Newly elected Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has decided that he will be the guy to finally settle the whole "birther" conspiracy, a matter that was settled in sane circles before it even began. Slate's Dave Weigel, who has written more substantively about the birthers than anyone else I could name, gets right to the heart of why this is a mistake:
The "birther" movement began not because Barack Obama's campaign refused to show proof of his citizenship, but because it did show proof. In June 2008, it responded to some rumors about whether Obama was born a Muslim or had different parents than had been reported by releasing the short-form certificate, the sort of form you get if you lose your driver's license and need to prove your identity to the DMV to get a new license. This launched a cottage industry of hilarious "document analysis" attempting to prove that the certificate was forged by the Obama campaign. And this is exactly what would happen again if the governor of Hawaii, who knew the Obama family in the 1960s, let reporters photograph more of Obama's documents. The birther crowd would cry "forgery," as the Kennedy assassination and moon landing hoax crowds look for anything that could unravel the official story in every new official analysis.
Exactly. The flaw in Abercrombie's thinking is that he believes this is a matter that can be laid to rest. But the birthers already believe in an ornate conspiracy, spanning many generations of bipartisan officials on the local, state, and federal level, to conceal the heritage of a biracial child in order to install him in the White House for ... well, for kicks, I guess! Given that they already successfully contain all that derangement inside their cranial cavities, there's really no big reveal Abercrombie can offer that won't simply be seamlessly incorporated as component of this bonkers theory.
Every time this matter comes up, it reminds me of a sketch from Dave Chappelle's eponymous Comedy Central show, in which the comedian imagines himself to be participating in the jury selection of the R. Kelly child pornography lawsuit:
[WATCH, NOT SAFE FOR WORK]
PROSECUTOR: So, beside the tape and the girl corroborating the allegations, what more would it take for you to believe he's guilty?
CHAPPELLE: All right. If I saw a tape of R. Kelly peeing on a girl, while he was singing "Piss On You," and the girl was holding two forms of government ID, while a police officer was there, like -- with four or five of my buddies and Neil taking notes ...
PROSECUTOR: Wow --
CHAPPELLE: I'm not finished! And his grandmother has to be there, to confirm his identity.
PROSECUTOR: Mr. Chappelle, isn't that excessive?
CHAPPELLE: No! No it's not excessive! Listen, lady, the burden of proof is on the state. The state! YOU have got to prove TO ME, beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not this man is a pisser.
PROSECUTOR: Aren't your doubts unreasonable?
CHAPPELLE: No! It's not unreasonable!
In the real world, a prosecutor would simply choose not to engage with someone with such obviously nonsensical beliefs. This is something that the White House already understands: you do not stoop to engaging crazy people who are of no consequence and do nothing but whine and ask for handouts that cater to their dementia. Neil Abercrombie means well, I take him at his word that he's animated by the way these nutters have insulted the memory of Obama's parents, but this is, ultimately, a fool's errand -- not an important matter for the state of Hawaii.
Abercrombie and the Birthers [Weigel @ Slate]