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Spin Control: Judge dismantles Seattle woman’s ‘birther’ claims

Sun., Sept. 2, 2012

OLYMPIA – It’s Labor Day weekend, the traditional start of serious campaigning, so one can assume the silly season for politics is either over or nearly so.

Before the clock ran out on the political dog days of summer, however, Washington was treated to the latest “birther” challenge to Barack Obama’s ability to run for president.

One had to be fairly attentive, though, as Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee quickly rejected the effort to keep Obama’s name off Washington’s general election ballot, saying such “birther” allegations have been around for years and rejected for years as well.

McPhee was fairly blistering Wednesday in dismissing a lawsuit filed Monday by Linda Jordan, of Seattle, who said Obama didn’t meet citizenship requirements in the U.S. Constitution. Among her sources was Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who claims to have sent top investigators to Hawaii and proclaimed the birth certificate was a fraud. Either crime is so slow in the Phoenix area that Arpaio has staff to spare or his staff was better at lobbying for a trip to Hawaii to check out this whole birther thing than I was with my boss.

McPhee devoted six pages of the opinion to dismantling Jordan’s claims and legal arguments, based on findings in other courts that rejected similar challenges.

“I do not usually devote so much time quoting the decisions of other courts in other cases. I do so here to make the point that just as all the so-called evidence offered by (Jordan) has been in the blogosphere for years, in one form or another, so too has all the law rejecting plaintiff’s allegations. I can conceive of no reason why this lawsuit was brought, except to join the chorus of noise in that blogosphere.”

The opinion had a fun bit of political trivia: Chester A. Arthur’s birthplace was challenged in 1880 as being in Canada rather than Vermont. That rumor didn’t gain much traction, McPhee said, “perhaps because the Internet had not been as fully developed then as it is now.”

The opinion is a fun read and can be found on the Spin Control blog.

I’ll do 10 debates if she’ll do 39

Democrat Rich Cowan and Republican Mike Baumgartner seem to share a problem in getting the incumbents they want to unseat to debate with them as many times as they want. Or at all.

Cowan, running for the U.S. House of Representatives against Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, proposed 10 debates, one in each county in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District. McMorris Rodgers agreed to two, both in Spokane. One will be sponsored by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the other by KSPS-TV, which has handled the district’s debates for years, even in elections when no one else cared to do it.

Baumgartner proposed 39 debates, one in each county of Washington, against Democrat Maria Cantwell. So far, Cantwell hasn’t agreed to any, although there are several invitations pending.

In replying to Cowan’s 10 debate requests, McMorris Rodgers used Cantwell to justify accepting two: “I contemplated following the lead of our junior senator and only schedule debates with my opponent when she has scheduled debates with hers.”

But folks in Eastern Washington deserve to hear a discussion of the issues, so she was agreeing to the GSI and KSPS invitations. “Additionally, if you are able to encourage Senator Cantwell to debate Mr. Baumgartner in all 39 counties, I would be happy to debate you in all 10 counties located in the 5th Congressional District. We could arrange our debates in tandem with senate debates as well.”

A spokesman for the Cantwell campaign said she has dozens of invitations for a variety of forums, debates and editorial boards, as well as “a large chunk of September” that will be taken up by the Senate work schedule.

“We will debate,” Kelly Steele said, but there’s no commitment on how many times, when or where. That will likely become clear in early September, he added.

This leaves us at Spin Control pondering the question of which is stranger: Ten debates in Eastern Washington, which would essentially be one a week between now and the election, or 39 debates across the state, which would essentially be one every other day between now and the election? Or one candidate conditioning her debate schedule on her opponent convincing a candidate for another office to debate an opponent of another party?

Spin Control, a weekly column by political writer Jim Camden, also appears as a blog with daily items and reader comments at spincontrol.

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