“No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate," joked Mitt Romney at a Michigan event earlier today.
The crowd reportedly chuckled. The reporters reportedly gasped. Then everyone dashed off to become indignant about it. Ah, indignation, still our strongest manufacturing sector. And here’s my shipment.
The comment came as Mitt introduced his wife Ann: “I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born,” he said. “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
This stretches the definition of joke. As do most Romney jokes.
But unlike his usual jocular fumblings (“There’s no place like chrome for the Hollandaise”) this one plays into the Birther Nonsense. I would expect this sort of thing from Donald Trump. But not from Mitt.
You just can’t —
Usually I groan at Mitt Romney jokes because they are so bad. This time I am groaning because this isn’t a joke.
Of course no one has asked for Mitt Romney’s birth certificate, except for a few people who were jocularly implying that he was a robot. His first name is Willard. The only reason you would want to see Willard Mitt Romney’s birth certificate was to make certain there wasn’t another, even more 1950s-sounding name he could possibly use.
This is birtherism in a nut-shell. Naturally no one has asked for Mitt Romney’s birth certificate. You know where he was born and raised. He is not the sort of person you ask for a birth certificate. That’s the whole point.
Now Barack Obama, on the other hand... He is, at best, Hawaiian.
Birtherism is a good visible indicator of exactly how many people it is possible to fool all the time. It’s an embarrassingly large number. Either people genuinely believe that This Barack Obama Fellow could not legitimately come from this country, which is bad, or they are cynically calling it into question to point out that The President Is Not Like You, which is worse.
“Ha ha,” this joke says. “The President is an exotic specimen! I am not! I was born at Harper Hospital! I am like you! You don’t ask a white man in a button-down with a name like Willard where he was born! Ha ha!”
But the president has joked about it! Well, yes. He has clearance. Coming from Romney, it just sounds like an inept attempt to point out how Much More Like You Than Barack Obama Mitt Romney is.
This was off the cuff. The crowd liked it. Birther jokes are not new on the campaign trail. So it is easy to see how it slipped out. “Ha,” you can picture Mitt thinking. “The president’s birth certificate is a topic that people sometimes make jokes about! I, too, will make such a joke!”
Birtherism itself is a joke. And not a particularly amusing one. It’s the kind of embarrassing joke you wish people would stop telling.