Now that President Obama has released his long-form birth certificate, here’s the question: Will leading conservatives and Republicans step up, place the blame for birtherism where it belongs, and call on the birthers among them to stop the nonsense once and for all?
There are birther bills being introduced in state legislatures across the country. Will leading conservatives and Republicans unequivocally denounce these efforts?
Some Republicans are already falling short of this basic test of decency. In a statement this morning, RNC chairman Reince Priebus declared that birtherism is a ”distraction,” but he also hinted — without saying so openly — that Obama has been subtly egging on the controversy on when he should be more focused on the economy. Priebus, recall, recently had a private conversation with Donald Trump in which he conspicuously did not ask him to can the birther talk.
Newt Gingrich actually blamed Obama this morning for the delay in the release, and hinted that we should still harbor doubts about Obama’s citizenship. “Why did it take so long?” Gingrich asked. “The whole thing is strange.”
What about GOP leaders like John Boeher and Mitch McConnell? What will they say? Earlier this year, Boehner was still playing it too cute by half, leaving the birtherism door open a crack. Though Boehner said on Meet the Press that he believes the President was born in Hawaii, he said he wouldn’t disabuse others of their birther notions: “It’s not my job to tell the American people what to think.”
More broadly, leading Republicans have used virtually identical language in addressing lingering doubts about Obama’s cultural identity. Asked about claims that Obama isn’t a Christian, Boehner recently said: “I accept him at his word.” Mitch McConnell, commenting recently on rumors that Obama is a Muslim, said: “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word.”
Michele Bachmann recently came close to declaring birtherism a settled issue, but still left the door slightly ajar. Asked about Obama’s birth certificate, Bachmann repeated the usual formulation — “I take the president at his word.” She reluctantly added (emphasis mine): “I guess that settles it.” What will Bachmann, whose word apparently carries weight among many conservatives, say now?
Karl Rove recently got attention for telling Trump in a very public way to can the crazy birther talk. But he has also taken to blaming Obama for the birther controversy, suggesting it’s a “trap”the White House has laid for Republicans.
There are over a dozen members of Congress who are either birthers or won’t denounce the idea that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced birther bills this year. Self-appointed leaders of the birther movement are now saying that even this latest gesture by Obama isn’t enough.
Obama’s release of his long form birth certificate gives conservative and Republican leaders an opportunity. They can now state in no uncertain terms that it’s time the birthers among them dropped this talk once and for all. Contra Boehner, they can take it upon themselves to tell their constituents that this is an entirely dead issue. They can state clearly and unequivocally that it’s time for the country to move past this debate. No mealy-mouthed efforts to cast doubt on Obama’s motives for finally releasing the long-form certificate. No nonsense about how long it took. No coy suggestions that the White House somehow bears blame for stoking the controversy for its own political ends.
Who will step up and show real leadership?