Made in Kenya

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 30 2010 12:14 PM

Made in Kenya

Another week, another piece of data proving that myths about Barack Obama are no longer out-of-bounds in the midterm campaigns. At the big FreedomWorks rally on Friday night, Morgan Philpot, who's challenging Rep. Jim Matheson in Utah's one Democratic-held congressional district, gave a freewheeling and mostly serious speech introducing himself to activists. He told one joke about the political and economic wisdom of one of his sons.

"I remember he was walking around and he was reading things saying, 'Made in China. Made in China,'" said Philpot. "And he came to me and my wife and said, 'Why is everything is made in China?' We looked at each other and said we have a smart kid on our hands. It worried us one day, though, when he came up to our infant son -- you know how they get that bald spot on their heads? -- and he goes, 'Made in China!'"

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Big laugh. The punchline: "What I'm wondering is if you shave the back of the president's head, what does it say 'Made in' there?" Much bigger laugh.

There were a couple of ways to read this joke. You could read it as a sad comment on America's increasing trade deficit, or on the amount of debt China now owns. Or you could read it as a goof on the never-dying theory that Obama was born outside of the United States -- the theory Obama commented on just yesterday . I double-checked with Philpot after his speech.

"You know about how people don't believe he was born in the U.S.?" he said. "So on his head, would it say made in Kenya or made in the U.S.? That was the joke!"

I didn't get the sense Philpot himself doubts Obama was born here or thinks much about this, but I thought it was interesting that after all of the carping of Democrats and pundits, this is still considered -- correctly -- solid joke material. My bet is that it will continue as long as Obama as unpopular. Side bet: If Obama is defeated in 2012, the idea that he wasn't born in the United States will become more widely accepted.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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