The Washington Post

Only GOP leaders can end the birther nonsense

But Obama was absolutely right to intervene and challenge the media:

Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on at any given day and I've got other things to do. But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate.  And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.

Yes, there is something entirely defective about a media system that insists that “balance” means giving equal time to the lunatic and the rational, to the facts and to sheer invention. What does the rest of the world make of us? What kind of country have we become?

Unfortunately, too many media outlets seem to insist that because a lot of people falsely claim that Obama was not born in the United States (which would make him ineligible to be president), “the controversy” somehow “deserves” coverage, and “both sides” deserve to have their views aired. I guess the idea that journalism should be driven by facts and that arguments should be rooted in reality is a passe notion.

Because of this utterly false sense in so much of the media of what “fairness” and “balance” mean, there is only one way to put this controversy behind us: Republican leaders at all levels need to condemn this nonsense for what it is. No shilly-shallying. None of this “I take the president at his word” stuff. They need to say flatly: “Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is eligible to be president.” Period.

Those who disagree with the president are free to criticize him as much as they want. Those who want him out of office are free to use our electoral process next year. But if we want to be taken seriously by the rest of the world, we have to end this birther babble.

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column and on the PostPartisan blog. He is also a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a government professor at Georgetown University and a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio, ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


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