Another Day, Another Birther

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 12 2013 1:51 PM

Another Day, Another Birther

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President Obama makes a statement on his birth certificate at the White House on April 27, 2011.

Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

There's been a sort of crisis of confidence among birthers recently. It probably doesn't help that they lost the 2012 election, and with it their best actual chance of removing Barack Obama from office. But in recent birther confrontations of Republican members of Congress, birthers have sounded apologetic about bringing their concerns to the public. When one woman tried to give a packet of birther information to Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin (the documents basically argue that Obama's birth certificate was forged and he's using a false Social Security number), she joked that it was Mullin's bad luck to represent "the birther queen." This dialogue from Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold's district begins with the birther admitting, "It's not a very popular issue."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The newsy-esque part of the video comes when Farenthold blithely suggests that the House could impeach Obama easily, but he'd get off in the Senate, where 67 votes are needed to remove a president. "What message do we send to America if we impeach Obama and he gets away?" asks the congressman.

But he's said that before! Just last month, during a short recess, he said "if we impeached him in the House of Representatives, it would have to go to the Senate for a trial and he wouldn’t get convicted." This is how he cools down his crowds.

He's just as blithe about birtherism. "I think unfortunately the horse is already out of the barn on this, on the whole birth certificate issue," says Farenthold. "The original Congress, when his eligibility came up, should have looked into it and it didn’t. I’m not sure how we fix it."

Very diplomatic, considering that the question is insane, but I need to quibble with how the Washington Post reported on this (irritatingly vertically filmed) tape. "Though the White House published Obama’s long-form birth certificate in April 2011," writes Aaron Blake, "Farenthold is not alone in his frustration."

This gives birthers far too much credit. During the 2008 campaign, there was plenty of evidence that Obama was born in the United States. His short-form birth certificate—one that could get any American a driver's license or passport—was released that spring. That summer, five years ago, birthers accidentally stumbled across Obama birth announcements in Honolulu newspapers. It's not like this was a mystery until the White House released yet more information in 2011. For a while, I think, the White House was happy to string along the very disturbed people who'd make life hell for Republicans by demanding answers about this purely xenophobic theory.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.