Only Barack Obama could take the birther controversy out into the deep woods and kill it graveyard dead. But he won’t, and that’s the mystery. From the time of his nomination, when the first gossip about his birth certificate was all the buzz at the Democratic nominating convention in Denver, he has treated it as a bad joke. But the questions don’t go away.
Respectable people aren’t even supposed to talk about it. The mainstream media tells us so, with an imperious sneer. Before Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, was installed in Honolulu, he vowed to “get to the bottom of this,” to put it away as an issue “once and for all” lest it make trouble for the president in his re-election campaign. But something, maybe a wee inner voice or perhaps a loud demand from the White House, persuaded him to cool it.
There the issue lies in the freezer, simmering in its own heat and defrosting everything else around it. Growing numbers of curious Americans don’t know what to make of the controversy, or of the president’s reluctance to settle it. The Hawaii governor, sounding as frustrated as any Democrat, emerged this week without new facts but a slashing personal attack on Donald Trump for continuing to question holy writ. “It’s simply reprehensible to have this kind of conversation,” the governor said. “Insulting someone’s mother and father speaks about the person who is doing it.” The governor accused Mr. Trump of having “a political agenda,” and, of course, he’s right about that. All politicians come with political agendas, like dogs with fleas. We couldn’t have elections without politicians and their agendas. But who’s saying anything rude about the president’s mama?
A reporter in New York asked The Donald whether he thinks Hawaiian officials are lying about what they know about Mr. Obama’s birth. Replied The Donald: “The governor said he was there when [the president] was born. Now do you really believe that the governor of Hawaii was there when he was born? I don’t.” A Honolulu reporter caught up with the governor and asked him to clarify what he meant when he said he was “there.”
“Of course here, in Hawaii,” Mr. Abercrombie said with a trace of vinegar.
“Not in the room?” the reporter (for Hawaii News Now) persisted.
“Oh, let’s be serious.”
But getting serious about it is not easy. The governor said he first met little Barack - or Barry, as he would be called in Hawaii - when he was only a few days old. “We not only saw him,” the governor said, “but were introduced to him, of course, at our gatherings, our student gatherings.” The governor remembers those student gatherings as fairly ordinary. The baby, who made no speeches, couldn’t yet walk on water but only because at such a tender age he couldn’t walk at all.
Chiyome Fukino, the former director of the Hawaii state Health Department, has said, several times, that she had inspected the Obama birth certificate, “several times,” and found nothing to support claims that the president was not born in Hawaii. Such claims are “ludicrous” and “silly,” she said. But the state of Hawaii still won’t release the “long-form birth certificate.” Only the president can authorize such release, and so far, for reasons that may be perfectly innocent and eminently reasonable, he won’t do it. He offers only defense by assertion. The rest of us can only speculate.
Jerome Corsi, who sank John Kerry’s Swift Boat six years ago and with it the Boston mangler’s presidential campaign, will be out next month with a new book, “Where Is the Birth Certificate?” This may not throw more light on the issue, but we can be sure it will dispense more heat.
The Corsi book has zoomed to No. 1 on Amazon, and we don’t even know what’s in it. A source “close to the publisher” (World Net Daily, an Internet news site) says the book is “utterly devastating, and Obama may learn things he didn’t even know about himself.”
The mutual bashing between birthers and Obama cultists is highly entertaining, but it doesn’t tell us much about why the president won’t kill the controversy graveyard dead - or why the birthers insist on flogging a spindly horse when there’s so much evidence of the president’s incompetence. Incompetence is neither a high crime nor an impeachable misdemeanor, but it’s the killer issue.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.