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Born Crazy

I never thought I’d agree with anything Michael Medved said. But when it comes to the “birther movement,” we’re on the same page.

During WBUR’s On Point, Monday morning he was thoroughly dismissive of the right-wing fringe campaign to prove that President Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen.

Medved was also at pains to point out that this is not the brainchild of the Republican party, stressing that Alan Keyes, a leading voice of the movement, actually left the Republican party to join the Constitution Party. (In November, Keyes, notably, filed a lawsuit against the California Secretary of State, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and California’s Democratic electors seeking to challenge Obama’s eligibility for the U.S. presidency.)

But even if it’s not a Republican- supported initiative, it is quickly becoming a concern of many Republicans. In a recent town meeting purportedly on health care reform, Rep. Mike Castle (R-Delaware) was met with a rant by a flag-waving, baggie-wrapped birth-certificate-bearing woman. His flustered response is “if you’re referring to the president, then he’s a citizen of the United States.” The crowd explodes in an uproar of disdain, culminating in the woman’s shouted order that everybody should stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Which they do—in shouted, angry phrases.

And at an April town meeting in Wyoming, Republican Rep. Cynthia Luumis was attacked by birthers. Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn has received 33 inquiries about Obama’s origins, with 10 coming since Lou Dobbs’ July 20th musings on “the questions surrounding the issue.”

At a walk-in meeting in Sen. Tom Coburn’s Washington office, birthers gave the Oklahoma Republican’s chief of staff nine pages of documentation in support of their claims.

And though the birthers are few, they are vocal and some Republican leaders are trying to parse the issue in a way to cause as little political harm to themselves as possible.

Others aren’t so cautious, though. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe: “They have a point,” he said of the birthers. “I don’t discourage it,” he said, and with sheer partisan zeal continued, “but I’m going to pursue defeating [Obama] on things that I think are very destructive to America.”

So what’s fueling the birther movement—besides Lou Dobbs, Alan Keyes and Rush Limbaugh? (“Barack Obama has one thing in common with God. . . . God doesn’t have a birth certificate, either,” said Limbaugh.) The movement’s ringleader is Orly Taitz, a chipper, blonde-haired Russian-born attorney, dentist and real estate agent (how does she find the time?) who Jon Stewart dubbed, “the lost Gabor sister.”

While the movement could be “politically threatening for particular Republicans,” Taitz says that the GOP as a whole has a chance to gain from it if it takes the right course of action.

That is, if it follows her chosen course of action. At her Web site is a list of blogs and other Web sites designed to educate the doubting public that Barack Obama is not an American. features a gallery of head shots of Obama looking stern and pissed off, as well as a half-dozen shots of Michelle looking like one conniving, unpatriotic, angry bitch. Beneath these are statements and questions pressing the issue of his birthplace and outlining the ways in which she, Orly Taitz, and Alan Keyes are out to save America.

One of the ways that Taitz is helping is by representing Stefan Frederick of Tampa, Fla., as he fights orders to deploy to Afghanistan, because he believes the President is not an American citizen.

In a 20-page document, filed July 8th, Taitz asks the court to consider granting her client’s request based upon Cook’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as commander in chief.

When queried on whether Cook’s real reason for balking at serving had more to do with fear than the President’s place of birth, Taitz was emphatic: “Oh, no, no. He wants to go. [His attitude is] I want to go today. Show me that we have a legitimate commander in chief, I’ll pack my things and leave today.”

And she claims this group of newly minted conscientious objectors is growing.

“You’ll see more people challenging this. Right now I have 170 members of the military that signed up to be plaintiffs. Everyday I get e-mails . . . I have something like 47,000 e-mails. I don’t have time to process them.”

Meanwhile, as wacky as all this sounds, the birther movement is making waves and making noise.

In February, Florida Republican Rep. Bill Posey introduced an initially much-mocked bill requiring presidential campaigns to provide “a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate.”

But by July 15th, nine additional Republican members of Congress were backing the bill, some because they wanted to pour cold water on the conspiracy theories.

“It’s a good idea,” said John Donnelly, a spokesman for Indiana Republican Rep. Dan Burton, a co-sponsor of the bill. “If candidates provided that information to the Federal Election Commission you wouldn’t have all this hullabaloo. You don’t want to needlessly expose presidents to crazy conspiracy theories.

Yes, save those crazy conspiracy theories for when we really need them.

—Jo Page

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