POLITICS
04/28/2011 12:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2011

What's Next For The Birthers? (Basically, More Birtherism)

Yesterday, President Barack Obama allowed the world to see his "long-form birth certificate," proving something that was already widely known, but not accepted in some dank, idiotic circles: that he was born in the United States. And so, this great controversy has finally been put to rest. Ha, just kidding! It will do nothing of the sort, actually. Did you think that Pestilence is going to pull up short on his steed to tell the other Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, "Yo, man, I'm out. I think that penicillin makes a lot of good points."

No, no. Implacable Birtherism and all of its attendant annoyances will roll on, in some cases evolving, but never dying off. The only question is: In trying to kill it, do you make it stronger?

For the moment, it appears that the birther true believers are just going to keep on believing. One thing I've continually pointed out is that there's no satisfying the dedicated birther. As with anyone in any "truth" movement, if you use facts to deny them the space to operate, their gaseousness just gets more concentrated in the areas that remain. And it's impossible to get people to play by the rules of logic and reality, if they've abandoned those principles from the outset.

It didn't take long for the people who have been fueling the fire to come out and say that they couldn't accept that it had been doused. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips says that the birth certificate leaves other important questions to be answered. Birther attorney Phil Berg now says, "I don't care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever."

Orly Taitz, goggle-eyed "Queen Of The Birthers" called that release -- which should have been the final blow to her movement -- a "step in the right direction." Now she's insistent that the fact that Obama's father is listed as "African," and not "Negro," is a new damning fact.

The only thing that a dedicated conspiracist sees in the debunking of his conspiracy is more reasons to continue the conspiracy. If there's something that they can nitpick, it soon becomes a hole in the debunker's argument. And if need be, they can just start making things up, like ornate conspiracies over PDF layers, or "rollerball" pens.

But even if the birthers couldn't nitpick and reinvent the conspiracy back to life, they could always do the next best thing: cover their ears and shout, "Nyaah-nyaah-nyaah I don't hear you, I don't hear you."

Dave Weigel talked to Sharon Guthrie, the legislative director of Texas State birther-legislator Leo Berman, and her overall intellectual collapse is just shocking to anyone who loves reason:

"What I've seen online, what they produced today, still says certificate of live birth across the top," she told me. And she's right.

But why isn't that just a nomenclature issue? Why does it matter?

"We want to see a 'birth certificate,'" Guthrie explained. "The one that we have that says 'birth certificate' is from Mombassa, Kenya, with his footprint on it. He has still not produced an American birth certificate."

Guthrie is referring to an Internet rumor that Lucas Smith, an Iowa activist, found a birth certificate from Kenya that contains all the information skeptics want to see from Obama. It was introduced as evidence in one of Orly Taitz's filings. The problem: That certificate is forged. But it's one of several online rumors that convinces Obama birth skeptics that a real birth document is out there.

You can't convince Guthrie that an obvious forgery is an obvious forgery, and she won't be satisfied with a document from Hawaii that does not come with the precise words she believes she has a right to see on it. It's a standard that can never be reached, and it's a battle that can't be won.

As Alex Pareene pointed out, there are just so many ways that the birthers can remain "relevant in a post-'long form' world." And beyond insisting that the long-form isn't real or that it leaves questions unanswered, the birthers can continue monger up fears about Obama's "foreignness," or follow Donald Trump in the demands to see academic records. They are only limited by their imagination, and they've so far managed to create an entire alternate reality, so why stop now? Jerome Corsi has a book coming out in May titled "Where's The Birth Certificate?" You think he's having it pulped? No, it will be released, and all the people who were planning on buying it -- and buying into it -- will do so regardless of yesterday's efforts to put the matter to rest.

Of course, just because yesterday's events convinced you that Obama was born in the United States, it doesn't mean that you can't continue to attack Obama. One of the fun ways birtherism will evolve is that Obama will be blamed for its existence in the first place. Birther pastor Bill Keller -- who created a Birther infomercial -- said yesterday, "I mean what was so hard about this? ... Most of the people I know have never bought into this thing that he was born in Kenya. But he created a controversy that didn't have to be there."

Again, to review, the White House has made a perfectly good short-form birth certificate available ages ago, so Obama didn't "create" a controversy. This guy, however, created a "birthermercial," so, you know...

But it won't just be birther activists taking this position. You'll also see it from birther-adjacent politicians, paced by Karl Rove's strategy of calling birtherism a "trap" laid by the White House to ensnare Republicans. (Apparently, the idea here is that Republicans are actually precisely this dumb and wouldn't ordinarily say weird things about Obama being a secret Kenyan of they hadn't somehow been tricked into doing so by an administration that ... uhm, continually denied there was any truth to those crazy rumors.)

Let's consider Representative Louis Gohmert (R-Tex):

For more than two years President Obama has failed to present his birth certificate for inspection. In early 2008, the New York Times and the Washington Post had raised a question about John McCain's eligibility since he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Others raised questions about President Obama's eligibility. These two 'birther' controversies exposed a flaw in the enforcement mechanism of our Constitutional eligibility requirement for U.S. presidential candidates.

Gohmert plays this with a nod to "this stuff affects both sides," but let's face it, that McCain controversy died on the vine because there wasn't a critical mass of McCain opponents willing to make a bad-faith argument against his citizenship. And if anything, what we learned yesterday was that there is no flaw in the enforcement mechanism. The "enforcement mechanism" worked perfectly, as it turns out.

What Gohmert really wants to do is blame Obama for the whole mess in the first place. He went on to say, "Hopefully, all presidential candidates in future elections will avoid arrogant condescension and simply establish their qualification from the outset." Yes: it was so condescending, the way Obama didn't just pander to the nutters, who hounded him unreasonably from day one. How arrogant!

Finally, have you heard that Obama's decision to release his birth certificate was actually an eleventh-dimensional chess gambit designed to boost Donald Trump's stature in the hopes that GOP voters will flock to his side during the primary season and force an Obama-Trump contest in 2012? Well, if you haven't heard that, just let Jonathan Bernstein disabuse you of the nonsense. And then lay back and wait for Sunday to come and watch political talk-show panels chew this over as if it were a serious matter. That's how your "reasonable political pundit class" will contribute to keeping Birtherism alive.

And how did yesterday's drama affect the Birther movement? Let's check in with Steve Kornacki:

An alarming poll from CBS News and the New York Times last week found that nearly 70 percent of Republicans either believed President Obama wasn't born on American soil or weren't sure.

Now, in the wake of President Obama's decision to release his long-form birth certificate Tuesday morning, there is a bit of encouraging news: According to a snap poll conducted by Survey USA, 24 percent of Republicans say that doubts they previously had about where Obama was born have been erased and that they are now satisfied that their president was born here.

But there is also discouraging news: More than half of Republicans still aren't buying Obama's story. 18 percent of them told Survey USA that they consider the long-form a forgery, and another 33 percent say they still have doubt. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of Republicans say that they either still consider Obama's birthplace to be open to debate or aren't sure, and 33 percent claim that the president was "definitely" or "probably" born elsewhere. (Among all voters, 77 percent now say that Obama was "definitely" or "probably" born in America.)

The usual grains-of-salt encouragement over snap poll results apply. And Kornacki points out that there's an important caveat: Most voters polled haven't seen the long-form birth certificate for themselves, and once they do, "it's possible that doubts will ease." But for the moment, it would appear that Birtherism is far from dead.

Of course, even if it dies, former Birthers will nevertheless have options. Hey, have you heard that Barack Obama "has every marking of the Antichrist?"

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