Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts at the Miami Herald tells it like it is. In a recent column about "birthers," Pitts calls them "morons,'' ''jackasses," "imbeciles," "idiots,'' "doofuses" and "pinheads."
After admitting that name calling "lowers the level of discourse... forestalls thoughtful response and...does not suggest an excess of class," Pitts says:
Where the birthers are concerned, however, the level of discourse is already lower than Neptune's basement, a thoughtful response is about as likely as Miami snow on the Fourth of July, and I will just have to chance the loss of class.
Later on, Pitts calls the birther nonsense "not just claptrap, but profoundly racist claptrap." While I agree with Pitts on the claptrap, I would not call the birthers morons, imbeciles, idiots, etc. I believe that these people, especially the founders and leaders of this "movement," are extremely intelligent, capable and resourceful.
How else would a movement that started in mid-2008, following Obama's win in the Democratic primaries be able to convince, a mere two years later, 20 percent of all Americans and 30 percent of Tea Partiers into believing that the president was not born in the United States?
How else would people such as Andy Martin (known as "King of the Birthers"), Jerome Corsi (of John Kerry swift-boating fame), Alan Keyes, Orly Taitz, etc., be able to convince a majority (51 percent) of likely Republican presidential primary voters that the president was born in another country? (2011 survey from Public Policy Polling)
According to the same poll, "Another 21 percent say they are 'not sure' if the president was born in the United States." This means that "72 percent of the people who will be choosing the next Republican presidential nominee are either birthers or birther-curious."
How else could this movement attract reputable and intelligent Republican Party leaders, notables and pundits such as Senator Richard Shelby, Tracey Mann, Liz Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Camille Paglia and others to grant the movement legitimacy, to defend the birthers or at a minimum to humor these conspiracy-minded people?
Even House Speaker John Boehner, when asked recently about his responsibility to repudiate "birtherism" avoided the issue by replying, "it's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people."
How else would some Republican elected officials, both in the U.S. Congress and at state assemblies propose and vote for legislation that would require presidential candidates to provide documentation that proves they are natural-born Americans?
How else would potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates such as Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and -- more recently -- Donald Trump "wink" at the birthers, play coy, demur or dodge the issue; allude to the President's "Kenyan roots and connections," but never categorically discredit the birther movement?
How could they create such an extensive and devoted movement and following, even though, according to Pitts,
... Obama provided his birth certificate and its authenticity has repeatedly been vouched for by Hawaiian officials.
... if there were the slightest chance he was ineligible for the presidency, opposition researchers working for his opponents would have shredded him like an old bank statement.
... his Aug. 4, 1961 birth was noted by contemporaneous (memo to the morons: that means it happened at the time) birth announcements in not one, but two Hawaii newspapers. What'd he do? Jump in a time machine, zip back to the '60s and plant the notices?
No, in my opinion, these birthers are not ''jackasses," "doofuses" or "pinheads."
They are very astute people who know exactly what they are doing, and why.
Again, according to Pitts:
Criticize him to your heart's content. Give him hell over Libya. Blast him about Guantánamo. Knock him silly on healthcare reform. He is the president; taking abuse is part of his job description.
But this ongoing birther garbage, like the ongoing controversy about his supposed secret Muslim identity -- is not about criticism. It is not about what he has done but, rather, what he is.
Like "state's rights," these controversies are a code, a dog whistle for those with ears to hear. They provide euphemistic cover for those who want to express alarm over the raw newness of him, the sweeping demographic changes he represents (''He's black! Oh, my God, they've got the presidency now!'') without appearing uncouth enough to do so.
Memo to the morons: It doesn't work, folks. Nobody is fooled. You are about as subtle as Lady Gaga.
Frankly, I wish Trump and his fellow birthers would just go ahead and call Obama an N-word. Yes, it would be reprehensible and offensive.
But it would be a damn sight more honest, too.
As I said, Pitts doesn't mince words.