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Post Partisan
Posted at 03:45 PM ET, 10/24/2011

Rick Perry’s ‘distractive’ birther talk


Folks, let me ask you a serious question. Are you really surprised by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s answer to the “Do you believe that President Obama was born in the United States” question? Come on. You knew it was coming. ’Twas but a matter of time.

The GOP presidential hopeful was asked about it during an interview with Lynn Sherr for Parade Magazine. What you’ll see is that, on this issue, Perry was trying to have his cake and eat it, too. By entertaining this inane issue, he is playing to a belief that is by no means dead — particularly in South Carolina, where a state poll last month showed that “One in 3 S.C. Republicans think Obama a Muslim, born in another country.”

If Perry loses Iowa and New Hampshire, the Palmetto State might be the site of his last stand. By downplaying the birther question at the end of the interview, he gets to say almost credibly that he didn’t question Obama’s legitimacy. Almost. I’m not sure how successful Perry’s needle-threading will be, but coming a day before a major speech on tax policy, this revelation shows how successful Perry is at wounds of the self-inflicted variety.

Here’s that part of the Parade conversation with my commentary after each response.

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?

I have no reason to think otherwise.

This is a smidge better than the old Republican stand-by of “Well I think we should take the president at his word,” as espoused by Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) or House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) last February. The only Republican talked about for the White House to get this answer right that same month was Sarah Palin. Two months later, though, she joined the crazy birther stampede led by Donald Trump.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—

Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

I’m still trying to figure out what “he’s never seen my birth certificate” has to do with the question asked. But we move on.

But you’ve seen his.

I don’t know. Have I?

Whatever points Coyote Killer got with his first answer have now been canceled out. Yes, governor, you and everyone else have seen President Obama’s birth certificate. Twice!

You don’t believe what’s been released?

I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

And?

That came up.

And he said?

He doesn’t think it’s real.

This is no surprise. Even though Trump takes great pride in getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, there’s always a hint of disbelief in his voice. There’s a detente of sorts between me and Trump on this issue. His views are clear, as are mine.

And you said?

I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the president of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

Distractive? Anyway . . .

Perry recovers nicely here. No, it doesn’t matter. Yes, Obama is the president of the United States. Yes, he’s elected. And we shouldn’t allow it to be a distractication from issues that matter.

By  |  03:45 PM ET, 10/24/2011

 
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