Everyday I drive home from work, walk in the door and ask my four kids under the age of 8 "guess what time it is?" to which they groan in near unison Hardball with Chris Matthews. It's always fun to watch a guy who enjoys his job and Matthews clearly loves every minute of hosting his show.
But for the last two days he's been behaving strangely in a sort of methinks thou doth protest too much kind of way about the issue of those who believe that President Obama wasn't born in this country in a way that makes me wonder if he himself isn't a deeply closeted birther.
I've heard for some time about a small but growing group of uber-conservatives who are convinced that Obama was born in Kenya and not in the USA, but apparently they now have a name, birthers.
Here, Matthews' browbeats a hapless GOP congressman and waives around what he terms to be Obama's birth certificate, and the next night giggles with some commentators about it here, but the net effect of these tirades is to pour gasoline on the nascent birther movement and give it more credibility.
Why? Because the birthers aren't after what Matthews held up for the camera, the certificate of live birth, they're after the real thing, the actual birth certificate which is issued at the time of a person's birth, which in Obama's case is supposed to exist in some vault in Hawaii under lock and key and which, according to Hawaiian law, can only be released if the President requests it. Matthews surely knows this, but constructs and destroys his straw man certificate argument anyway.
Matthews' insistence that the questions raised by the birthers are somehow out of the bounds of normal political discourse is strange because its a perfectly legitimate line of questioning that's been raised in a number of circumstances from Chester Arthur to Barry Goldwater and George Romney and most recently, with John McCain who was sued by a Democratic activist named Fred Hollander, a suit that ultimately caused McCain to release his own birth certificate, which a quick google search turned up here.
Matthews has some kind of agenda here, though what it is isn't clear, but the question for us non-birthers remains: what's the big deal? Why doesn't the President authorize the Governor of Hawaii to release the real birth certificate and strangle the birther movement once and or all, while it's still in its crib?
By working himself into a straw-man frenzy over a document that nobody contests and ignoring the one the conspiracy theorists are after, Matthews is giving their movement credibility and raising the suspicions of the rest of us who don't have a strong opinion one way or the other but are always up for a good conspiracy theory.
But maybe that's his goal.