a voter stood up and said “I can’t trust Obama…he’s an Arab,” to which McCain replied, “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with.”

Seven years later, Republican voters are still convinced that Barack Obama is The Other, an alien presence occupying an office he doesn’t deserve. He might say that he was born in the United States, he might say that he’s a Christian, he might say that he loves the country he leads, but they know better. And if you want their favor, so many Republican politicians think, you’d better indulge their fears and resentments and bigotries.

In order to do so, it isn’t necessary to actually agree with them on these matters. You can just admit to uncertainty, say you aren’t quite sure who Obama is and what he believes. That’s the path Scott Walker took over the weekend when he was asked by the Washington Post about Obama’s religion:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a prospective Republican presidential contender, said Saturday he does not know whether President Obama is a Christian.

“I don’t know,” Walker said in an interview at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, where he was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Told that Obama has frequently spoken publicly about his Christian faith, Walker maintained that he was not aware of the president’s religion.

“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said, his voice calm and firm. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”

Barack Obama has been president of the United States for six years. He talks about his Christian faith quite regularly. He sometimes goes to church. As you might recall, there was quite a controversy back in 2008 about his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Are we supposed to believe that Scott Walker is genuinely unsure of Obama’s religious affiliation? I guess it’s technically possible for a politically aware and active person in 2015 to not know the answer to that question, in the same sense that it’s technically possible for a lifelong and ardent basketball fan to be unsure what position Shaquille O’Neal played. It could be true, but the person would have to be suffering from some unfortunate brain disorder, perhaps involving having had a metal spike penetrate their skull.

So let’s not bother pretending that Scott Walker doesn’t actually know that Obama’s a Christian. Walker could have said, “He’s a Christian, of course. We all know that. Now let me tell you what I think he’s done wrong.” But Walker also surely knows that had he said that, he’d be showing a willingness to puncture at least one prejudice held by an alarming number of GOP primary voters. That might win him some plaudits in Washington, but it probably wouldn’t get him too many votes in Iowa.

After his interview, a spokesperson contacted the Post reporters to clarify, saying: “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian.” Not that I want to read too much into one word, but the fact that she said her boss “thinks” Obama is a Christian would put Walker in line with what has become a tradition among Republican politicians when it comes to these questions. Whether it’s Obama’s religious affiliation or his American citizenship, Republican after Republican has treated the question not a matter of fact but of belief. As John Boehner said in 2011, “I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I’ll take him at his word.” In other words, he might be an American and a Christian, he might not be, there’s no way to know for sure, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. By sheer coincidence, Mitch McConnell said not long before, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word.”

To understand how weird this formulation, imagine you heard Boehner or McConnell say, “I’ll take Chuck Schumer at his word that he’s Jewish,” or “Jeb Bush says he was born in Texas, so that’s what I’ll believe.” But you’d never hear them say that.

I’m sure that Walker and his supporters think this was an unfair “gotcha” question to ask. About that, they’re half right. On one hand, there are many more important topics to query Scott Walker about than this one, and we can hope that we’ll get to as many as possible over the course of the long campaign. On the other hand, this isn’t the kind of inane question so many candidates are subjected to, like whether they prefer Elvis to Johnny Cash or deep dish to thin crust—actual questions CNN’s John King asked Republican candidates at a debate in 2011. This question does actually reveal something worth knowing about Walker, because it’s rooted in today’s Republican Party.

It tells us that Walker is (as yet anyway) unwilling to stand up to the Republican primary electorate’s ample population of lunatics, the people who think Barack Obama is a Mooslem Marxist foreigner enacting his secret Alinskyite plan to destroy America. Depending on which poll you read, those people may constitute a majority of Republican voters. Walker is either afraid to alienate them, or perhaps he genuinely shares many of their beliefs. This isn’t about whether you’re a “real” conservative; you can be emphatically right-wing on every policy issue but still be tethered enough to reality not to get seduced by conspiracy theories and fantasies of Obama’s otherness.

Many knowledgeable people thought Scott Walker had great potential as a presidential candidate even before he began his recent rise in the polls. Perhaps more than any of the GOP contenders, he looked like a person who could bridge the party’s key divide, between the pragmatic establishment that supplies the money and the decidedly less reasonable grassroots that supplies the troops. Walker is both an enemy of labor unions and an evangelical Christian himself (if he becomes president, Walker will be the first evangelical in the office since Jimmy Carter; contrary to popular belief, George W. Bush is not an evangelical). While he’s still unfamiliar to most of the country, Walker is the the kind of candidate that the Koch brothers and the tea party protester with a sign accusing Obama of being a communist can both get excited about.

So it’s important to know just how much he represents each of those groups, both in policy and in spirit. He just offered us one important clue. It won’t be the last.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 23, 2015

February 24, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Scott Walker | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pure Cultural Hatred”: Why Obama’s Haters Are Worse Than Bush’s

Permit me to share with you my favorite set of headlines from Thursday.

USA Today: Official who OK’d Obama birth papers dies in crash.

NPR: Hawaiian Official Who Released Obama’s Birth Certificate Dies in Plane Crash.

NBC News: Health care director who approved Obama birth certificate dies in plane crash.

And finally, National Review, and note the difference, which rests in just one word, but what a word it is: Official Who Released Obama’s Birth Certificate Dies in Mysterious Plane Crash.

Ah, of course. “Mysterious.” Well, I mean, it had to be, didn’t it? Poor Loretta Fuddy, 65 and a longtime public servant, was evidently a beloved figure in Aloha State political circles, at least based on the tributes I’ve read over the last couple of days from Hawaii officials, who seem to be absolutely grief-stricken at her passing. But to certain of their fellow Americans, Fuddy’s tragic death provides the occasion for only one thing—sly suggestions that her death might not quite have been an accident. You see, she was the only person of nine on board the small Cessna who perished. Hence, “mysterious.”

In fairness, the National Review writer was having a bit of a laugh. But even so, that word did appear in the headline, and that headline happened to appear toward the end of the most flagrantly batshit-crazy week of Obama obsession we’ve seen in a long, long time. I needn’t rehearse all the ridiculous and false and not-a-little-racist things that have been said. But let’s look into this dementia a little more broadly.

Of course, some on the left said nutty things about Bush too, and for the arbiters of conventional wisdom, that mere fact makes for “equivalence.” Both sides do it. Well… OK. But that depends on how you define “it.”

In fact, both sides do different things. My assertion is this: Baseless left-wing attacks on Republicans differ in character from baseless right-wing attacks on Democrats in two ways. First, most liberal-left attacks on Republicans are more political than cultural, while virtually all right-wing attacks on Democrats are about culture. And second, those liberal-left attacks that are about culture tend to be mocking in tone, expressing derision, while the right’s attacks are fearful, expressing deep paranoia.

Let’s take them one by one. Bush and his top men were often called fascists on the left. That’s an attack that certainly has its cultural elements, but it is first and foremost political. The worst thing people on the left could think to do, in other words—call Bush a fascist—is a political smear, not a cultural one. This reflects the way most people on the left see the world—through a political lens primarily, and through a cultural one only secondarily. There are exceptions to this, but in the main, for the broad liberal-left, politics is primarily about politics, not culture.

On the right, politics is much more about culture, because the right feels itself to be an aggrieved minority whose culture (industriousness, self-reliance, Godliness, etc.) is under constant attack from the libertines and relativists, who of course far outnumber and surround the righteous few. Culture is where people on the right live, and so the worst thing they can think to do is to make attacks that are about culture, about the Democrats hating God, destroying America, and so on.

Sometimes, of course, the left goes cultural. Calling Bush a chimp and an idiot and a cowboy, say; those trafficked in liberals’ stereotypes about Texans, Southerners in general, back-slapping oil men, and so on (well, chimp just had to do with certain facial features). That wasn’t nice, I suppose, but here’s the thing. It was done to laugh at him.

By and large, the right doesn’t laugh at Obama. Oh, sometimes. There’s the absurd teleprompter meme from early on, which held that he couldn’t put two sentences together without huge transcripts placed in front of him. And there’s a strain of criticism that he’s in over his head. But those tropes are far outweighed by the ones that assign to Obama a world-historical level of devious intelligence—indeed, he’s so maliciously brilliant that he managed to fake a birth certificate decades ago, all as just the opening salvo of a grand scheme to bring America and/or the white race to ruin.

If that’s how they see him, and it is, it stands to reason that the most out-there attacks will be pegs that will fit nicely in that hole. And, always, race will be ladled on top, like, well, chocolate syrup. Both elements were at work in this ridiculous thing about the Danish prime minister, with whom Obama was allegedly bringing dishonor upon America and behaving the way black men behave in Concerned Citizens’ Council newsletters, unable to keep his libido on a leash and so forth.

To people on the left, Bush was embarrassing, ever a threat to behave boorishly or be asked to appraise a Kandinsky on a European visit and crack that it looked like yesterday’s breakfast leftovers. To people on the right, though, Obama is a menace. They are different—and yes, the latter is worse than the former, because it does breed a more intense hatred.

Did you know, for example, that Obama has “ordered” the deaths and executions of some 30 or more people? Here’s the list, have a look. One of them is particularly impressive—apparently, a 10-year-old Obama iced an Indonesian classmate, decapitating him as part of an initiation ritual, “since Islam demands that a boy spill another’s blood before the age of 10 to prove their loyalty to Allah.” The Clintons, of course, were accused of murder, too. Whereas no one had to make crazy murder accusations against Bush. He actually did kill people (not with his own hands, obviously, but by starting a war of choice whose death tally will never be fully known).

One can only roll one’s eyes, but in fact, all this is psychotic and sickening, and it has power in the media, which can’t resist talking at length about The Handshake or The Selfie, even if it’s to defend Obama, because the mere fact of talking about those things really only fuels the fire. Yes, Obama will be out of office one day—which only raises the question what they might say (that they haven’t already) about Hillary.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 14, 2013

December 15, 2013 Posted by | Birthers, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not All Birthers Are The Same”: No, Ted Cruz ‘Birthers’ Are Not The Same As Obama Birthers

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday released his birth certificate, seeking to put to rest questions about whether the Canadian-born senator is qualified to run for president in 2016.

Immediately, parallels were drawn to President Obama’s 2011 release of his own birth certificate, which also was meant to end lingering questions about his eligibility to be president.

And for the few in the birther community, they see hypocrisy. Why are the media not denouncing those who question Cruz’s eligibility in the same way they have denounced the so-called “birthers” who continue to question Obama’s?

The reason? Because about the only thing these two situations have in common is that they involve a birth certificate and a presidential candidate.

Questions about Cruz’s eligibility have everything to do with interpretation of the law; the questions about Obama’s eligibility had everything to do with a dispute over the underlying facts — more specifically, conspiracy theories about whether the president was actually born in the United States, as he claimed, and whether he somehow forged a birth certificate that said he was born in Hawaii.

In Cruz’s case, nobody is disputing the underlying facts of the case — that Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and a mother who was a United States citizen. As we wrote back in March, that makes him a U.S. citizen himself, but it’s not 100 percent clear that that is the same thing as a “natural born citizen” — the requirement for becoming president.

Most scholars think it’s the same thing, and the Congressional Research Service said in 2011 that someone like Cruz “most likely” qualifies to run for president. But to this point, there is no final word from the courts, because while foreign-born candidates have run — including George Romney and John McCain — none of them has actually won and had his eligibility challenged.

Obama was also born to a mother who was a U.S. citizen, meaning if he was in fact born outside the United States, the situations might be parallel. But birthers weren’t making a legal argument about Obama; they were arguing the facts about where he was born and accusing him of perpetrating a massive fraud.

Some will accuse the media of instituting a double standard when it comes to these two cases because Cruz is a Republican and Obama is a Democrat. But nobody is accusing Cruz of lying about his past as part of a vast conspiracy to become president.

It’s just not an apples-to-apples comparison.

By: Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, August 19, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Birthers, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Birther Hypocrisy”: Right Wing Has No Problem With Canadian Born Senator Ted Cruz Running For President

A great moment in the annals of birtherism took place last week at CPAC….and nobody much appeared to notice.

Shortly after Sarah Palin finished cooing over the introduction she had received from Senator Ted Cruz—during which the half-term governor reminded us that we need more people like the Texas Senator in Washington—Palin turned her attention to President Obama’s support for background checks for those who wish to purchase a gun.

“More background checks?” Palin asked. “Dandy idea, Mr. President -should’ve started with yours.”

While Palin’s return to birtherism accomplished the intended laugh from the appreciative crowd, there was someone in the room who was likely not laughing.

That would be Senator Ted Cruz—the man who so glowingly introduced Ms. Palin and a man who clearly views himself as being on a populist track to the White House. He’s not alone in that regard as four percent of the votes registered in the CPAC straw poll were cast in support of Mr. Cruz, the man often referred to as the Republican Barack Obama.

Ironically, there can be little doubt that among those who expressed their support for a Cruz presidency at CPAC were attendees who continue to question the current president’s constitutional right to hold the office.

I say it is ironic because, while so many on the Right invested heavily in making the argument that Barack Obama lacked constitutional qualification to be our Commander In Chief due to his alleged foreign birth in Kenya, it turns out that Tea Party hero Cruz finds himself in precisely the same circumstance—except that Cruz’s foreign point of origin is openly acknowledged.

Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, the son of an American mother and a Cuban father. Were we to buy into the birtherism claim that Obama was, indeed, born in Kenya, then he too would have been foreign born as the son of an American mother and a father who was a citizen of a foreign land.

While the controversy that has dogged President Obama has focused on the President’s claim that he came into the world in a hospital in Hawaii, if we are to accept the argument of birther-in-chief Donald Trump—who made a ‘name’ for himself in politics by alleging that the President had, indeed, been born in a foreign country—then there is no way that Senator Cruz could be qualified to run for the presidency.

Yet, there is no shortage of Cruz supporters who are prepared to argue that he is a natural born American, despite being born in Canada. Why? Because his mother was, unquestionably, an American citizen at the time of Cruz’s birth.

But is being born to an American mother in a foreign land enough to meet the constitutional requirements to hold the office?

The United States Constitution requires that a candidate for the office of the president be a “natural-born” citizen. While what constitutes a natural born citizen is not defined in the text of the Constitution and has never been directly addressed by the Supreme Court, we do know that there have been laws promulgated that defines the status of a child born outside of the United States to parents where either one or both are American citizens.

According to the State Department—

Birth Abroad to Two U.S. Citizen Parents in Wedlock

A child born abroad to two U.S. citizen parents acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under section 301(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provided that one of the parents had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions prior to the child’s birth. The child is considered to be born in wedlock if the child is the genetic issue of the married couple.”

It would thus appear that for Senator Cruz to qualify as a natural-born citizen under this paragraph, (a) both of his parents would need to be U.S. citizens at the time of birth; and (b) one of the parents had a residence in the US at the time of birth.

Senator Cruz’s mother was clearly an American citizen—having been born in Delaware—at the time she gave birth to her son. However, Mr. Cruz’s father was a Cuban immigrant who, according to a statement issued this week by Cruz’s spokesman, was not an American citizen prior to his taking his wife to Canada to work in the oil business.

Thus, under this definition, it would appear that an argument could be successfully made that Senator Cruz is not a natural-born U.S. citizen.

It is worth noting that other candidates for president have fallen under this definition of qualification. Governor George Romney was born in Mexico to two parents who were both American citizens at the time of his birth. Thus, there were no serious challenge set forth to Romney’s meeting the constitutional test of being a natural born citizen.

There is, however, an additional definition that could cover Senator Cruz as set forth by the State Department:

“Birth Abroad to One Citizen and One Alien Parent in Wedlock

A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) of the INA provided the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child’s birth. (For birth on or after November 14, 1986, a period of five years physical presence, two after the age of fourteen, is required. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen, is required for physical presence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.) The U.S. citizen parent must be genetically related to the child to transmit U.S. citizenship.”

Under this definition, it would seem clear that Senator Cruz would meet the qualifications to run for President as his mother lived in the United States for at least ten years after she was fourteen years of age prior to going to Canada (note that the rule does not require that the ten years be consecutive.)

Accordingly, it appears—at least to me—that Senator Cruz is in the clear should he decide to take a run at the White House.

But…if you agree that Cruz is constitutionally qualified to seek the presidency and you are one of those who expended so much energy going after President Obama’s qualifications as a natural-born citizen, many of us would like to know how you justify such blatant hypocrisy? After all, even if Obama was born in Kenya, he was born to a mother who was an American citizen at her birth and who had also spent the requisite amount of her life after turning fourteen years of age living in the United States (see update on this law at the end of the article.)

To get an answer to this question, I reached out to Donald Trump’s office to get his take on this issue as he would appear to consider himself a leading authority on this subject.

At the time of publication of this article, there has been no response from Mr. Trump.

Again, my own understanding of how we have treated the question of natural-born citizenship would conclude that Senator Cruz is fully qualified under the Constitution to seek the top office in the land if that should be his wish. He was never naturalized as an American citizen because it was never necessary to do so. He was one of us from the moment he arrived in this world.

But if Cruz is qualified, there can be no argument that Barack Obama was not qualified in the same way, even if you choose to believe that he is Kenyan born. To allow the blatant hypocrisy of those who spent endless hours of time and untold sums of money seeking to discredit Barack Obama only to now be perfectly willing to give Senator Cruz a pass on the subject would simply be wrong and cannot be allowed, now or in the future should Cruz seek the office, to pass unnoticed.

UPDATE: A reader correctly notes that when Barack Obama was born, his mother was three months shy of her 19th birthday which means that had he been born in Kenya, his mother would not have reached the 5 years after her 14th birthday as required by the law for him to be a natural born American. This is true. However, subsequent acts of Congress relaxed the requirement to a total number of years a parent must live in the U.S. to five years, including just two years after the age of 14 (note that this happened long before Obama entered political life.) This means that Obama’s mother would have still qualified even if the President was born in Kenya and his mother was just 16. What’s more Congress made the law retroactive to 1952. As Obama was born in 1961, he would be a natural born citizen under the same law cited in the article.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, March 21, 2013

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Birthers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Batty Birtherville”: Birthers Still Trying To Stop President Obama’s Inauguration

They’re willing to give him a pass on the first time, but if Chief Justice John Roberts swears in President Barack Obama this time around, the birthers are ready for him.

In an op-ed published last week by WND, Craige McMillan says Roberts could be impeached by Congress if he swears in the president, whom McMillan says is not a natural-born citizen.

From McMillan’s op-ed:

If you choose the easy course of ignoring our Constitution, it does not change the fact that Mr. Obama is barred by that same Constitution from acting as president. I am sure that if you turn your judicial mind to the ramifications of this fraud, both foreign and domestic, you will understand that the harm you will have done insures your impeachment and eternal dishonor at some point down the road: If not this House of Representatives, then the next, or the next, or the next.

These things do not end well. One need only look to the aftermath of World War II and the Nuremberg Trials to see what awaits. Illegal wars. Illegal debts. Illegal laws. Will the rest of the Supreme Court’s justices, now knowing they are violating their own oath of office, continue the sham through a second presidential term?

The rant, first brought to our attention by The Huffington Post, goes on to urge Roberts to refuse to administer the oath of office.

But The National Memo, a political newsletter and website, is not having it.

In an op-ed called “Today In Crazy,” the publication writes “the reliably unhinged crazies over at WorldNetDaily” are just being melodramatic.

From The National Memo:

“Too bad this particular trip to Batty Birtherville, despite its darkly turgid undertones, is about as legitimate as all the others. It’s the same old song and dance… they demand to see the birth certificate. They are shown the birth certificate. They claim birth certificate can’t be real. Then they start shrieking that he “refuses” to show the birth certificate. They are again shown the birth certificate. They’re then shown the birth announcement from the local Hawaii newspaper from 1961. So they scream louder, “WHERE’S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?” because the proof that it exists is overwhelming, and everyone knows that the louder you scream, the more right you are… even in the face of mounting and irrefutable proof that you’re wrong.”

The chief justice doesn’t seem too concerned about the impeachment threats since he’s scheduled to administer the oath both on Sunday, Jan. 20, and Monday, Jan. 21, CBS News reported last week.

 

By: Abby Rogers, Business Insider, January 10, 2013

January 11, 2013 Posted by | Birthers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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