Local lawyer Phil Berg is convinced the president is an illegal alien.
In the soft twilight of the first Saturday of August, a gray-bearded man in a dark suit stood on the grassy knoll in front of Independence Hall and declared for the benefit of a film crew on hand that we are, as a nation, through the looking glass, people. Black is white, up is down, cats are dogs and the President of the United States is a fraud and a liar, a “usurper,” a foreign-born alien unqualified to hold office and the fact that he currently resides in the White House represents a constitutional crisis on a scale not seen since the darkest hours of Watergate.
The man who said these things was one Philip Berg, Esq., a private practice lawyer based in the Philadelphia suburb of Lafayette Hill, a lifelong Democrat and a former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania. The film crew was shooting a sky-is-falling exposé with the working title Fall Of The Republic: The Presidency Of Barack Obama , produced by Austin, Texas-based talk-radio host Alex Jones, whose previous work includes The Obama Deception, which alleges darkly that the president is a puppet of a multinational cabal of corporate oligarchs, and Loose Change, which claims that 9/11 was an inside job.
“Our nation is in jeopardy,” Berg gravely intoned, as clusters of tourists filed past, some doing a double-take when they noticed the cameras, briefly studying Berg’s face for the earmarks of someone recognizably famous and then moving on when he failed to register.
“There are three constitutional requirements to be president: first, you must be 35 years old. Second, you must reside in the U.S. for 14 straight years and lastly you must be a natural-born citizen. And on this last point, Obama fails ... ” As Berg spoke, a warm breeze gusted behind him, wreaking havoc on his back-to-front combover. Long strands of hair flapped wildly in the breeze, peaking out behind his ears only to disappear and then reappear on the crown of his skull, creating the disturbing impression on camera that white tentacles were sprouting out of the back of his head.
This simply would not do.
The cameras stopped rolling and the film crew asked Berg to fix his hair. He gamely tamped down the stray hairs, but this would prove to be a fight with the summer wind that Berg wouldn’t win.
“I wish I would have brought some hairspray,” he said, wetting his fingers and plastering down the stray hairs before turning and asking a passing woman if she happened to have some hairspray he could borrow. She didn’t.
“I am doing this for the 1.5 million Americans that have died defending the Constitution,” he said righteously when the cameras started rolling again, only to stop yet again when the tentacles reappeared.
This time the camera crew asked Berg to turn slightly, hoping to angle the tentacles out of the shot.
“I believe Obama is setting himself up to be blackmailed by other countries, and that may explain the reason he has relaxed travel restrictions on Cuba—because they are blackmailing him,” said Berg before the hair-raising breeze returned and the tentacles were back.
Welcome to the bizarro nation, where everything we hold true is in fact a lie, magical thinking trumps scientific analysis, hysterical partisan operatics drown out the low hum of objective connect-the-facts narrative, and a recent survey indicates that nearly 60 percent of registered Republicans openly question whether or not the President of the United States is a natural born citizen. The one prominent Republican naysayer is, shockingly enough, Anne Coulter who publicly called people who question the president’s citizenship “cranks.” Truly, when Ann Coulter is the voice of reason, we are through the looking glass, people.
Almost exactly one year ago, just days before Barack Obama received his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Berg made headlines when he filed a lawsuit alleging that the candidate was not a natural born citizen of the United States and therefore not qualified to hold the office of president. In the time since Berg first filed suit, people who openly question President Obama’s place of birth have been dubbed “Birthers” by the media—a play on the nickname the media afforded believers in the so-called 9/11 Truth movement, aka Truthers. Because Berg has the dubious distinction of filing the first legal salvo in The Battle For Obama’s Birth Certificate, he is in essence the Alpha Birther, a status he both relishes and cultivates.
When the right wing fringes of the Internet began buzzing with questions of Obama’s eligibility early last summer, the Obama campaign posted a lo-res JPEG of his Certification Of Live Birth (COLB), the short form proof of birth currently used by the state of Hawaii. The poor quality of the JPEG provided an opening for self-styled forensic experts— emboldened by their triumphant debunking of the documents used for Dan Rather’s 2004 ill-fated 60 Minutes broadcast questioning George W. Bush’s National Guard service—to question the authenticity of Obama’s COLB. FactCheck.org, a respected non-partisan online outfit that truth squads various political claims, was able to examine Obama’s COLB and vouched for its authenticity (and posted a hi-res version of it online), as have Hawaiian state officials.
Still, the Birthers insist, the COLB is short on details such as the presiding physician and the name of the hospital where Obama was born. Those records are sealed, as per the federal Health Information Privacy Act of 1999 and Hawaiian state law, and will remain that way unless Obama greenlights their release, which to date he has not.
The Birthers take this as proof Obama is hiding something, while most others just assume he has more pressing concerns: two wars, a cratering economy and a health care reform effort that has triggered a right wing jihad.
In today’s Washington Examiner, David Freddoso responds to outrage against the birthers by noting that Democrats have their own conspiracy wackos: But before liberals begin to smirk, here’s a poll from 2007, in which 35 percent of Democrats said that President Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, and 26 percent were not sure. [...]
But not everybody thinks so. Why is that? That’s the question Ben and I take on in this week’s Scripps Howard column. My take: First, some praise for mainstream Republicans: They’ve been as vigorous as anybody in smacking down the false rumors about Barack Obama’s origins. National Review, the conservative bible, emphatically denounced the “birther” allegations [...]
Dinner with Luke Palladino