Birther Idiocracy Followup: 'Not Socially Acceptable to Call Him a Nigger'

After yesterday's "crock of shit" episode, starring Donald Trump and the media who have served as his carnival barkers*, these addenda:

1) Why now? A reader whose email address suggests that he is a lawyer has this hypothesis about why Obama held a press conference now:

>>Generally speaking, no one who believes in the "birther" conspiracy theories is going to vote for Obama anyway, and the continuation of this controversy didn't actually hurt Obama; on the contrary, if it hurt anyone it would be the Republicans.  From this perspective, there was no reason for Obama to get further involved in this issue.  

However, I think that he and his campaign are genuinely worried about having to deal with the various state legislative efforts to require some specific documentation in order to appear on the ballot in 2012.  The Arizona bill nearly became law and may yet overcome the Governor's veto.  Bills like this will force the campaign to spend significant sums of money in legal challenges and ultimately may result in partisan state officials keeping Obama off the ballot.  The hope is that disclosing the "long-form" birth certificate deflates this issue, truly marginalizes it, and allows the saner members of the Republican Party in the various state legislatures to move away from these pending bills.  

I think the timing of this had nothing whatsoever to do with Trump, who's just a joke, and everything to do with deflecting the pending legislation in various states.<<

Related point: time for what the Chinese call self-reflection for those branches of the "serious" media who have been treating the Trump spectacle as other than a stunt at any point. There never was a chance that he would be a viable candidate for the presidency. In other words, shame on them for handing him the "birther" and "affirmative action" megaphone.

2. The new poll tax:

>>Why didn't Obama respond earlier?

I can't speak for him, but to me this questioning of his birthplace was just the latest iteration of the "Poll Tax". Why should he acknowledge that he has to provide additional certfication over and above that of his white Republican rivals.

I'm very disappointed that he gave into these cretins, by giving in he has encouraged them in their idioticy. We all know there is nothing he can do that will change their minds, so why acknowledge that their complaints have any legitimacy.

Finally, their is a pattern here that needs to be publicized, the base of the Republican party all out effort to delegitamize Democratic presidents. It started with the disrespect shown the Carter presidency to the actual full frontal attack on the Clinton presidency. I thought it couldn't get any worse, but now its not only an attack on Obama's presidency, but an attack on him as an American. To them not only is he not worthy of the presidency, he is not worthy to be an American. Its an escalation that can only end in a bad place, I fear what awaits the next Democratic president.<<

In this same vein, anyone who has not yet seen Baratunde Thurston's video-essay on birther demands as the new poll tax, should be sure to watch it.

3) "It is not socially acceptable to call him a nigger." A reader in Tennessee writes:

>>Why didn't Obama  do this before? The fact is, he did.  In 2008. 

In the first place, he had (as he mentioned) signed affadavits from independent official employees.  He had the official birth certificate released.  He had the birth announcements reprinted.  [Hawaii Rep.] Neil Abercrombie stated without any disambiguation that he was around when Obama was born and knew who Ann Dunham was.

The bigger point is this: some people will never be satisfied with Obama's bona fides because they cannot accept his legitimacy on other grounds.
Perhaps the best example of this is the Tea Party Nation and its ringleader, Judson Phillips.  Phillips, a DUI defense attorney in Franklin [TN.] who hosted the Tea Party Convention in 2010, recognizes that the real goal here is to undermine trust in Obama and create microtrends among people (mostly racists, extremists, and Ruby Ridge types) that make their extremism palatable to a mainstream audience.  Phillips is speaking in code here - and so is Trump, Bachmann, Demint, and the rest.

It is not socially acceptable to call Obama a nigger.  So, they call him a socialist, a Muslim, etc....

Racism is not limited to the deep south, either.  There's just as much xenophobia and racism in Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan, and New Hampshire.

Republicans have chosen to capitalize on this with a political strategy that uses code words and fake nontroversies in order to build their opposition - they thrive on the creation of dittoheads and this is just one more pitiful example.... 

And Judson Phillips is laughing all the way to the bank.<<

4) "And you know it." A reader who has worked in the media writes about Obama's shaming the media at the start of his appearance, with "and you know it":

>>You really hit on something with "you know it."

Modern politics and media, I think, reward secondperson communicators. George W. Bush was actually quite a good secondperson communicator, despite his garbles. Second person cuts through abstraction, which I think is the key to making a successful point within the clutter of this world.

Obama, for all his articulation and lack of need for teleprompters, does not often communicate in second person. He does a lot of orating in third person -- and thus abstraction. Democrats, as a whole, are terrible about this....

Next time a liberal candidate is asked about abortion in a crowd, he should turn the question back on the crowd. "Raise your hand if you think life begins at conception". Ok, now, "Raise your hand if you believe women who have abortions are premeditated child murderers?" That changes the entire dynamic, particularly on television....

But when we fight battles in abstract terms, the crazy and its carnival barkers win. It's only when we make the reality of crazy felt, that reason has a chance. Reason and sanity have to find ways to get concrete. Start with "you" when we talk to people.<<

5) From a fellow Hawaiian:

>>When this whole thing started (in what, mid 2008?) I did two things:
   -- Looked at my Hawaiian birth certificate that looked just like the one that the Obama campaign had released, and
   -- Wondered why the same people worried about Obama's legitimacy didn't seem to have a problem with the genuinely novel, if trivial, fact that John McCain was born in the Panama Canal zone. This presented a unique interpretation of the natural-born-citizen clause--one important enough that the Senate passed a resolution supporting his right to be President.

On a somewhat related note, I'm amazed at how long the success of Dan Rather's forged-records scandal has motivated folks on the right to continually attempt to find supposed forgeries and frauds on the left without any sort of probable cause outside of political disagreement.<<

*6) Actually, the term is "outside talker." An expert on carnivals writes:

>>The designation used by carnies is usually "outside talker" rather than "carnival barker" for the person trying to draw a crowd for a show.

 A "barker" is usually a dog or other show animal (which may actually be what Obama meant since he does have a way with words).<<

Now we know. About a lot.

I mentioned yesterday that I had little hope that next week's polls on birtherist views would show much change. I wonder, though, whether as this episode sinks in it might conceivably do some good, in the way Baratunde Thurston suggests. Perhaps the media types who have been paying attention to Trump and his braying will stop to think about what they've actually been doing. Conceivably there will be a moment of recoil about the unworthy, irrational indignity of this stage of national life.

But I'm not holding my breath.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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