Is Palin A Birther Who Thinks Obama Birth Certificate Is An Issue? Or a Serial Gaffer?

twilight_zone.jpgWith former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who was ahead in polls of GOP hopefuls now either seriously injured politically or facing bigger obstacles now due to his having given clemency to a prisoner who later became a cop killer, all eyes are now turning to former Alaska governor and best selling author Sarah Palin. Will she continue to consolidate her talk radio political culture Republican constituency but also start to reach out to rope in independent voters, center-right Democrats and other Americans looking for a plain-talking but throughful politician focused on issues rather than tossing out red meat to partisans? The answer is now in:

She is..or really isn’t…depending on where you are ideologically and whether you accept a clarification she apparently felt she had to make later when she found herself praised by birthers and defined as now an official birther by others who might not even be her political enemies.

At first glance, Palin is tossing red meat to partisans — tossing it way out there, in the Twlight Zone, way beyond the nation’s political center. Yesterday she seemingly came out to be…a birther…who feels making President Barack Obama’s birth certificate a campaign issue is a valid one. The Politico reports (go to the link since they also have the video) of Palin’s response to conservative talk show host Rusty Humphries when asked about whether she’d make it a campaign issue if she ran. The Politico reports:

“I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers,” she replied.

“Do you think it’s a fair question to be looking at?” Humphries persisted.

“I think it’s a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records — all of that is fair game,” Palin said. “The McCain-Palin campaign didn’t do a good enough job in that area.”

McCain’s campaign counsel has said the campaign did look into the birth certificate question and, like every other serious examination, dismissed it.

And so Palin seemed to brand herself as a NEW kind of mainstream Presidential wannabe: one whose voice about her maybe-campaign to come -seemingly signaled that it was going to be the voice of a female Rod Serling, or someone featured in a Rod Serling written episode. MORE:

Palin suggested that the questions were fair play because of “the weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn’t my real son — ‘You need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he’s your kid,’ which we have done.”

“Maybe we can reverse that,” she said, returning to Obama’s birth certificate, describing the type of thinking involved with a word that isn’t clear in the audio.

But wait! Was that accurate? Then came her Facebook clarification:

Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask… which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.

This is a notable quote for several reasons:

  • It shows that more than ever Palin is emerging as a “lash out” candidate who cagatorizes and articulates resentments — against others and against herself — and seeks to redress the resentments. Questions were raised about Trig? (So exactly when did the Democratic party candidates or the Obama candidate raise the issue of Trig during the 2008 campaign? Questions were raised by journalists and bloggers. Is she thinking of campaigning for President of the United States or President of the Blogosphere?) This can be applauded by members of the GOP base who seek red meat, but if the red meat is then yannked back then it makes her look impulsive, politically reckless or silly.
  • Comments like this that are pulled back and “finessed” later should give pause to many in the GOP. A party has to worry about candidates down the line and seeks a good coattail effect. A coattail doesn’t work if the candidate on top has to hightale it from his/her own statements. Political parties are also making a whopping financial commitment when they pick a candidate. This requires national candidates to stay more of less within the nation’s mainstream. And making an issue over Obama’s birth certificate is not in the country’s center –even if you use a model skewered sharply to the traditional right.
  • It’s increasingly hard — but not impossible — to imagine a Palin victory or her running a close race if this kind of overspeak repeats itself. She will be too far “out there” for some conservative Republicans if she does. But Democrats are deluding themselves if they underestimate her. Her rhetoric has strong appeal to some in the GOP who will get to the polls and bring others. With Huckabee gone or sinking, Palin’s chances are greater than before. And, if as seems likely, many Democrats (again) decide to teach “the party a lesson by not voting” or donating, and deferring governing machinery to GOP control, Palin could win if her voters get out while some Democrats sit home and wish for liberal perfection.
  • It shows that, for now at least Palin, is playing to those who love her and is making no effort to make herself more appealing to those who hear a certain theme song when they hear her talk about things such as Obama not really being born in the United States:
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    A CROSS SECTION OF SOME MORE OPINION:
    Pandagon:

    When someone “goes birther”, that means they have given up their last thread attaching themselves to reality, and flinging themselves into full-on wingnut mode. You can usually tell when someone has gone birther because they literally start spouting nonsense about how Obama’s birth certificate isn’t real, though many think they’re clever and employ euphemism to give themselves plausible deniability. Until yesterday, most of the sane world would note that Sarah Palin wasn’t a full-blown lunatic because she still hadn’t gone birther. Well, that day has now come.

    Ed Morrissey:

    Well, the best way not to get tagged as a Birther is to refrain from saying that people are “rightfully making it an issue” and that the only reason that she would avoid doing that herself is because “there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers.” It’s the same thing as Truthers saying that all they’re doing is “asking questions.” The answers have already been provided; they just reject them because they’re married to their conspiracies.

    I think Palin just discovered the First Rule of Blogs: Don’t feed the trolls.

    Brian Levin in the Huffington Post:

    Her careful elevation of a foundational conspiracy theory used by extremists to demonize the President as being everything from an illegitimate imposter to high office to a secret radical Jihadist Trojan horse warrants unequivocal condemnation and study from across the political spectrum—just as the horrendous anti-Bush 9/11 truthers do.

    If you think that these detrimental wacky theories don’t have traction in this troubled decade of ours look at some recent polling numbers, or alternatively read the comments section that will invariably appear below this post. In a September analysis Public Policy Polling stated, “Is extremism becoming mainstream in 21st century American politics? Our latest national poll would seem to say yes- 35% [of] voters in the country either think that Barack Obama was not born in the United States or that George W. Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur so that we could go to war in the Middle East.”

    Both sides of the political spectrum offer a disturbing picture. One quarter of Democrats think President Bush let 9/11 happen so he could go to war, while a plurality, 42% of Republicans believe the current president was not born in the United States. If that’s not bad enough 10% of voters say that President Obama is the “anti-Christ” with another 11% not sure. Its no wonder that various preachers have outrageously made headlines by publicly praying for the President’s death. President Bush fairs slightly better with only 8% conclusively saying he is in fact the anti-Christ, and another 11% unsure. And here I thought the anti-Christ had to be Gay and (partially) Jewish. If these Biblical “scholars” had thrown in “California resident” I would have advised Adam Lambert to turn down singing at any future Palin fundraisers.

    --Just One Minute covers the controversy and then runs the Palin Facebook clarificatin and writes:

    Whatever. Just spell the name right.

    [JG: Footnote. Except that doesn't work well in politics if you truly have hopes of expanding your base constituency for yourself and your political party.]

    Hotline on Call:

    Talk to any GOP strategist in DC and two things will make them roll their eyes: Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Birthers, the group that believes Pres. Obama was born in another country. Those two merged yesterday when Palin told a conservative radio host that questions about Obama’s birth certificate are “fair.”///

    …We guarantee the NRCC, the NRSC and the RNC would much rather talk about the unemployment reports coming out this morning. And we’d bet heavily that most members sticking around the Capitol will be asked, again, what they think of Palin and the birther movement. Being knocked off-message is bad, but being forced to respond to the birthers is something GOPers very much don’t want.

    Little Green Footballs’ Charles Johnson:

    Yes, that’s right. Sarah Palin is blowing the Birther dog whistle. You’ll never see a better demonstration of political cynicism mixed with blinding stupidity. Anyone still wondering why I want nothing to do with the right wing?

    Salon’s Alex Koppleman notes, as I did, that Palin’s Facebook post tries to paper over what she actually said on the air:

    Of course, Palin’s original remarks went further than this. And “conspiracy-minded reporters and voters” have asked about Obama’s birth certificate too. The questions have been answered.

    Steve Benen:

    Ideally, this is the kind of inanity that would lead polite company to realize Sarah Palin isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and her credibility as a national figure would be permanently ruined. But this relates back to what we talked about earlier this week: among conservative Republicans, the nonsensical fringe has been mainstreamed. The line between GOP adults and GOP nutjobs has been blurred, if not erased altogether. (It’s more than likely the Republican base will be even more impressed with Palin now.)

    Both sides of the aisle have their crazies, but only one side thinks their crazies are sane.

    Update: On Facebook, Palin walks back the birther remarks, at least a little. She’s tough to understand sometimes.

    The Strata-Sphere:

    I am not surprised former Governor of Alaska from small town America is going to stumble here and there. It is part of her common roots charm. America is fed up with fancy dressed, smooth talking, say anything politicians. Being imperfect will not destroy Palin’s relationship with America, because it is a core part of her relationship to American.

    Not to mention that America will give her a lot of slack after the un-American crap thrown at her personally last year. The left, in their usual harsh clumsiness, provided her a huge shield of sympathy.

    Daily Kos’ Jed Lewison:

    You can mark down Dec. 3, 2009 as the day Sarah Palin reached her kookiest extreme, at least until she outdoes herself again…You just gotta’ love Sarah Palin. She’s a neverending fountain of crazy. Hopefully it plays well in the 2012 G.O.P. primary because Democrats couldn’t get a sweeter gift than the former half-term governor of Alaska as the Republican nominee.

    For more reaction from blogs go HERE.

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    • jchem

      Boy, given the reaction in the blogosphere, she made some pretty stupid comments. But you're right, she seems to be tossing some red meat to the die hards at the same time she's trying to “clarify” what it was that she meant to everyone else. She's at the point now, at least it seems to me, that she's got her supporters and detractors, and both of them are pretty rigid with where they are. Her supporters will love her regardless of what she says; her detractors will highlight stuff like this to say how stupid she is.

      It is though, issues like this that bring up the silly in others. For example:

      Where is Trig's Birth Certificate?

      And of course, there's always Andrew Sullivan, who promises to give us an update later in the day.

      What's going to happen is that she will most likely be able to turn this around to highlight how people react to it with stupid conspiracy theories of their own.

    • JSpencer

      Let's face it, we've somehow managed to culture a lot of Americans who like to leap on any rickety bandwagon that comes along and then start parroting whatever nonsense they learn along the way. In one sense it's theatre – as in a base form of comedy, but in another it's tragic and even dangerous. The key to solving, or at least beginning to solve so many of our country's problems is in education, but I guess that's speaking (typing) the obvious. How do you teach people how to think? There's no quick fix for that.

    • gcotharn

      What the electorate instinctively realizes: Palin has little interest in this issue. She knows little of the minutia of the issue – just as everyone who has little interest in the issue knows little of the minutia of the issue. If she had interest, she would have educated herself about the issue. She has not.

      Her in-context response amounted to an assertion that President Obama's background ought have been investigated, and still ought be investigated. Her in-context response was about the McCain Campaign's failure to adequately focus on issues in Sen. Obama's background. Here's the conversation preceding, the quote in your post above:

      6:45
      Humphries: “You really seem unaffected by this tremendous media scrutiny you've been under. Why have you been so unaffected? Or, are you just good at playing it cool?”

      Palin discusses “political shots my family has taken”, and how Trig's circumstances and Track's circumstances have helped her: “I can blow off a bunch of the bullcrap that goes on in the political arena, b/c of these things that God has allowed me to go through that, again, keep it in perspective.”

      7:38
      Humphries: “You have a daily Thanksgiving perspective, almost?”

      Palin: “Yeah, that's right on.”

      7:45
      Humphries: “One if the questions Jason asks is 'Would you make the birth certificate an issue if you ran?'”

      Palin: “I think the PUBLIC, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers,” she replied.

      [my note: Palin is not giving an opinion, but is merely asserting the public's right to investigate and to gain knowledge about POTUS candidates]

      “Do you think it’s a fair question to be looking at?” Humphries persisted.

      “I think it’s a fair question

      [my note: of course it's a fair question! I think Obama was born in Hawaii, and I absolutely think its fair to demand proof of his legal qualification for the office]

      , just like I think past association and past voting records — all of that is fair game,” Palin said. “The McCain-Palin campaign didn’t do a good enough job in that area.””

      Verdict: tempest in teapot. Palin's response was reasonable. Smearing her over this, in future, is either dishonest or misguided.

      Verdict #2: Smearing her, in future, will be made more difficult by the “boy who cried wolf” dynamic of past smears against her.

    • http://24Ahead.com 24AheadDotCom

      It might be helpful to add the fact that Andrew Sullivan lied about this issue to your repetoire.

      Also, I have a challenge for Joe Gandelman: why does Ed Morrissey think Hawaiian state law is a “birther theory”? Cap'n Ed falsely stated that HI only holds certs for those born in HI, when in fact HI has had a law on the books since 1981 allowing those born outside the state to obtain HI certs.

      That is, Ed Morrissey made a false claim. When I asked him to post a correction, he just said he didn't want to discuss “Birther theories”.

      Could Joe Gandelman ask Cap'n Ed to post a correction and stop misleading people?

    • jchem

      It might be helpful to add the fact that Andrew Sullivan lied about this issue to your repetoire.

      My repetoire? I think Sullivan can manage his silliness on his own. I'm not sure what you're talking about, but based on some of the posts at your blog it seems reason may not be a strong suit. Palin is a dolt and now you're just mad because she's trying to throw you and your crowd under the bus. Face it, you just need to find another walking carnival to cheer for.

    • JSpencer

      At some point people have to decide how much serious response is warranted by matters of questionable credibility. For example, on a ten scale I would put astronomy at 10 and astrology at 1. If someone wants to talk with me about astrology I'll be polite about it, but would feel I was doing them no favor by encouraging their belief in it. Where should the birther conspiracists be on that ten scale? I'd say that putting them around 2 is being generous.

    • casualobserver

      Solve this 2 part question………

      Who is the person at TMV continually bemoaning the dumbing down of political discourse and who is the person at TMV continually searching the blogosphere for anything related to Sarah Palin?

      All the pointed fingers should be bent 180 degrees.

    • JSpencer

      Solve this 2 part answer……..

      JG isn't the creator of the Sarah Palin “phenomenon”, and debunking her is a step toward the UNdumbing of America. :-)

    • DaGoat

      Who is the person at TMV continually bemoaning the dumbing down of political discourse and who is the person at TMV continually searching the blogosphere for anything related to Sarah Palin?

      Great point. I don't know which is more mystifying – why anyone would support someone like Palin in the first place or why the left is so fascinated by her and her family.

    • StockBoySF

      Until Palin makes an unequivocal statement (like Obama did last year when he said that “families are off limits” when people were attacking Palin's family) and then does not engage in any further follow-up questions I would dump her in the category of a birther. By walking this faux tightrope of “I don't think it's a legitimate concern but the people have a right to question it” Palin's keeping the issue alive to benefit from it politically. So yes, she's definitely a birther and as far as she's seen as a leader and people take their queues from, her she's the head birther. The right statement from her could quash much of the birther movement (though not everyone since they're all pretty wacky).

    • http://themoderatevoice.com T-Steel

      Because it is pure nasty politics, DaGoat. You identify a good “enemy” and you work it to death to brand others with “it”. 'Nuff said on that.

      BUT the Right is not innocent here. There are segments of the Right that play up Sarah Palin's “down home regular-ness” (real or fake) incessantly. They lift her up as the champion of regular folks. She has been elevated to the de-facto REAL AMERICAN by certain segments of the Right. And they damn sure going to make you know about it.

      So the Left and Right are both guilty of Palin fascination. And guess what? The fascination will continue. For better or for worse. Pecan pie, anyone?? It's made Southern style!

    • mgardener

      Considering how much world knowledge palin has acquired,Hawaii to her, is not in the US.
      She can't see it from Alaska.

      What does this really say? How about that she did not support McCain and his vision for the US? What other policies of his was she not willing to support or did not agree with, but went along with just to be VP?
      Is this just sour grapes? I don't think so. Palin has some peculiar ideas.
      She is a coward for posting them on face Book where she can neither be questioned nor explain anything.

    • JSpencer

      I don't know which is more mystifying – why anyone would support someone like Palin in the first place or why the left is so fascinated by her and her family.

      I share your mystification with regard to the first question, but the second is easily explained. Lest we forget, Palin was the enthusiastically recieved pick for VP of the US of A in the 2008 election. Since then she has been the darling of people on the right who might most politely be described as “overly enthusiastic”. She is also loved by certain GOP standard bearers in the media who the party seems to be willing to let speak for them, one of who several republicans have even gone so far as to apologize to after accidently getting up on their hind legs and having the temerity to criticize. I guess maybe there is suffcient reason for the left to find her a little fascinating.

    • gcotharn

      StockboySF,
      I don't like your analogy. “Kids are off limits” does not equate to “Is the candidate a legal candidate for POTUS?”

      I strongly suspect Pres. Obama was born in Hawaii. Birther arguments are not persuasive, and the newspaper announcement of the birth was persuasive. However, as in Climategate: why must I rely on opinion and assurances? Why am I not presented with THE proof? That “Birth Certificate lite” was as unsatisfying as lite beer, and was not legally persuasive.

      mgardener,
      Palin is doing interview after interview during her book tour. She is being questioned, and she is answering – just as she answered the question about the Birth Certificate, instead of ducking it.

      JSpencer,
      Maybe she is an interesting American story. An American original. A political Elvis. Or, a political Elvis careening drunkly down the road, if that is your preferred imagery. Maybe the interest in her is partially tied to conservatives' interest in her, but not totally tied to that. Maybe she is interesting in her own right – and “own right” is pregnant with meaning (see what I did there?), as Palin speaks conservative principles more plainly, more overtly, than any other serious potential Repub. candidates. The rest of the potentials are smoother, more modulated, more likely to throw the left a soothing bone. Palin rears back and punches liberal doctrine right between the eyes. This, also, is part of the fascination with her. There is no other serious potential Repub candidate who consistently and overtly does this.

    • mlhradio

      My first reaction to all this: ****sigh****

      I enjoy watching slow-moving train wrecks as much as the next guy, but even I am getting pretty tired of the All-Palin-All-The-Time media coverage. And I got fully sick and tired of the whole birther ridiculousness a while ago.

      But of course, that's just me. Alas.

      The American Public loves a Spectacle, and Palin never fails to provide the cable and blog punditry trainloads of red meat to satisfy. No doubt “we” will still be gabbing about the latest Palin triumph/disaster/discussion/whatever tomorrow and on the next day, the next week, the next month, and I suspect the next year as well. And just as much as the American Public loves a Spectacle, they love a Conspiracy Theory as well. I suspect the whole Birther nonsense will join the pantheon of “great” American conspiracies, right next to the JFK murder, 9/11 conspiracies, and Who Shot J.R.

      So, I repeat: ****sigh***

    • DLS

      Note who's really, once again, making Palin a story, and elevating her while degrading themselves, again.

    • StockBoySF

      gcotharn, the analogy I was making was a simple statement from Palin (like Obama's) to squash as much as the shrillness as possible. I was not making an analogy between the two circumstances.

    • redbus

      Gov. Huckabee is alive and well. No one will hold him responsible for someone else's actions years later. Let Gov. Palin show herself to be the kook that she is, and people will flock back to Mike in droves. He's funny, he's reasonable…I like Mike.

    • jchem

      This comment was flagged for review.

      would someone out there care to explain this to me? And to whoever flagged this comment, grow up, or at the very least, let me know what you found so objectionable.