Every president inspires conspiracy theories, and there is no shortage of crazy stories involving President Obama. But every single one of them is conspicuously boring. Where's the sex? Or, if not sex, drugs? Violence? We'd even accept aliens. Instead, the most rabid anti-Obama conspiracy theorists are obsessing over catching Obama in a legal technicality concerning his place of birth. Pretty much every previous Democratic president has been accused of indulging in all kinds of illicit earthly pleasures. In the 1990s, conspiracy theorists claimed Bill Clinton murdered people, ran cocaine rings, raped people -- the stuff of bestselling political thrillers. The Obama conspiracies are taken from another set of bestsellers: the Da Vinci Code and the fantasy that, if you just know the code, there's a single document that will upturn everything we think we know about the world. The birther obsession is really a sideline of the "vetting" obsession. The premise is that no one really knows who Obama is -- because of his deceptions or the media's unwillingness to question or both -- and that, after four years of being the most documented human on the planet, there's still a secret to be unearthed. It's pretty dramatic stuff, until you take a survey of the places these conspiracies have lead: the Hawaii archives of vital records, a literary agent's promotional booklet, the rough draft of a memoir, and college transcripts. If you have gotten a weird forwarded email from a distant relative lately, chances are the animated angel GIF was more exciting than the conspiracy itself.
Which is not to say that people haven't tried to peddle outrageous tales of hedonism. Remember Larry Sinclair's press conference recounting his night of cocaine and gay sex in limousine with Obama? Even the willing-to-believe-anything-bad-about-Obama WND.com has mustered very limited interest while they've kept the birther flame burning. Donald Trump, who'll headline a Mitt Romney fundraiser Tuesday, told The Daily Beast that he's still certain Obama was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. He's still tweeting about the "place of birth movement." That follows Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman's effusive apology in the Denver Post last week for saying he didn't know if Obama was born in America at a fundraiser on May 12. Is it shocking that an elected member of Congress would hint he's a birther a full year after Obama released his long-form birth certificate? Is it surprising that Mitt Romney would hold a fundraiser with an oafish birther? Yes. But it's not nearly as exciting as what went on in the 1990s.
An early rumor proposed that Clinton ran a cocaine smuggling operation, which he supposedly discussed while smoking weed in a van at a Little Rock Mexican restaurant. (Always the liberal, 10 percent of the coke proceeds went to fund the Arkansas government.) That was nothing compared to the Clinton Body Count, a list of the 50 or so people Clinton might have murdered. It wasn't just a viral forwarded email. In 1994 letter to reporters, Rep. William Dannemeyer requested a congressional hearing over the dozens of people close to Clinton who died "under other than natural circumstances." Was the letter all wink-wink-hint-hint that Clinton had them killed? No! "Since President Clinton had a direct or indirect contact with these people who have died, it raises the serious question of whether he is involved, directly or indirectly, in their deaths," Dannemeyer wrote. The 1994 movie The Clinton Chronicles explores these deaths and includes an interview with the influential Rev. Jerry Falwell, who promoted the film in infomercials. In 1997, Rep. Dan Burton shot a pumpkin to try to prove that Clinton aide Vince Foster's death was homicide, not suicide. In 1999, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NBC News and several other major news organizations published stories about a woman who accused Clinton of rape.
What do we have today? Nothing that would make for a summer blockbuster, that's for sure. Behold, Obama's biggest -- and also most boring -- conspiracy theories:
Conspiracy: Obama was not born in America, making him an illegitimate president.
Conspiracy 'facts': Obama's Kenyan father brought his American mother to Kenya for their only child's birth in 1961. Or, Obama became a citizen of Indonesia when he lived there as a child, costing him his American citizenship. All evidence to the contrary is fake: the 1961 birth announcement in two Hawaii newspapers, the birth certificate, witnesses. "@BarackObama is practically begging @MittRomney to disavow the place of birth movement, he is afraid of it and for good reason. He keeps using @SenJohnMcCain as an example, however, @SenJohnMcCain lost the election. Don’t let it happen again," Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Actual 'facts': Obama released his birth certificate last year showing he was born in Hawaii.
Broader theme the conspiracy 'proves': Obama is a fraud. Americans would never have voted a guy like that into office had they not been tricked.
Why it's so boring: This act in question was one that Obama, obviously, had no control over. And the act itself -- the miracle of birth -- isn't scandalous. Plus, eben if true, all it would create would be a mind-numbing legal thicket.
How to sex up the conspiracy: Obama wasn't just not born in America, he wasn't actually born on Planet Earth.
Conspiracy: Obama claimed he was born in Kenya to get into a better college.
Conspiracy 'facts': A booklet about Obama's memoir, and a literary agency's website, both referred to Obama was "Kenyan-born." This updated version of birtherism began developing earlier this month, when Breitbart.com released a scanned image of a promotional booklet from the 1990s saying Obama was born in Kenya, as part of its series called "The Vetting." "What if... the reason Obama's school records have not surfaced is that he enrolled, at one of those [college] institutions at least, as a foreign student -- a Kenyan?" Pajamas Media's Roger L. Simon wrote. "But why would he choose to do that? Well, maybe for a grant, a subvention, a scholarship that was available uniquely to students from Africa or similar locales."
Actual 'facts': The literary agent made a fact-checking error.
Broader theme the scandal 'proves': Obama is an affirmative action beneficiary who is hailed as a genius but is actually a fraud. Being black wasn't enough to climb the school and career ladder, so he said he was foreign, too.
Why it's so boring: Even if had Obama gotten extra help getting into college by being associated with Kenya, he became president in spite of that association, not because of it.
How to sex up the conspiracy: Obama claimed he was Kenyan-born... to import mail-order brides.
Scandal: Obama got bad grades in college.
Scandal 'facts': Last week, Breitbart.com ran this headline: "DID OBAMA HAVE LOWER SAT SCORES THAN GEORGE W. BUSH?" The site reports that in 1981, Columbia University's newspaper reported that the transfer class that year had lower grades and test scores than average. Of the 450 students who applied to transfer, 67 got in. That 67 had an average SAT score of 1,100. Bush got a 1206 when he took it many years earlier. Therefore, Bush scored higher than the average Columbia transfer student the year Obama applied. That means that if Obama was average or below average, his SAT score was lower than Bush's.
Actual 'facts': We don't know what Obama's SAT score was.
Broader theme the scandal 'proves': Obama is dumber than the media says he is. Dumber than George W. Bush, even -- an odd case for a conservative site to make. The site says, "President Barack Obama is hailed by his supporters and the mainstream media as one of the most brilliant men ever to hold the office. However, his refusal to release his academic records, his admitted deficiencies as a student, and his frequent factual errors--even in his chosen field of constitutional law--have cast doubt upon his supposed genius."
Why it's so boring: Who cares what Obama's test scores were when he was 17 -- whether he was a genius or mediocre?
How scandal could be sexed up: Obama wasn't just a bad student, he literally can't read. Of course, that would then ruin all the teleprompter jokes.
Scandal: Someone else wrote Obama's memoir -- maybe 1960s racial Bill Ayers.
Scandal 'facts': Ayers ghostwrote Obama's memoir to propel Obama to power. The American Thinker's Jack Cashill explained in 2008, "Prior to 1990, when Barack Obama contracted to write Dreams From My Father, he had written very close to nothing. Then, five years later, this untested 33 year-old produced what Time Magazine has called -- with a straight face -- 'the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.'" You can't go from being a nobody in literature to writing such an amazing book, he says. Then he details the evidence: Ayers has a similar style as Obama -- both were lefties. Both are interested in race. Both changed people's identities in their books. And they both wrote about the weather in the city. Compare Ayers -- "I picture the street coming alive, awakening from the fury of winter, stirred from the chilly spring night by cold glimmers of sunlight angling through the city" -- to Obama -- "Night now fell in midafternoon, especially when the snowstorms rolled in, boundless prairie storms that set the sky close to the ground, the city lights reflected against the clouds." Ayers has even said he wrote Obama's book.
Actual 'facts': Ayers was joking when he said he wrote Obama's book.
Broader theme the scandal 'proves': Obama's not just a radical, he's a dumb radical who can't even write his own books.
Why it's so boring: Just imagine what this conspiracy would look like in real time: Ayers typing on a word processor, Obama occasionally saying, "Yeah, that sounds good." In its most scandalous version, it's a kid paying a nerd to do his homework.
How to sex up the conspiracy: Obama is an accomplished author -- under the pen name Danielle Steel.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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