Commentary Magazine


Topic: birthers

What the White House Really Thinks

Much has been written and said about the astoundingly tone deaf performance of White House spokesman Jay Carney during this past month of scandals. The former journalist has lost the confidence of the people who were once his colleagues due to his unwillingness to tell the truth about his own deceptive statements (never mind those he represents in front of the press) about the Benghazi talking points or even to acknowledge that he has changed his story. The same applies to the shifting story he has told about the Internal Revenue Service scandal and when the White House learned about it.

The latest iteration of Carney’s story contradicts earlier ones that claimed they knew nothing about the investigation. Now it appears that the White House chief of staff and other officials learned of the situation over a month ago and actually consulted with the Treasury Department about how to soften the blow when it finally went public. Like everyone else following this story, I look forward to finding out who was the genius who decided that IRS official Lois Lerner should be the one to let drop the news with an apology and also saying she didn’t know math.

But anyone looking for an explanation for his unashamed stonewalling and obfuscation got an answer yesterday during an exchange with CBS News’s Major Garrett in which he compared questions about the White House’s conduct about Benghazi and the IRS to those who pursue the birther myth. In other words, anyone who has had the temerity to notice the lies and the trimming is cordially invited to shut up.

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Much has been written and said about the astoundingly tone deaf performance of White House spokesman Jay Carney during this past month of scandals. The former journalist has lost the confidence of the people who were once his colleagues due to his unwillingness to tell the truth about his own deceptive statements (never mind those he represents in front of the press) about the Benghazi talking points or even to acknowledge that he has changed his story. The same applies to the shifting story he has told about the Internal Revenue Service scandal and when the White House learned about it.

The latest iteration of Carney’s story contradicts earlier ones that claimed they knew nothing about the investigation. Now it appears that the White House chief of staff and other officials learned of the situation over a month ago and actually consulted with the Treasury Department about how to soften the blow when it finally went public. Like everyone else following this story, I look forward to finding out who was the genius who decided that IRS official Lois Lerner should be the one to let drop the news with an apology and also saying she didn’t know math.

But anyone looking for an explanation for his unashamed stonewalling and obfuscation got an answer yesterday during an exchange with CBS News’s Major Garrett in which he compared questions about the White House’s conduct about Benghazi and the IRS to those who pursue the birther myth. In other words, anyone who has had the temerity to notice the lies and the trimming is cordially invited to shut up.

What can you say about an administration that considers leaking stories to the New York Times that make the president look like a national security hero kosher but seeks to criminalize journalism that points out his mistakes?

What can you say about a White House that doesn’t think it is obligated to acknowledge that it has changed its story about these scandals so often that even its chief flack can’t keep them straight?

Jay Carney’s crack about birthers told us all we need to know about any of this.

To talk about birthers when the whole country knows Carney has been slipping and sliding through the lies that have been told about Benghazi and other topics show us the crew that currently works at 1600 Pennsylvania think they are above criticism. They believe their political opponents are not only wrong; they are illegitimate and not worthy of a hearing.

While journalists are disgusted with Carney and even his masters in the West Wing may be scratching their heads about his recent performances, he really isn’t the problem. His contempt for the truth and for those who question his “Emperor’s new clothes” approach to transparency is symptomatic of the kind of second term arrogance that many of us suspected would undo the “hope and change” crowd once the president was re-elected.

Obama’s win last November has convinced Carney and other White House loyalists that they can afford to thumb their noses at decency and even honesty since their still-popular boss can no longer be held accountable by the voters. But what they forget is that even re-elected presidents can’t behave like monarchs.

It is never a good sign for a president to behave as if it is beneath him to acknowledge problems. It’s even worse when those paid to spin him start to act in the same manner.

Jay Carney’s arrogant contempt for the truth stems from the president’s attitude that was on display last week when he had a public temper tantrum about Benghazi questions. An administration that doesn’t believe it should be held accountable is one that is capable of just about anything. But that’s something our colleagues at the AP and Fox News have already discovered.

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Obama Campaign: Romney’s a “Birther”

Mitt Romney decided to shake up a very slow Friday by cracking a joke about birth certificates on the campaign trail (“joke” is being used in the loosest sense of the word). Within minutes, the Obama campaign hysterically declared that he had fully embraced the birther movement:

“I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” [Romney] said. “Ann was born at Henry Ford hospital, I was born at Harper hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” …

In a statement responding to Romney’s comments, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt mentioned Trump and others who have raised the birth certificate issue previously.

“Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them,” LaBolt said. “It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”

There’s a long way between telling a stupid joke and “directly enlist[ing] in the birther movement,” a group of fringe crazies who believe Obama is lying about being born in the United States and has carried out an elaborate cover-up. Romney has long denounced the birther conspiracies, and as Politico notes, Arpaio and Trump don’t have speaking slots at the convention. Romney didn’t even mention Obama in his comment.

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Mitt Romney decided to shake up a very slow Friday by cracking a joke about birth certificates on the campaign trail (“joke” is being used in the loosest sense of the word). Within minutes, the Obama campaign hysterically declared that he had fully embraced the birther movement:

“I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” [Romney] said. “Ann was born at Henry Ford hospital, I was born at Harper hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” …

In a statement responding to Romney’s comments, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt mentioned Trump and others who have raised the birth certificate issue previously.

“Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them,” LaBolt said. “It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”

There’s a long way between telling a stupid joke and “directly enlist[ing] in the birther movement,” a group of fringe crazies who believe Obama is lying about being born in the United States and has carried out an elaborate cover-up. Romney has long denounced the birther conspiracies, and as Politico notes, Arpaio and Trump don’t have speaking slots at the convention. Romney didn’t even mention Obama in his comment.

Not to mention, Obama and his campaign have joked about his birth certificate on numerous occasions, and currently sell overpriced campaign merchandise mocking the conspiracy. “There’s really no way to make the conspiracy about President Obama’s birth certificate completely go away, so we might as well laugh at it,” says the Obama campaign website.

That seems to be what Romney was doing — or at least trying to do. His joke wasn’t very funny, and it probably wasn’t a smart topic to delve into, but it’s a desperate reach for the Obama campaign to claim he’s a birther.

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A Bad Week for Santorum

Rick Santorum is trying to dodge questions about a 2008 speech, where he suggested that “Satan” was planning to infiltrate the United States. If he thought he’d be able to avoid addressing this during a general election campaign, he was kidding himself. Americans may be religious, but they’re not looking for a president who chalks up our societal problems to meddling by the devil.

The Satan comments aren’t Santorum’s only problem this week. His alleged private conversation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio about the veracity of Obama’s birth certificate is also something he needs to respond to:

Arpaio said he plans to endorse one of the four remaining GOP candidates in the coming weeks. But the sheriff added he would not make his choice known before he announces the findings of his birth certificate probe at a news conference set for March 1. This endorsement would be his second in the race; in November 2011, he endorsed then-candidate Rick Perry.

Santorum, he said, seemed to have no problem with the nature of his investigation.

“He had no problems with what I told him that I may be doing,” Arpaio told reporters.

The sheriff said he is conducting the investigation after receiving requests from “the Tea Party.”

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Rick Santorum is trying to dodge questions about a 2008 speech, where he suggested that “Satan” was planning to infiltrate the United States. If he thought he’d be able to avoid addressing this during a general election campaign, he was kidding himself. Americans may be religious, but they’re not looking for a president who chalks up our societal problems to meddling by the devil.

The Satan comments aren’t Santorum’s only problem this week. His alleged private conversation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio about the veracity of Obama’s birth certificate is also something he needs to respond to:

Arpaio said he plans to endorse one of the four remaining GOP candidates in the coming weeks. But the sheriff added he would not make his choice known before he announces the findings of his birth certificate probe at a news conference set for March 1. This endorsement would be his second in the race; in November 2011, he endorsed then-candidate Rick Perry.

Santorum, he said, seemed to have no problem with the nature of his investigation.

“He had no problems with what I told him that I may be doing,” Arpaio told reporters.

The sheriff said he is conducting the investigation after receiving requests from “the Tea Party.”

The Birther conspiracies are an embarrassment to conservatives. The paranoid delusions of a fringe few have been a disgrace to the entire conservative brand. If Arpaio wants to endorse Santorum, and Santorum accepts, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if Arpaio did discuss his investigation into Obama’s birth certificate with the candidate, and if Santorum really did have “no problem” with it, that’s a big concern. It’s an issue he’ll need to clarify. Republicans need to know whichever candidate gets the nomination isn’t going to go off the rails and start pandering to the Birther crowd like Donald Trump.

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