WASHINGTON, May 19, 2012 — They’re back. Just when you thought the political waters were safe, back come the birther sharks circling their favorite prey, President Barack Obama. Once again it’s Arizona, home of the king of birthers, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County.
Pandering to the birther phenomena, Arizona’s secretary of state Ken Bennett, a Republican and governor wannabe, said that he will keep Obama off the state’s election ballot come November unless Hawaii guarantees that Obama was born there.
In a radio interview with KFYI’s conservative talk host, Mike Broomhead, Bennett said, “I believe the president was born in Hawaii — or at least I hope he was. My responsibility as secretary of state is to make sure that the ballots in Arizona are correct and that those people whose names are on the ballot have met the qualifications of the office they are seeking.”
Bennett admits to being inspired to follow the birther trail – what most of us would call the birther conspiracy – by Sheriff Arpaio. Back in March the sheriff released what he said was proof that Obama was not born in Hawaii and that in fact Obama’s long form birth certificate released in April 2011 is a computer generated forgery.
However, the Sheriff has not pursued legal action, just press conferences. Bennett says he received over 1200 emails from people wanting something done about the birth certificate issue. So he has joined the birthers by trying to keep the President off the ballot and thus deny Obama the potential of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.
Bennett says he has contacted Hawaiian officials, demanding they supply him with “verification in lieu of a certified copy of a birth certificate.”
So far, he told Broomhead, Hawaii has not complied and even requested proof that 1) Bennett is who he said he is and 2) Arizona’s law makes such verification a requirement to be on the ballot.
Broomhead asked Bennett in the interview, “If they won’t comply, if they refuse to comply with this, will you remove the president from the ballot? Will you exclude him from the ballot?”
“That’s possible,” Bennett said. “Or the other option would be I would ask all of candidates, including the president, maybe to submit a certified copy of their birth certificate. But I don’t want to do that.”
What makes all of this even more interesting is that just last year, Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who is known for her public fight with the President and is certainly not a big fan of his, had said birtherism is a “huge distraction” and vetoed Arizona House Bill 2177, aka the Birther Bill. The bill would have allowed Arizona’s secretary of state to decide whether the qualifications of candidates passed muster and then decide if they could be on the ballot.
Brewer, who was Arizona’s secretary of state in 2008 when Obama first ran for president, told CNN last year that birtherism is “just something I believe is leading our country down the path of destruction and it just is not serving any good purpose.”
Perhaps Gov. Brewer needs to have a chat with the current secretary, who obviously is courting the birther vote. Talking to Sheriff Arpaio is probably a waste of time, because he is on a vendetta to take down the President. Why, you naively ask?
The U.S. Justice Dept. charged in December 2011 that Sheriff Arpaio had engaged in “a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law.” Currently a federal grand jury is investigating his office for abuse of power. Specifically, the Justice Dept. charges:
“We find that MCSO deputies, detention officers, supervisory staff, and command staff, including Sheriff Arpaio, have engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of law enforcement and jail activities that discriminate against Latinos. This discrimination flows directly from a culture of bias and institutional deficiencies that result in the discriminatory treatment of Latinos.”
Arpaio loves to strut his stuff as the toughest sheriff in the West, though most law enforcement folks view him as a bully who sees himself as the Law. So birtherism has been a perfect way for him to strike back. And now Bennett has joined the birthers in their paranoia that Obama is not an American but a Kenyan. It makes for great electioneering. And it illustrates beautifully what Gov. Brewer decried when she vetoed Bill 2177.
Plus Bennett appears to be going beyond Arizona law since there is no requirement for candidates to provide a certified birth certificate. But it appeals to the 6 in 10 Arizona voters who supported the Birther Bill.
We may have thought that with Donald Trump out of the presidential primary and the release of the long form of Obama’s birth certificate last spring, this nonsense would have disappeared for good. However, don’t ever underestimate the American public. There are still 41% of Americans who either do not believe Obama is a bona fide American and thus would have no right to be president of the United States or are not sure. Among Republicans that number jumps to a shocking 72%.
The birther movement would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. There is a rampant paranoia loose in America, threatening to unravel the very fabric of what makes us American. Gov. Brewer had it right when she said birtherism is leading this country down the path to destruction.
Birthers are just a symptom of that paranoia and there are plenty of people out there ready to exploit Americans’ fear of the Other, because when you come right down to it, that is what birtherism is all about: The biracial man in the White House is not one of us and he tricked us to become President.
Scary times indeed.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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