May 1, 2011 in City

Spin Control: Birther fantasies are gift that keeps on giving

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – It was with deep sadness that I watched Wednesday as President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. For nearly two years, nothing has generated comments on the Internet version of this column like a reference to whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii, or in some other country, continent … or planet.

A full-blown birther story could boost my “hits” significantly, and the posting of an audio clip in March 2009 featuring Orly Taitz questioning Chief Justice John Roberts at the University of Idaho on the issue once generated 3,000 hits in one day.

For those who don’t follow this closely, if Donald Trump is the carnival barker of the birther movement, Taitz is its fairy godmother. She’s a California lawyer, dentist and real estate saleswoman involved in legal fights over Obama’s constitutional qualification to be president.

Just a snide aside would draw indignant comments from birthers daring me to check out the facts, lecture me on the distinction between the short-form “certification of live birth,” which Obama released during the 2008 campaign, and the “certificate of birth,” which they claimed was nonexistent. They insisted that anyone who checked with the appropriate state office in Hawaii would find out that the former isn’t good enough to get a passport or voter registration card. When told that wasn’t true, they challenged me to go to Hawaii and do the kind of in-depth investigative work a real reporter would.

Don’t think I didn’t pitch such a junket – umm, fact-finding trip – to my editors, who suspected an expense account full of hidden Mai-tais, and penuriously declined. Perhaps with better timing or better salesmanship, CNN’s Gary Tuchman got that junket this month as Donald Trump was making a big deal out of the birth certificate.

CNN had likely done its homework, and thus knew Trump hadn’t done his. The Donald was repeating things from birther websites that don’t hold up to scrutiny, like the claim Obama had spent millions keeping his birth certificate hidden or that it didn’t even exist somewhere deep in the bowels of the Hawaii health archives.

So on Wednesday, when Obama released his long-form birth certificate with an admonition to get beyond this silliness, I was bereft beyond measure. This was supposed to be like the Holy Grail, something to long for, quest after, write epic poems to … but never find. It was like getting to the last page of a murder mystery and finding the words “never mind.”

Less than an hour later, while driving to work, I heard on the radio someone explaining how, as commander in chief of the CIA, NSA and all those other alphabet soup agencies, Obama could easily have ordered a phony certificate of birth cooked up and planted in the Hawaiian archives. He probably just waited until now to make sure everything was in place.

To suggest this couldn’t be done is the same as saying we don’t have the best spooks in the world. And that’s just one step away from saying we aren’t the greatest nation in history.

A wooden stake had not been driven through the heart of birtherism. Suddenly, I felt so much better.

In passing

Ron Jackson, longtime Valley sports coach and sometime Valley political activist, passed away last week at age 83. With wife Sally, Ron was a mainstay of Democratic politics in the Spokane Valley, something that wasn’t rare when they got started many decades ago but required a certain amount of fortitude or stubbornness lately.

As colleague Mike Vlahovich reported in Saturday’s paper, Ron was a standout baseball player and coach. After retiring, he and Sally taught generations of kids to swim and to hit a curve ball. They taught generations of young politicians to work hard and shoot straight. They owned the Jackson Hole Tavern for more than a dozen years, and it was the kind of neighborhood establishment that sponsored sports teams and carried more than a few patrons on a tab when times were tough.

Slowed by Parkinson’s disease over the last decade, Ron still made it to many political gatherings and always had a smile or a wink for old friends. The fabric of the Valley community lost a colorful thread, and Ron will be sorely missed.

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia Bureau Chief Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items, readers comments and videos at www.spokesman.com/ blogs/spincontrol.


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