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Spin Control

Is the ‘birther’ issue laid to rest?

It was with some regret that I heard Wednesday morning that President Obama has released his birth certificate. There is no issue that is better for generating comments for this website than whether Obama was born in the USA, and I am sad to see it go.

The “birther” controversy, as  it is often called, even has a special connection to the Inland Northwest vortex, that inescapable force of nature that connects national and international news events to our area. It was in Moscow, Idaho, after all, that Orly Taitz confronted Chief Justice John Roberts about her legal challenge to Obama's eligibililty to be president…

(To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.)


If Donald Trump is the “carnival barker” of the birther movement, Taitz is its fairy godmother. A Southern Californian who is a dentist, lawyer and real estate agent, Taitz drove from her home to Moscow in March 2009 to catch Roberts' speech to the University of Idaho Law School. After Roberts discussed the importance of Abraham Lincoln's legal training and writings, Taitz was the first one to an open microphone for the question and answer session.

Despite the sponsors' request that questioners be limited to Law School members who invited him, and not ask Roberts about pending cases, Taitz ignored both and launched into a query about what she called “illegal activitiy in the court” that was preventing  him from seeing her filing against the president, whom she referred to as Barack Hussein Obama aka Barry Sortero and described as a foreign national at birth.

Roberts, with a deft judicial move, cut her off by saying that he couldn't possibly comment on it because it could become a pending case and suggested she leave the documents with him. The moderator said she could just give them to one of the security guards who were converging on her location to escort her out. Taitz later claimed she confronted Roberts and he promised to review the case — which is one very liberal intepretation of what happened.

None of the legal challenges to Obama's eligibillty to be president survived, but Taitz continued on the birther issues. Today she is questioning the veracity of Obama's just released birth certificate on the basis that his father's race is listed as “African” rather than “Negro.”

Various politicians flirted briefly with the birther questions. In the summer of 2009, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was shown on a Huffington Post video of Republican congressmembers voicing some support for checking out whether the allegations had any truth. The video caught them in Washington, D.C., but by the time McMorris Rodgers got back to this Washington for the summer recess, she was distancing herself from birther-ism. She'd looked into it, seen that the courts had rejected it, and Obama was qualified to be president, she said.

One of the endearing qualities of the birther movement is that every time a question about Obama's birth was answered, proponents would either come up with a new question or ignore the answer. And because nothing ever dies on the Internet, the old rebutted questions kept resurfacing as brand new challenges, too.

It was the “Whack-A-Mole” of issues. A long line of media organizations looked at the issue, tried to debunk it, found they couldn't satisfy the birthers no matter what they reported, and eventually moved on. It wasn't until Trump seemed to up the ante and use the birther issue to catapult to the head of the GOP presidential wannabe pack that the issue went from curiosity to lead story. CNN's AC 360 spent a half hour each at the start of its Monday and Tuesday broadcasts on Trump and birtherism. (Maybe they were trying to justify the junket to Hawaii that one of their reporters got to check into the story. It's a junket proposal that reporters — with visions of sipping expense-accounted Mai Tais on sandy beach — may have made around the country, and were told “No bleeping way,” by penny-pinching editors. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything.)

Maybe it was that level of cable news attention that caused the White House to finally say “Enough.”

Within minutes of the release of Obama's long-form certificate of birth — distinct from the short-form certification of live birth that was available back in the 2008 campaign — there were signs a wooden stake had not been driven through the heart of the birther issue. Along with Taitz's questioning of the phrase used in the race box, callers to radio shows were insisting that as president, Obama has at his disposal all manner of technology and experts. How hard would it be for him to get someone at the CIA or the NSA or some other top secret agency to make a fake certificate of birth, and plant it in the archives where it could be produced for the announcement?

When you ask it that way, of course, the answer has to be that we've got the best spooks in the world, and they could do it in a heartbeat. Anything else is unworthy of the greatest country history has ever seen.

I'm feeling better already.


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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