The Washington Post

Romney declares independence from birthers at NAACP

Vice President Biden got the reception we all thought he would get at the NAACP convention. Warm and effusive, compared to the cool and respectful (with the occasional booing) that greeted Mitt Romney’s hollow speech yesterday.

Biden ripped apart Romney’s address and warned the audience about what a President Romney might do. “Close your eyes and imagine — imagine what the Romney Justice Department would look like,” he said. “Imagine who he’d recommend to be the attorney general or head of the civil rights division. Imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of a Romney presidency.” Even though Romney’s conservative street cred is thin among conservatives, there’s no question his election would mean an abrupt change in philosophy compared to President Obama.

But there’s another thing in Romney’s speech I want to highlight as a Romney declaration of independence from the conspiratorial wack-o wing of the Republican Party.

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Now, if someone had told us in the 1950s or 1960s that a black citizen would serve as the forty-fourth president of the United States, we would have been proud and many would have been surprised.

Did you catch that? “[B]lack citizen”? The racist birther movement centers on the conspiracy theory that Obama was born not in Hawaii but in Kenya. Therefore, he is not an American citizen and is illegitimately occupying the Oval Office. Republican leaders and those who aspired to be such allowed the rumor to fester or egged it on.

To his credit, Romney never really dabbled in those fetid waters. Yesterday, in one phrase, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee disavowed the birther craziness. Of course, conspiracy theories never die. But every little bit helps.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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