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Cliff Stearns Stars In Today's Edition Of Birther-Pandering Theater

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I know that back when President Barack Obama called a meeting of the White House Press Corps to dramatically reveal his long-form birth certificate, there were plenty of people who thought it was an excellent move that stuck it to the crazies and especially embarrassed Donald Trump, who went full-birther ahead of the 2012 campaign cycle back when he was a fake candidate for president. And evidently, the Obama administration was among those who thought the decision to release his documents in that fashion was a great idea, because they slapped the birth certificate on a mug and started raising money off of it.

But at the time, I sort of thought that all the White House was doing was giving up power to some lunatics by catering to their dementia, in exchange for not quelling the dementedness at all. Pungent gases denied space will nevertheless flow to the space that remains, and while the "snap polls" that were conducted after the big reveal indicated that "24 percent of Republicans say that doubts they previously had about where Obama was born have been erased," they also noted that birtherism was holding strong in spite of having been shown to be insane:

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.)

So the White House stooped, but failed to conquer. And since then, the lunacy over Obama's birth certificate has continued -- to the point that Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio forsook his actual crime-fighting duties to stage a bizarre press conference on the matter -- and deepened: Sen. Marco Rubio is now being subjected to "birther" mouth-foaming, which has bitterly divided those birthers who are legitimately crazy and those who were just disingenuously making these risible claims out of opportunistic cynicism.

So is it really any surprise that Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) is back to endorsing birtherism? No, it is not. Per Scott Keyes:

When Stearns met with constituents on February 25 in Belleview, one of the first questions came from an elderly gentleman who insisted that Obama was not born in the United States and ought to be impeached. Rather than correcting the man and informing him that the president is indeed a natural-born American citizen, Stearns coddled the conspiracy theory by implying that Obama’s birth certificate may be a forgery — “is it legitimate?” Stearns wondered aloud.

STEARNS: All I can tell you is that the general consensus is that he has produced a birth certificate. The question is, is it legitimate? That’s where we stand now. I’ve seen a copy of it on television. But you know the Governor of Hawaii couldn’t get what he felt was an original of the birth certificate. He tried to do it and gave up on it. So I think what Obama’s showing is a facsimile, but I think that debate probably is not enough, shall we say, just to impeach him.

(Keyes points to Dave Weigel, debunking this weird claim about Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie.)

Now, why is Stearns' decision to play along with another person's delusions so unsurprising? Well, since he easily won re-election to the House in 2010, he ended up in a redrawn district. And while he'll retain many of the advantages he had in 2010 (at which time he coasted through the GOP primary and won against an independent candidate, grabbing 71 percent of the vote in each contest), he's ended up in a tough four-way primary in his new district. One of his opponents, James Jett, made news last week when he accused Stearns of trying to "buy him out of the race" with a bribe. Stearns has denied these allegations, but they've created a frenzy all the same.

So, what's Stearns to do? He can't afford to part with a single lunatic's vote until the primary has concluded. Thus, he's "raising the question."

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