Campaigning in Michigan, the GOP nominee makes an ugly and politically ill-advised gesture toward the conspiracy theory surrounding the president's origins.
Updated 3:42 p.m.
Mitt Romney went there. Campaigning in Michigan on Friday, he made a joke about President Obama's birth certificate. Here's what he said:
"Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital, I was born at Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised."
As a literal statement, this isn't true. People have asked to see Romney's birth certificate, and his campaign released it, with little fanfare, earlier this year. As a "joke," it isn't very funny. And as a reference to the controversy-that-won't-die over the president's origins, it's a venture into very perilous territory for Romney.
The most troubling part of Romney's statement is the implication that Obama is somehow to blame for the birthers' conspiracy theorizing -- that there are some people you can look at and tell they were "born and raised" here, and others who make you wonder, for some reason.
This implication of a certain hazy foreignness about Obama isn't new for Romney, who frequently says the president doesn't "understand America." Romney's adviser John Sununu echoed that when he said last month that Obama needed to "learn how to be an American." Romney was asked about the insinuation in an interview with Parade magazine that went online Friday, and had this answer:
Governor Sununu was not suggesting he wasn't American, nor do I. I believe he's making us far more like Europe, with a larger, more dominant, more intrusive government. I believe if we keep going on that path, we will end up like Europe, with chronic high unemployment, no wage growth, and economic calamity at the doorstep. I think you have to return to celebrating success, encouraging entrepreneurship, and finding ways to get government out of the way.
Romney's campaign responded to queries about his remark by noting that he's repeatedly said he believes Obama was born in the U.S. But Democrats fired back with a reminder that Romney hasn't exactly distanced himself from figures like Donald Trump, who, even as Romney spoke, was emitting his latest birther-themed tweet.