Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting Bin Laden and birthers: trivia and profundity

My column appearing in the on line version of the Sky Hi Daily News yesterday ( appears below.
Today a more edited version appeared in its print version juxtaposed with my conservative counterpart's column, still birthering and calling our President by his middle name, Hussein. For your amusement, you can view the print page at, click the E edition and go to page 7. (May 4 2011 e edition)
My mother was from Missouri and she passed down to me a degree of skepticism. I confess that I am also skeptical of the skeptics.

“Show me” has always been the best antidote for skeptics, and President Obama gave us a high dose with history-making high drama that delivered the body of Osama Bin Laden and a birth certificate. Trivia and profundity exploded before our eyes.

I once served as head of an investigative unit in a district attorney's office. I learned that one “could make a case” for just about anything, but that proving a case “beyond a reasonable” doubt to a jury was a different animal. There is a great difference between speculating and proving what actually transpired

Lacking any proof that President Obama was born in Kenya and seeing a great deal of evidence he was born in Hawaii should have been a clue for most reasonable people that the “birther theory” was a work of fiction. Undeterred, the birthers became absorbed about disqualifying him by raising suspicions that he was not an American. Some insinuated he was even a secret dangerous Muslim and his Kenyan birth somehow made it true. Every time evidence surfaced that contradicted their fervently held beliefs, they concocted new plausible and implausible scenarios to explain it away and to make their case.

Later, politicians and journalists gave time to “both sides of the issue,” in itself giving equal credence to the theory, and many of them benefited from the increasing poll numbers and audience share. The movement spread beyond a core of ultra-conservative believers to the mainstream of Republicanism, and polls showed 38 percent of all Republicans believed in it to a degree. “Birther” legislation was gaining traction in many state legislatures, and even the Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer felt it went too far in her state, as she vetoed it. A Swift Boater was preparing to publish a birther book, most likely to lay the groundwork for another dirty tricks campaign in 2012.

The birther myth reached a crescendo last month. Donald Trump had embraced the birther line and he soared in the polls as he dominated media. Serious issues — Libya, Arab spring, deficits — were drowned out. He, like others, insinuated that Obama's failure to produce the long form of his birth certificate was the ultimate proof of his guilt. He must be hiding something, right?

The press and many in the public, had fallen for the glitter of Trump trumpeting Trump. Had anyone noticed Trump had put forth some cockeyed positions on foreign policy and delayed scrutiny of his fitness to be president? Trump advocated seizing the Middle East oil fields, and no one even questioned the wars that would result, or the legitimacy, ethics and impact on world opinion. Trump's lifestyle past is right up there in a class with Berlusconi of Italy. Dropping the F bomb at a rally last week was hardly evidence of a presidential temperament.

Last week, the president produced a certified copy of the long form of the Certificate of Live birth. It filled in the blanks the birthers used to bolster their case: the hospital's name, the doctor delivering him, the dates, and the signature of his mother. Certified copies have standing in court over any claims to the contrary. Proof such as this would be all a district attorney would need to feel confident he would have a winning case.

How trivial this all seems now in light of the president's announcement Sunday night that Bin Laden is dead. Our forces got him, and the president was deeply involved in getting justice done. Will this lay to rest the dark mutterings of those who questioned whether Obama was one of us and “really on our side?” Some will continue to believe what they want to believe. Facts never influenced them before. However, for most reasonable people it probably will. He showed us.

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