This Week in Birtherism: Perry and Rubio

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 24 2011 8:57 AM

This Week in Birtherism: Perry and Rubio

DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 22: Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry (C) listens to the national anthem at the start of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum on October 22, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. Candidates Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum are scheduled to speak at the event, all hoping to gain support of the roughly 1000 in attendance in front of the January 3, 2012 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Last week, Herman Cain was brought low by an interview with Piers Morgan. Yesterday, it was Rick Perry's turn to bend a soft focus interview into a huge own goal. Parade's Lynn Sherr asks a question that candidates had mostly stopped getting.

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

The most worrisome part of this, clearly, is that Perry thinks about the issue because Trump brought it up. But this may be a useful way of explaining why there is such a thing as "Rubio birtherism." As Keach Hagey pointed out over the weekend, the Rubio saga broke out months after Charles Kerchner, a geneologist and birther, published proof that the senator's parents arrived in America before Castro took power in Cuba. Why did Kerchner care? He didn't. His theory -- the big dead-ender birther theory -- is that having non-American parents prevents someone from being a "natural born citizen." Based on obsessive amateur readings of the founders and their intellectual contemporaries, birthers are convinced that "natural born citizen" is a status only available to people born of two American parents on American soil. Look, he's even made a chart, based on total nonsense.

Screen shot 2011-10-24 at 8.51.43 AM

This is the road Perry is headed down, if he wants it. Birtherism, for its adherents, is like Soviet Communism. It can never really be proven wrong. Reality can prove unequal to its pure theory.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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