Birtherism has always been a race-baiting fabrication — it still is

Amy Davidson writes: On Sunday, Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying things that weren’t true about Donald Trump’s birtherist lies. “After the President presented his birth certificate, Donald has said, ‘You know, he was born in the United States and that’s the end of the issue.’ It was a contentious issue,” Christie said. Jake Tapper, the host, corrected him. “As a point of fact, Donald Trump did not accept when Barack Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. He kept up this whole birther thing until Friday.” Tapper was right to call Christie on that falsehood; some of Trump’s lowest insinuations about the President’s citizenship have occurred not only in the past few years but in recent months. Efforts to deal with that fallacy, however, have somehow, in the past few days, allowed another Trump lie to solidify: the idea that the President somehow didn’t release his birth certificate until 2011. In fact, Obama released his birth certificate in June, 2008. His campaign posted it online. Reporters were allowed to hold it and examine its embossed state seal and signature stamp. It showed that he had been born in Honolulu, on August 4, 1961, at 7:24 p.m. Hawaiian officials attested to its accuracy. That there were any questions after that point is, in itself, a scandal. Indeed, that there were any questions before that point is outrageous. Candidates who say that they were born in the United States are generally not faced with nervous glances and requests to prove it. But Obama was, and, in 2008, he did prove it.

And yet, two and a half years after Obama released his birth certificate, Donald Trump began pushing the case that the birth certificate was not a birth certificate. In part, this was because instead of saying “birth certificate” on top, it said “certification of live birth” and it was a printout of a computer record, rather than something bearing the scrawl of an obstetrician. That is what Hawaiian birth certificates look like; this was, unambiguously, a Hawaiian state birth certificate. If Obama’s document didn’t offer actual proof of his birth, then pretty much anyone born in Hawaii who had used a birth certificate to obtain a driver’s license or passport had done so under false pretenses. But in Donald Trump’s world, anything that doesn’t look the way you would expect it to in a cartoon is open to doubt. He managed to animate conspiracy theories about the “real” birth certificate — the documentation, pasted into a bound volume in the Hawaiian state archives, that is the basis for the state certificate and that, under state law, is not released — and about how either it didn’t exist or else revealed some secret about Obama. “Maybe it says he is a Muslim,” Trump said on Fox News, in March, 2011, as if the doctor who delivered the infant future President might have detected some religious leanings in his first baby noises.

It is worth noting that for there to have been any sort of discrepancy between the certification and the certificate, multiple Hawaiian officials would have to have been involved in a fraud. (So would the editors of the two Hawaiian newspapers in which Obama’s birth was announced, in 1961, a move that would have required not only conspiring journalists but ones equipped with psychic powers or a time machine — and probably both.) Then again, polls in 2011 showed that a certain number of birthers accepted that Obama was born in Hawaii; they just didn’t believe that Hawaii was part of the United States. And who can believe what foreign bureaucrats certify? [Continue reading…]

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