Cracked Granite: Birthers Spark Chaos in New Hampshire

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State representatives threaten a state assistant attorney general for allowing Barack Obama's name to appear on the ballot

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While the Republican candidates for president have been falling over themselves to woo New Hampshire's primary voters, the local politicians elected in 2010 by those very same voters have been acting in the State House like a bunch of thugs. Remember those grainy old video clips we all used to laugh at, the ones where overseas legislators would threaten and fight one another in the well of their chambers? Well, that's essentially what is happening, now, in the Granite State, where a mob mentality has taken hold in the Legislature.

The fight, this fight anyway, is not over immigration or the Affordable Care Act. It is not over measures to bring new jobs to New Hampshire to ease the state's unemployment rate. Instead, some Republican lawmakers are fighting mad that the state's attorney general, and its Ballot Law Commission, won't allow them to take President Obama's name off of state ballots. The antagonists say that this extraordinary measure is necessary because the president is "a treasonous liar" who wasn't born where his birth certificate says he was.

Naturally, "birther" Orly Taitz is involved, all the way from California, stirring up the elected rabble that represents portions of New Hampshire. On Friday, November 18th, the state's Ballot Law Commission, part of its executive branch, voted unanimously in a public session to keep the president's name on ballots. A rational choice, no? Here is how The Daily Caller described what happened next:

Following the decision, members of the state legislature and upset citizens verbally attacked state Assistant Attorney General Matt Mavrogeorge, causing members of the commission to flee to an office, lock the doors and call police.

"Saying a treasonous liar can go on our ballot?" shrieked Republican state Rep. Harry Accornero after the decision. "You're going to have to face the citizens of Laconia. You better wear a mask."

"It just makes me want to throw up," exclaimed Republican state Rep. Susan DeLemus. "Let's just bury the Constitution now and have a funeral."

Here's how the Manchester Union Leader described what happened.

According to a memorandum from Assistant Attorney General Matt Mavrogeorge, who represented the Secretary of State's Office in the hearing, Reps. Henry Accornero, R-Laconia, and Susan DeLemus, R-Rochester, were yelling in his face and demanding answers.

He said he feared for his safety and that of Assistant Secretary of State Karen Ladd and went into an office where the doors could be locked.

Once in the room, they called capitol security and the attorney general office for assistance.

Now here's the video of part of the confrontation.



See? I told you the fracas would remind you of scenes like this:



Three days after the "birther" altercation in Concord, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney wrote to the New Hampshire State Police requesting an investigation. To the cops and House Speaker William O'Brien, Delaney wrote:

I am extremely concerned that a member of my staff was put in a position of fearing for his safety during a public hearing based in part on the conduct of members of the General Court... I welcome your recommendations as to how to ensure that such a situation does not repeat itself, and what security measures may be available for members of my office requesting additional security in performance of their official duties... No state employee should find himself in this situation, and I am asking the General Court to take whatever steps it deems appropriate concerning the standards of conduct exhibited by these elected officials.

Taitz, meanwhile, now wants New Hampshire to impeach the Secretary of State. Here I was thinking for all these years that the Granite State didn't easily warm to outsiders. Taitz shatters that myth. Is she now going to go state-to-state looking for elected dupes to introduce into new venues the same loser measures about the president's citizenship? If you look hard enough, there has to a Rep. Accornero in every state, right? (Here's the creepy letter he wrote last month to Congress, urging it to impeach President Obama for treason).

The exact same voters who gave the Granite State representatives like Accornero and Susan DeLumus now are being pitched and wooed by the Republican nominees for president. This explains why Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his adversaries tried so hard to get Sheriff Joe Arpaio on their side. Like Rep. Accornero, the Arizona lawman also still makes with the crazy "birther" talk. Following the fracas, or maybe because of it, many Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire are standing up to the "birthers." Will the national candidates do the same?

There is at least one more scheduled debate in New Hampshire between now and the primary on January 10, 2012. Perhaps it's time for campaign reporters to start asking the candidates what they think of Rep. Accornero, and his crusade, and whether they endorse the sort of official conduct seen in Concord on November 18th. In the meantime, the final word here goes to the beleaguered State House Majority Leader, Republican D.J. Bettencourt, who said on the day of the melee: "Please, Dr. Taitz, go away and leave New Hampshire alone."

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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