By Don Klein
I was driving along a country road in Delaware the other day when I noticed the van in front of me was in the business of “Mobil Dog Grooming.” Across the top of the back doors was inscribed it’s clever motto: “Going to the Dogs.”
How appropriate, I thought. This company was going to the dogs while the country in general was also going to the dogs but without the tongue in cheek. We just experienced the exasperation of the president of the United States being forced to bow so low as to publicly produce his birth certificate.
At first I was exhilarated when I learned that President Obama released his long form birth certificate to finally shut up the growing political rabble who were making an issue of his legitimacy as the elected leader of this nation by attacking his birthright.
Such criticism was patently absurd from the start and was clearly not anywhere near the level of the real problems facing the nation. Yet it had to be handled because it absorbed too much of the public debate, thanks to a Republican barrage of lies, at a time when the nation could not afford it.
But after a time, I thought about it some more and the idea sank in and I became deeply dismayed that this sort of mischief-making and slanderous insinuations became such an issue that Obama had to stoop to silence the morons across the nation who embraced such inconsequential nonsense.
Jackie Robinson had his painful trials as the first black ballplayer in the major leagues and today is hailed as having changed the nature of America. Now Obama has become the equivalent of Robinson, but in the much more significant environment of the presidency.
The challenge to his legitimacy can only be explained as racism, pure and simple, although clumsily disguised by people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and silently indorsed by Republican leaders in Congress who stood to gain from any damage done to the Democratic leader.
Interestingly none of the previous 43 presidents of the United States have ever be asked to prove they were legitimate Americans. None have been accused as foreign interlopers trying to steal the American government from the people. John McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone was never challenged. But he is white and Republican.
The weight of this embarrassing conclusion to this totally unnecessary revelation of Obama’s, lies on the Republican Party. It is their members who have launched and sustained this illogical and insulting campaign and none of the so-called sensible leaders of the party put the matter to rest.
Oh yes there was one. Mitt Romney declared openly that Obama is American born and Romney said he would not discuss that issue but rather would devote his campaign to matters of importance facing the nation. All the rest toyed maliciously with the birther lies.
John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said he takes the president at his word that he was born in the US but would not counsel his caucus to drop the birther issue. He claimed it was not up to him to tell his members what to think even if he knew what they were thinking was untrue. With that Boehner became the first among many scoundrels.
What really hurts is the fact that polls showed that the majority of Republicans believed Obama was not born on US territory or were not sure of his citizenship even after the State of Hawaii released a certificate of live birth in his name. The American voter, not known for sharp intelligence, often dwells in knownothingism.
As the great political pundit of the early Twentieth Century, H.L. Mencken, claimed in a lecture at Columbia University in January 1940, most political candidates reach public office usually by their power “to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged” in the country. In the 71 years since he mutters those words not much has changed.
I hold the masses of Americans who listen and believe the most outrageous claims by half-baked candidates for office as the real culprits in this insidious drama. Fortunately they are not a majority of the electorate but they are a large enough minority to often affect close elections.
Who can forget the classic Ed Murrow CBS Reports program about the great American voter which opened with the lead character entering a Mississippi polling place and signing the register with a broad “X” while millions of literate blacks were kept by unjust laws and cold fear from ever thinking of voting.
Republicans have made an industry of weaning fear into political victories. Remember the Michael Dukakis campaign derailed by the Willie Horton story, remember Ronald Reagan and his onerous charge that the government is the problem, and remember eight years of terror fear during the George W. Bush years which robbed thousands of GIs of their lives and millions more Americans of their Constitutional rights of privacy.
The sad fact is that instead of Obama being hailed as the great American example of the triumph of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks making it as a brilliant student, as the editor of the Harvard Law Review, as an author and a Constitutional scholar, and then the ultimate prize, as president, his detractors will now try to debunk him as a scholastic fraud and the beneficiary of affirmative action.
There were political observers in Lincoln’s day (another success story of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks) who described him as a baboon. No one remembers their names today, but the world honors the memory of Lincoln.
Donald Trump take note. History will record you as a detestable charlatan, if it records your name at all, while Obama surely will earn the plaudits of time.