The Birther controversy is an unnecessary distraction

The controversy over President Obama’s birth status, quietly simmering since last fall, has over the last few weeks hit a kind of boiling point with CNN anchors, US Senators, and the White House Press Secretary all weighing in on the subject. Numerous lawsuits have been filed, and a soldier on his way to Afghanistan recently protested his deployment on the grounds that the President hasn’t proven himself to be a citizen.

It’s a theory that requires a conspiracy of large proportions – the Obama campaign, the McCain campaign (whose lawyers apparently investigated the issue and found nothing), the state government of Hawaii, the DNC, the FEC, and the Supreme Court. This is the sticking point for many conspiracy theories – how do you keep all those people from squealing what would be the biggest story of the century?

The so-called “Birther” movement is attracting so much fire from multiple sides of the ideological spectrum that one wonders if it isn’t being brought to the forefront to deflect from the President’s sagging poll numbers and the public’s increasing distaste for an unsustainable public health plan. The left seems to never miss an opportunity to paint conservatives with the same broad brush (see the Pittsburgh shooting and the Holocaust Museum killer for examples).

Here’s what I believe – until proven to me otherwise by strong affirmative evidence, Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States and the legitimate President of America. Those who question his birth status will quite frankly have to do a lot better to convince me that there’s more to see, but in all the debate over long-form birth certificates versus certificates of live birth, one thing must be remembered – absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of absence. If Obama’s student transcripts were to somehow show he applied as a foreign student, then that affirmative evidence might raise more legitimate concerns, but until then, the birth certificate issue is a non-productive waste of time and effort that should be spent battling universal health care and cap-and-trade.

Likewise, the left should not be so keen to try to smear all conservatives, Republicans, and Tea Party activists with the Birther label. No Republican in elected office or in the chain of party leadership has signed on to or endorsed the idea, and despite claims to the contrary, the Tea Parties are a response to out-of-control government spending, not Obama’s birthplace. Even more tenuous is the idea that the Birther movement is more evidence of the latent racism of conservatives – after all, why else would they be questioning the citizenship of the first black President, right?

To some on the right, the birth certificate issue might seem an alluring option for defeating the President’s agenda – if he’s shown to be illegitimate, then all his ideas and legislation would be null and void anyway. But here’s the point – that’s not necessary. The President’s ideas are becoming more unpopular by the day as the stimulus is shown to be the failure that it was destined to be. The illegitimacy issue was raised before by the hardcore anti-Bush crowd when he was “selected not elected” back in 2000. The venom and acrimony didn’t help them in 2004, and it won’t help our side in 2010.

This whole debate should have remained on the back-burner where it belonged. For whatever reason it’s been brought to the fore, and it only serves as a distraction to the more pressing issues of the day. Bringing it up is like playing with matches in a grain silo – it may end up burning everyone. I say put the lighter away and oppose Obama on his greatest weakness – the futility of his own agenda.

Cross-posted at Wellsy’s World.