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March 03, 2011

Mike Huckabee Alludes To Obama Growing Up In Kenya; Media Pounces; I Hereby Declare This Is Obama's Problem, Not Huckabee's

Allah's been following this for the last couple of days. In an interview, Huckabee alluded to Obama growing up in Kenya; he apparently mixed up Obama's complicated richly textured tapestry of nuanced diversity lineage and background, and misspoke.

He immediately clarified that he had misspoke.

The media attempted to gin this up into a major story: Huckabee Sounds Racist Dog-Whistles to Crazy Birthers.

There's a big problem with that claim. When someone "dog-whistles," the idea is that they insinuate at belief in a position that, because it's socially unacceptable, they dare not express openly. But the key to a successful dog-whistle is that you have to keep on dog-whistling. By which I mean, you must keep your beliefs ambiguous, so that the people you want to hear the dog whistle hear it, but you maintaing plausible deniability as regards everyone else.

So, a racist candidate will dog-whistle some racist belief, alluding to it rather than stating it. When challenged, he'll say he did not mean anything of the sort, but he will not then go on to endorse the idea that blacks are equal to whites. Because that last part defeats the whole idea of the dog-whistle. You say "that's not what I meant" but you certainly don't affirmatively endorse the exact opposite idea.

If you go on record vigorously affirming the equality of the races -- well, the racists you just tried to dog-whistle heard that, too, didn't they?

Ron Paul is King of the Dog Whistles. He dog-whistled to the Truthers by suggesting 9/11 was a some kind of a staged event like the Gulf of Tonkin incident (which, FYI, was not a staged event either), and when called on this, doesn't refute his own dog-whistle, but merely says he wants "more investigations" or whatever. He "clarifies" by saying he only meant a lesser, more acceptable version of what he implied. He doesn't take it all back.

(Ron Paul, in his newsletters, also used to dog-whistle racist and anti-semitic tropes, too, so he's got a lot of experience at this game.)

My point is if Huckabee was dog-whistling, he seems to be doing it wrong, as he immediately issued statements that he meant no such thing and in fact goes further than I would in saying " I don't believe there is an issue with Barack Obama's birth certificate."

Now, if this were a planned dog-whistle, I'd expect him to have a cutesy non-denial denial at the ready. That's how the dog-whistle is done. But he didn't have a non-denial denial ready. He had nothing ready. He scrambled to knock the story down and did so by issuing an actual denial.

I have a weird take on the Birth Certificate Conspiracy Theory. Few share it. On one hand, I do not believe in it, at all. I disbelieve it for cosmological reasons, for one thing -- that Obama could be evicted from office due to this strikes me as such a Magic Button Happy Ending that I would almost be forced to confess the active hand of an Intelligent Designer in our political disputes, which I strongly doubt -- and for more specific reasons, there is evidence of his Hawaiian birth (notices in newspapers) that seems so fortuitous to seem just too unlikely to be credited.

On the other hand, those who reject such conspiracy theories tend to be convinced that the whole fooferall is political poison and will convince the world that we are nothing but crazy cranks.

I don't believe that last part. I believe this conspiracy theory is wrong (and often dumb) but politically pretty harmless. I base this on an imaginary conversation I have with a hypothetical, low-information, low-partisan-leaning independent voter I imagine in my head:

ME: Hey, how about those Crazy Birthers, huh?

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Oh, I don't know. What about them?

ME: Oh, they have this outlandish theory that Obama was born overseas.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Where was he born?

ME: Hawaii.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: That is overseas.

ME: No, but I mean in a foreign country.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Why do they think that?

ME: Oh, it's crazy. They think that because he won't release his long-form birth certificate.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Oh. Um... why won't he release it?

ME: I don't know. No one knows. In fact, the White House never actually says why he won't release it. In fact, no reporter even ever asks the exact reason for refusing to release it. But it's crazy that the Birthers think this, huh?

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Wait, I'm confused, why doesn't he just release it?

ME: That's not the point. Aren't the Birthers insane?

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Yeah, probably, sure. I assume most people who have passionate political views are insane, usually. That's why I'm not into politics. But let's go back one step -- you have no idea why he refuses to release the birth certificate?

ME: None at all! It's a mystery. But put that out of mind -- aren't these Birthers nuts for asking about it?

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Um, maybe. Have other presidents refused to release their birth certificates?

ME: None, ever, that we know of, at least since such bureaucratic records were kept! But you're missing the point -- aren't the Birthers batshit bugfuck nuts to ask what the big mystery is?

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Um, I'm starting to wonder.

ME: Oh, that's crazy.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: If what you're telling me is right, there is a dispute, and it's within his power to resolve the dispute, but he won't resolve it. Is that right?

ME: Yep. 100% right.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: So why is that crazy?

ME: Because the Birthers rely on a dubious chain of coincidence and collusion to postulate a theory about the reasons for why he's withholding it.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Okay, right, but still -- why doesn't he release it?

ME: No idea! He just won't!

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: What's the big problem?

ME: No one knows! No one even asks!

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: I don't see what the problem is in releasing your birth certificate.

ME: Because it's crazy to even think this way.

HYPOTHETICAL INDEPENDENT: Um.... okay. Why doesn't he release it, again?

Sorry to waste your time with all that, but I do think that is why this whole Birth Certificate Conspiracy Theory has not, in fact, harmed conservatives, despite the media attempting to harm conservatives with it at every turn.

It's just that anyone who hears all this is going to ask, as my Hypothetical Independent kept asking, "Okay, I accept this is all crazy... but... why won't he release it?"

There's no answer to that. No one ever says why this is so outrageous a request. No one offers any plausible justification for withholding it.

No one ever asks the President. No one. Ever.

We have a secret, and we don't even have the courtesy of a cover story to explain the secret away.

If you act secretively, it is not crazy to imagine you have secrets.

This is Obama's problem. It is Obama's choice to withhold this document. That's a decision he made -- why? No idea. The White House won't even offer a cover story to explain why such a benign record must be guarded like Area 51.

It is not the problem of Obama's opponents to prop him up and explain away his decision. It is not our duty to make excuses for him, or to postulate reasons why he's withholding a trivial birth record.

It's the guy with the secret who has the problem.

And this is what annoys me in the media coverage of this: They demand that Republicans swear on a stack of Bibles to affirm facts they have no knowledge of while steadfastly refusing to ask the guy actually concealing the records which would end the controversy why, The Hell, he is continuing to conceal them.

I have to stress: There is not even a White House statement on this. Not even a "If we give in to this request, the floodgates will open" blah blah blah. (And even if they said that -- um, really? Floodgates will open? Over a birth certificate?)

This is Obama's choice and Obama's problem. Some have speculated that he keeps it secret precisely in order to make the opposition start inventing explanations about the secret. Well, fine then -- but you can hardly blame people then for doing what Obama intended they would do.

I, personally, am sick to death of hearing media sycophants demand that John Boehner affirm that Obama was born in Hawaii while not asking that Obama do the same.

Boehner doesn't know. Wasn't there. Doesn't have the bleeding records. Obama does, and yet the media refuses to ask the one guy in a position to settle this a damn thing.

We're all just supposed to vouch for facts not within our competency in order to spare President Douchetool the duty to answer questions himself.

Speaking of douchetools, Chris Matthews. Now that Matthews has begun to suspect, I think, that there is something politically unhelpful on the birth certificate (Religion: Muslim has been proposed as a possible solution this mystery), he pounds the desk damning "the lie that won't die."

But that's Matthews now, now that he's realized that under no circumstances will Obama ever release the birth certificate, and thus it's incumbent upon him to play country lawyer and pound the table wailing that such questions are out of bounds.

But just a couple of months ago Matthews, presumably, did expect Obama to release the birth certificate and settle the controversy once and for all. And what was his position then?

Well, when he thought it was likely Obama would release it, he asked, "Why doesn't he just release it?" His panel of super-liberals David Corn and Clarence Page agreed -- he should release it. And they expressed confusion themselves as to why he hadn't.

Was Matthews propagating the lie that won't die then? Or was he asking a rather obvious question -- if this is in dispute, and the release of a simple document would remove all dispute, then why, in the hell, is he continuing to refuse to do so?

This is Obama's problem. Not Boehner's, not Huckabee's. Not even Chris Matthews'. There is one person in the entire world who is legally permitted to release the document in question. And that's not me, not John Boehner, and not Mike Huckabee.

Obama won't release it. He's decided that it's better to have people speculate about the reasons for his refusal to release basic documents about himself than to release those documents and dispel all speculation.

That's his choice. And if his word is that it is worse for him to release it than it is for him to not release it, I take him at his word.

And it's not my goddamn job or anyone else's to continuing spinning in support of his secrecy on the matter.



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posted by Ace at 03:29 PM

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