What Boehner should say about Obama’s birth issue—and about Obama’s Muslim issue
(A reader offers a different and less demanding suggestion as to what Boehner could have said to Gregory, and I reply.)
Yesterday I pointed to the pathetic way that John Boehner, a decent and reasonably intelligent man, allowed himself to be pushed into an embarrassing corner on the Obama birth issue by liberal apparatchik David Gregory, who challenged Boehner on why he wasn’t correcting Republicans who believe that Obama was born abroad and is a Muslim. Boehner said that he personally believes that Obama was born in America and is a Christian, then added that it’s not his place to tell other people what to think. This opened the door for Gregory to say that that was not enough, that Boehner was passively allowing negative “stereotypes” about Obama to be spread by Republicans (though how it is a “stereotype” to suspect that someone was not born in the U.S. is not clear). At the time I posted the entry, I wasn’t able to focus my attention sufficiently on the issue to suggest what Boehner should have said. Fortunately, reader Rob S. filled in the gap. He wrote:
I suggest that Boehner should say:Rob S. is exactly right. But let’s now expand on his point and lay out the position in more detail:
1. Boehner is the highest ranking Republican in the country. He cannot appear to be siding with people who are actively making charges that sound extreme and irrational to many people, that Obama is not a natural born citizen and that Obama is a Muslim. His statement that he accepts the pronouncements of Obama and the state of Hawaii are understandable under the circumstances.
2. At the same time, Boehner’s semi-neutral, “I am tolerant of other views” position on the birthers’ charges—“I don’t agree with them, but it’s not my business to tell other people what to think”—does not extricate him from difficulties.
3. An analogy is the impossible position that then-Harvard Lawrence Summers put himself in a few years back when he said that the view that women may not be naturally equal to men at the highest levels of math and science abilities was a reasonable position and ought to be allowed. He himself was not endorsing that position; he only said it was a position that ought to be tolerated. But this alone gave the feminists enough rope to destroy him. When he was attacked for what he had said, he could not, given his neutrality, defend the position he only wanted to tolerate, because it wasn’t his position. In order to say that the position ought to be tolerated, he had to show that it was at least a reasonable position. But to show that it was at least a reasonable position would require, to a certain degree, that he take its side. And this he wasn’t prepared to do. So, as soon as he was attacked, he did a complete retreat, retracted his statement, begged for forgiveness, and summoned $20 million for a new diversity center. Yet he was still forced out of his job. For the same price he could have spoken the forbidden truth about natural male-female intellectual differences. But, once again, he wasn’t prepared to speak that forbidden truth, because he himself didn’t believe in it. He only wanted the forbidden truth to be tolerated, which made him look like an advocate of that forbidden truth, but left him unable to defend it.
Similarly, Boehner doesn’t believe that Obama was born abroad and is a Muslim, but he also doesn’t think that those views are so terrible that it is his job as Republican leader to denounce them. So he is caught between two stools and has no position to defend when he is attacked.
What Boehner therefore needs is a solid position that he can stand on, or sit on, given our stool analogy.
What is that position? It cannot be that Obama was born abroad, because that is not Boehner’s belief, and even if it were it would be too outré for a man in his official position.
But there is a solid position he can take. It is the same minimalist, rational, and unanswerable position that I have argued all along that birthers should take: We do not know the truth about the circumstances of Obama’s birth, and the reason we do not know the truth is that Obama has refused to release his birth certificate. The Certification of Live Birth which the state of Hawaii claims to possess in its records is a computer-generated document created at some point after the birth. A valid birth certificate is the document filled out by the doctor at the time of birth. This document has never been seen. Obama’s refusal to release that document naturally generates suspicions about the true circumstances of his birth.
As Paul K. wrote to me in an e-mail last night:
Ann Althouse, not the most conservative commentator, said this about the issue of Obama’s birth certificate:I would add that the principle stated in the FRCP applies to ordinary logic as well as to federal lawsuits. If a person refuses to produce information which he possesses and which he ought to produce that would clear him of certain legitimate suspicions, the fact of his refusal to produce that information can be logically taken as establishing that the suspicions are true.
Now, Boehner doesn’t have to go that far. All he has to say is what Rob S. suggested he say, which I will now repeat with an addition of my own.
Boehner should say:
President Obama created this issue and he’s the only person who can stop it. He created the issue by refusing consistently, for years, to release his birth records. Because he has done that, it’s inevitable that people will wonder why he is concealing the records. It’s inevitable that people will wonder where and when he was born. Nobody except the president can stop people from wondering about these things. Only he has the power to put the matter to rest.But what about the “Obama is a Muslim” issue? Just as with the birth issue, there is no safe “neutral” position. Just as there are reasonable grounds for people to suspect that Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen, there are reasonable grounds for people to suspect that he is a Muslim. Therefore, here is what I think Boehner ought to say. My own language and arguments are very hard-hitting, and Boehner obviously would not go nearly as far as I am going, though, just as obviously, I believe that if he took my Full Monty approach to the issue, that would be best. In any case he needs to say something, if more moderate, along the following lines:
As for the question whether Obama is a Muslim or a Christian, you have stated that there is something prejudicial or bigoted for people to believe that he is a Muslim. While I take his word for it that he is a Christian, there are reasonable grounds for people to believe otherwise. The fact is that he lived for four years in a Muslim country and was educated there as a Muslim. He has frequently stated a deep fondness and regard for the Muslim religion that he has not stated for Christianity. The only Christian church he ever belonged to was a church led by an anti-white, anti-American pastor, who equated the black race with goodness and the white race with evil. Obama has also insulted American Christians, when during the 2008 campaign he spoke at a fundraiser about Americans who “bitterly cling to their Bibles and their guns and their dislike of people who are different.” So he puts down American Christians as bigots, while he bows down to foreign Muslim leaders such as the King of Saudi Arabia, leader of one of the most restrictive and hate-producing societies on earth. He also went to Cairo in 2009 and spoke of his duty to fight against anti-Muslim stereotypes, i.e., criticisms of Islam, wherever they appear. Fighting against criticisms of Islam is not the President’s job. His job is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is not the U.S. Constitution, but Islamic law, which prohibits criticism of Islam. In declaring his intention to fight all criticisms of Islam wherever they appear, Obama was in effect taking on the role of an enforcer of Islamic law against non-Muslims.
Laura G. writes:
One of the positions that several Republicans are taking regarding the birther issue is that “it is a distraction from really important other issues we should be addressing”. They are correct, it is indeed a distraction, but for an issue that is far worse than just failing to implement a Republican agenda item. It is a distraction from the massive question of who or what organization helps The One to protect himself from public knowledge of virtually all the documentation of his life. In some ways, the birth certificate is the least of the issues. Also hidden, destroyed, missing, forged, are: his medical birth records; his current medical records; his mother’s delivery records; his selective service records; his passport records; his Illinois bar records; his Occidental application and transcripts; his Columbia application and transcripts; his Harvard application and transcripts; his Illinois senate calendar; his social security records; his adoption papers; his U.S. citizenship records if any. The sole and only record that has a chance of being legitimate is the record from his school in Indonesia where he is listed as a Muslim, his citizenship is Indonesia, and his name is Soetoro.Lydia McGrew writes:
A hypothesis that might be able to explain all the data (as far as I can tell) is that Obama was accidentally born in a private home in Hawaii. In that case there would be no hospital birth certificate. It’s the kind of thing he might not even have been told, especially if his mother had been taken to a hospital with the newborn baby shortly after the birth. He might even have believed in good faith that he was born in a hospital; his mother might have said something to him about a hospital and simply neglected to tell him that she gave birth at home. Sometimes first-time mothers, especially young mothers, do not know or refuse to acknowledge that they are going into labor, and the child is accidentally born somewhere unexpected.Robert K. writes:
You wrote, “Yesterday I pointed to the pathetic way that John Boehner, a decent and reasonably intelligent man, allowed himself to be pushed into an embarrassing corner on the Obama birth issue by liberal apparatchik David Gregory, who challenged Boehner on why he wasn’t correcting Republicans who believe that Obama was born abroad and is a Muslim.”LA replies:
I absolutely agree. That would have been another tack for him to take. He wouldn’t have to say the whole thing that Rob. S. and I suggested. He’d never do it anyway. But he could have simply turned the tables on reporter Gregory and said, “What do I have to do with the birth issue? Why are you asking me this? Why don’t you interview the people who have these views? And what is your interest in this matter, other than trying to embarrass me, a Republican, over an issue I have nothing to do with?”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 18, 2011 02:43 PM | Send