Birtherism and impunity

None of the people who promoted birtherism will suffer at all professionally or politically from the revelation of its utter falsity.

One of Thurber’s fables tells of a chicken who – hearing the farmer tell a farmhand to take the horse to be shod – runs around telling the other animals that the horse was taken out to be shot, only to be disgraced when the horse returns, alive and with new shoes.

Thurber draws the moral:

Get it right,
or let it alone.
The conclusion you leap to
may be your own.

The moral seems as quaint now as the beast-fable as a literary form. None of the people who promoted birtherism will suffer at all professionally or politically from the revelation of its utter falsity.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

18 thoughts on “Birtherism and impunity”

  1. Strangely enough, neither will any of the people who’ve been assuring us all along that it was illegal to release the birth certificate…

  2. That’s very depressing and fatalistic, Professor Kleiman, but not quite depressing and fatalistic enough. As you know, “the revelation of its utter falsity” took place years ago. Yet somehow, here you are, not only continuing to discuss this absurdity, but actually adopting Brett’s framework and agreeing with him that this lie wasn’t demonstrated as utterly false until this week.

    As the wise man said, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.”

  3. Brett can’t do any speed but smug.

    Bartleby, we’re commenting on a blog that styles itself “The Reality-Based Community.” Smug is the order of the day. Brett, at least, has reason to be smug. His side is winning.

  4. Brett, for the last f*cking time: It was against Hawaii state policy to release it. The White House had finally to come up with a legal argument to get the state to make an exception. And they shouldn’t have had to, because Obama had already shown every scrap of documentation he needed to and there was no reasonable objection to be made. The people responsible for this whole mess are not Obama and his lawyers, but:

    –every racist wingnut who was convinced that there’s no way a black man, a Democrat no less, could legitimately become President, and

    –every weak-minded, under-informed, or mean-spirited enabler (yes, like the news media, and yes, like you) who saw those wingnuts blowing smoke out of their asses and wondered whether there might not really be a fire.

  5. There are more important issues out there than birtherism. None of the people who authorized torture will suffer at all professionally or politically. This includes Obama, now that he has apparently allowed the torture of Bradley Manning to stop.

  6. I think it’s worth exploring Brett’s technique, and how it succeeds. Rightwingers, nowadays, are informational entrepeneurs. They try out different ideas until they get one that sells. Needless to say, the only thing that matters is whether an idea works to achieve the rightwing purpose, not whether it has any basis in factuality.

    (Prof. Kleiman understands this.)

    So the wingnuts are retailing a bunch of different responses to the long form. Maybe it’s a forgery! Maybe it doesn’t matter because Obama had a foreign-born father!

    Brett is a traditionalist, and therefore sticks with good old-fashioned blaming of the victim. It’s Obama’s fault! Brett is also a student of the master: Karl Rove himself has been explaining how the president is to blame.

    “We need the leaders of our party to say, ‘Look, stop falling into the trap of the White House and focus on the real issues,’” he said.

    A White House trap. Wow. As yoyo says, chutzpah.

    Anyway, if anyone is curious, here’s the correspondence that led to the waiver of the rules. Yes, there were sensible rules about the release of birth certificates, and yes, there was a waiver given for this extraordinary case.

    But that’s merely reality, and it’s important that we understand the limited utility of the judicious study of reality.

  7. Henry gets it! As recently as a decade ago, Americans were appalled by torture. That changed because wingnuts decided to call torture something else. “We create our own reality.”

    Remember WMD in Iraq? Smug liberals like to point to that as an example of rightwingers being wrong. The truth is, the neocons were 100% right about WMD for every purpose that mattered. Yes, technically there were no WMD, but in reality, thousands and thousands of people are dead who would not have been, and an American occupation army sits in Iraq. Tell me again who was “right” about WMD.

  8. I told you this yesterday. No one will look askew at the patriarchs that forwarded this idea in the first place.

  9. Brett, I’m still waiting for you to post evidence of this ‘constitution’ which you’re always talking about and (allegedly) quoting.

  10. How is this controversy being described in the media, now that the birthers have been debunked? Here’s the NYT talking about Trump in the aftermath of his public humiliation:

    Energized by — and clearly still relishing the attention from — President Obama’s release of his full birth certificate, after weeks of pummeling by Mr. Trump, the developer broadened his critique of the White House.

  11. I am beginning tho think the President played this brilliantly. He waited long enough for about half the Republicans to get on the birther wagon before showing the evidence that debunked it. He has effectively driven a wedge between the relatively sane Republicans on the right and the full-mooners on the extreme wing. Now Republican POLITICIANS have to pick a side and choose which group they will offend. An unenviable position for them, a get-out-the-popcorn event for me.

  12. Birtherism sans liberal and libertarian snark:

    WASHINGTON – Shortly after President Obama declared himself an American-born citizen with papers to prove it, Baratunde Thurston declared himself a disgusted black man.”I find it hard to summarize in mere words the amount of pain and rage this incident has caused,” Thurston said.
    “This” would be the nation’s first black president standing in the White House, blue power suit and all, going on TV to debunk, in more detail than before, the persistent he-ain’t-really-an-American rumors fanned anew by Donald Trump, the developer and might-be presidential candidate.Many African-Americans responded to Wednesday’s scene with a large sigh. The rumors and the controversy had a particular, troubling resonance for them: They’ve seen, heard, lived the legitimacy of black people being called into question so many times before that they said they weren’t shocked to see it happen to Obama over something as simple as a birth certificate.
    But they were sad about it, too, seeing what they felt was a high-level manifestation of the idea that when a black person accomplishes something great there must be something wrong…

    Forcing the first black president to show his birth certificate on national teevee is one of the most humiliating moments of “post racial” America. The country ought to be ashamed of itself….

  13. The country ought to be ashamed of itself….

    I’m ashamed sometimes that this clown show passes for politics in our country, surely. But then I think it is all a diversion by the rich to distract us from the real issues and I feel better. Wasn’t what’s-her-name’s dress just lovely today! Oh! that train, and lovely bridesmaids!!! *fawn* I bet she was nervous!!

  14. I am over 35 and was born in the United States. I went to the Health Department to get my birth certificate and was given only a “Certificate of Live Birth.”
    I had hoped to run for President, but now, like Mark and Gov. Barbour, I must withdraw my name and drop out of the race. I will not be able to get on the ballot in Arizona if the legislature overrides the governor’s veto of the birther bill, and similarly, I will be unable to compete in other states that enact similar bills.
    Luckily for me, this document will be sufficient to get a passport. The commies at the State Department will help me get one, with the bogus “certificate” I give them.

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