The President Is Citizen Obama. Get Over It.
By Eugene Robinson
April 28, 2011
Well, that was weird.
Let's see: The Arab world is in tumult, with worrying
signs that a Libya-style descent into civil war may be
happening in Syria, where the stakes are unimaginably
higher. Nearby, the warring Palestinian factions, Hamas
and Fatah, may be forming a united front. Closer to
home, new leaders are being tapped for the Pentagon and
the CIA. The government is fast approaching its legal
debt ceiling. Painfully high gasoline prices have put
the nation in a sour mood. Tornadoes are wreaking death
and destruction across the South.
So the leader of the free world summons the media for
an important announcement - but not about war, peace or
the economy. It's about his birth certificate.
This just in: President Obama has proved, yet again,
that he is a natural-born citizen of the United States.
Which we already knew - "we" meaning those of us who
believe there is such a thing as objective reality.
I include in this reality-based group at least some of
the "carnival barkers," as Obama called them, who have
led the gullible and the paranoid down the rabbit hole
of "birther" conspiracy theory. Did Donald Trump ever
really believe there was a question about Obama's
birthplace? Of course not; look how quickly he moved on
to the next bogus "mystery," which apparently involves
Obama's stellar academic record - a little too stellar,
perhaps? A bit too perfect?
Two ugly forces had to combine to produce the birth
certificate sideshow, which can only be described as a
national disgrace. One is a calculated attempt by
Obama's political opponents to de-legitimize his
It seems obvious to me that this campaign to paint the
president as some sort of usurper - this insistence
that despite winning the popular vote by a healthy
margin and the electoral vote by a landslide, he wasn't
really elected - has everything to do with race.
Does anyone disagree? Well, just imagine what the
birthers would be saying if Obama - like his Republican
opponent in 2008, John McCain - had been born in the
Panama Canal Zone. Or think of the uproar if Obama -
like George W. Bush in 2000 - had lost the popular vote
but won the electoral college.
Look, I'm not surprised that the first black president
faces unprecedented scrutiny about his origins, and I
hope Obama's not surprised, either. This sort of thing
comes with being a historic "first," and there's no way
around it. To those deniers who can't come to terms
with the fact of the Obama presidency, I have nothing
to offer but this: Yes, he's smarter, richer, luckier
and better looking than you, and he's your president.
Yours, mine and ours. And he's black. Get over it.
But race alone couldn't have generated the whole
birther phenomenon. Also required was an increasing
tendency for facts to be treated as personal
accoutrements, as easily adopted or discarded as the
If a fact is inconvenient, just ignore it. Put it
aside. Surely there's someone out there who's selling a
counterfeit version that might be more to your liking.
The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan's adage that "everyone
is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts"
seems so last century. I'm not talking about competing
worldviews, I'm talking about a lack of agreement on
what is provably, objectively true and what is not.
Political polarization is old hat. Empirical
polarization - a rejection of this nation's founding
Enlightenment principles - is something new.
The birther lunacy is an extreme case. The short-form
birth certificate that Obama released in June 2008 was
the official document, according to Hawaii officials.
They should know, right? Wrong, said the deniers, we
need the long-form certificate, even though it's not
considered official. Obama produced it Wednesday, and
that settles the question, right? No sooner had the
president finished speaking than a birther e-mail
landed in my inbox, headlined "Case closed? Not so
But there are other examples, some much more
consequential. The vast majority of scientists look
dispassionately at the data and conclude that
atmospheric warming and climate change are real.
Deniers don't produce data of their own, they just say
no, no, no - and attack the scientists' political
views, rather than their research.
Rodney King famously asked, "People, I just want to
say, you know, can we all get along?" If we decide
there's no difference between fact and opinion, then
surely the sad answer is no.
Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.
Submit via email: [log in to unmask]
Submit via the Web: http://portside.org/submittous3
Frequently asked questions: http://portside.org/faq
Search Portside archives: http://portside.org/archive
Contribute to Portside: https://portside.org/donate