Why President Obama Let The Birther Question Fester

DrRich | December 7th, 2011 - 8:29 am


A few years ago, one of the Ladies on the View (DrRich does not recall whether it was Rosie or Whoopie or Joy or Daisy May) “proved” that George Bush was responsible for the collapse of the World Trade Center (and not the heat generated by all that burning jet fuel), when she proclaimed that “steel does not melt.” The audience went wild with approval.

DrRich, however, was puzzled. All those years ago, when America still had lots of steel mills and DrRich used to work in one of them, he could swear that once every six hours a massive door would open on the open hearth furnace, and molten steel would flow out of it. In fact, one of DrRich’s jobs was to advance a long-handled ladle into that molten stream of new steel to acquire a sample for analysis. He would be willing to attest under oath (say, to a Federal grand jury) that the steel in his ladle was in liquid form. So, unless DrRich’s Old Fart memory fails him, steel actually does melt, as long as you can make it hot enough.

The thing about conspiracy theorists, however, is that they are never deterred by facts. And if DrRich had actually sent Whoopie (or whoever) a letter explaining her mistake, as he had thought about doing, it would not have caused her to say, “Oopsie.” She simply would have shifted to another “fact” proving that Republicans (and not Islamists) had knocked down those buildings.

The other thing about conspiracy theorists is that their methods know no party lines. Whatever their political affiliation they are usually whack-jobs. And on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the birthers – who are convinced that President Obama was not born in the USA, but instead was born in Indonesia, or Kenya, or Mars – have displayed no more reasonableness than the Ladies on the View.

So, when one thinks about it, the truly puzzling thing about the birther controversy is not that the birthers won’t give up, no matter what evidence is placed before them. That’s just what conspiracy theorists do. What’s really puzzling is why President Obama and his legal team fought them for so long before they actually produced definitive evidence of his American birth.

Astute readers might respond, “You just answered your own question, DrRich. Conspiracy theorists don’t go away just because you have the facts on your side. Even a time machine that deposited them into the birthing room in Honolulu would not have deterred them. And indeed, when Obama finally produced his birth record, the birthers immediately found six ways to show it had been Photoshopped. Giving conspiracy theorists the real facts does not end the conspiracy theory.”

Very true. (DrRich is proud to have readers like you.) The President had no hope of making the birthers go away by releasing his birth documents. But by not releasing these right away, and instead letting the matter fester for several years, he just made more problems for himself. By fighting the birthers all that time, and running up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills doing it, all he accomplished was to waste a lot of money, and to raise questions among millions of more reasonable Americans who are not given to conspiracy theories.

DrRich believes he has a possible answer to why Mr. Obama stonewalled for so long on his birth records. It may be that he was signalling to his Progressive followers his baseline contempt for the Constitution.

The birthers, as misguided as they were, were raising a constitutional question. For, if Mr. Obama had been born outside the U.S., he could not legally serve as President under the Constitution*.

*DrRich, for one, thinks this is a rather silly feature of the Constitution, which he believes Mr. Madison inserted into the document for the sole purpose of disqualifying Alexander Hamilton for the job.

Typically, therefore, inasmuch as a constitutional question is by definition an important one, one might expect that President Obama would have produced the definitive documentation right away, to resolve the matter once and for all. And, as it turns out, he easily could have done so.

But he chose not to. He chose to let the question fester and grow, for several years, before finally putting an end to it. It’s almost as if he was saying: It’s just a constitutional question. I will actively fight against having to acknowledge the legitimacy of my presidency under the Constitution, because to do so would be to acknowledge the importance of the Constitution. And that would be beneath me, and would be at odds with my real agenda.

This message must have offered much succor to nervous Progressives, who had watched him solemnly take the Oath of Office, and had listened to his public words.

Very few Progressives – much less the President of the United States – are willing to say publicly that the Constitution is a major impediment to their program, and that one of the absolute requirements for achieving the Progressive program is to nullify the underlying thrust of the Constitution.

For indeed the Constitution is an impediment, since it firmly establishes the primacy of the individual, and severely limits the government’s ability to control the property or the behavior of individuals – both of which are critical to the Progressive program.

Mr. Obama has said so himself, publicly, before he became President. He has indicated that the chief flaw of the Constitution is that it places limits on the power of the government, and thereby prevents the government from acting to assure redistributive justice.

You can listen to him say it himself on You Tube, here.

Mr. Obama is right about the Constitution, of course. For indeed, if the Constitution granted the government the power to affect redistributive justice, it would have had to make the government all-powerful, and to make all property communal property, controlled by that government. But the founders, having just fought a war with the world’s greatest power to guarantee the autonomy of individual Americans, were disinclined to write a Constitution that immediately nullified their great victory for mankind. So the Constitution simply does not suit the Progressive agenda.

After just two years, President Obama apparently found that he had no further need to continue the charade with the birthers. He has by now, of course, amply demonstrated that the Constitution will not be an impediment to him. He has created scores of hand-picked, unelected Czars who began setting national policy and running much of the government, in independent fiefdoms, answerable only to him; he has unilaterally cancelled contractual obligations to bondholders when “negotiating” with car companies; in addition to the auto industry, he has essentially nationalized the banking industry, the insurance industry, and student loans (and thus, colleges), and of course, the healthcare industry; he went to war in Libia without even a nod to Congress; he allows his DOJ to selectively enforce or ignore laws depending on who has broken them; and he inserted an individual mandate into his healthcare reform plan, which, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will give the government unlimited authority to control the economic activity of individual Americans.

And that’s why it eventually became OK for the President to release his birth records. American Progressives, by that time, had been suitably reassured regarding his stance on the Constitution.

But thanks to the birthers, the President had a convenient way of signalling his attitude toward the Constitution, well before he had had the opportunity to demonstrate it overtly through his Presidential actions.

DrRich will only remind his conservative friends that, once a President has taken over private industry, made the Congress (the people’s branch of government) nearly irrelevant, promulgated the individual mandate, &c., the fact that the Constitution has in it some verbiage about the Presidency being limited to two-terms ought not to be given much weight.

2 Responses to “Why President Obama Let The Birther Question Fester”

  1. Stirner says:

    Up front, let me stipulate that I have no doubts that Obama was born in Hawaii.

    While I agree that the Obama campaign intentionally fueled the “Birthers”, I disagree about the primary motivation. Instead, I think it was a genius PR move by David Axelrod to tar all the critics of Obama with the birther brush. As you wrote, the Obama campaign spent millions fighting in court when they could have easily released the birth certificate and made the issue go away. But by keeping the issue alive, it focused much of the dirt digging into the blind canyon of the birth records, and away from his extremely unsavory Chicago connections. In the public mind, the Obama investigators get lumped in with kooks like the birthers, preemptively delegitimizing whatever scoops they come up with.

    And here might be the most wicked move by Axelrod: even with the dramatic birth certificate reveal, they planted the seeds to keep the birtherism alive. The image of the birth certificate had fairly obvious traces of ham-handed photo editing and retouching, and vestigial digital layers that should not occur in a simple scan of a paper document. So even after the reveal, the birthers can still rationalize that the birth certificate is a fake, and keep on dragging down all the Obama muckrakers.

    Signal disdain for the Constitution and the rule of law? Just an extra bonus!

  2. The ladies of the View were correct that an open air, jet-fuel fire would not melt steel to a liquid. But, they don’t comprehend the complexities of life.

    Journal of Metals
    === ===
    The maximum flame temperature increase for burning hydrocarbons (jet fuel) in air is, thus, about 1,000°C — hardly sufficient to melt steel at 1,500°C.

    Structural steel begins to soften around 425°C and loses about half of its strength at 650°C. This is why steel is stress relieved in this temperature range. But even a 50% loss of strength is still insufficient, by itself, to explain the WTC collapse.

    The temperature along the 18 m long joists was certainly not uniform. Given the thermal expansion of steel, a 150°C temperature difference from one location to another will produce yield-level residual stresses. This produced distortions in the slender structural steel, which resulted in buckling failures. Thus, the failure of the steel was due to two factors: loss of strength due to the temperature of the fire, and loss of structural integrity due to distortion of the steel from the non-uniform temperatures in the fire.
    === ===

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