Bullied by sociopaths

I have very little to say about President Obama’s decision to release his long-form birth certificate, but I will offer this: No white president would have been pressured into this. And my gut tells me Obama shouldn’t have done it, as it makes him look like he’s been bullied by sociopaths.

Although I don’t hold out much hope, I do think this is a splendid occasion for executives at mainstream news organizations to think about the consequences of “covering the controversy” as opposed to calling out people like Donald Trump as the lying jackasses that they are.

Yes, there’s been some of that. But not nearly enough.

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67 thoughts on “Bullied by sociopaths

  1. Stephen Stein

    CNN is calling Trump out on his claim that he and Obama are tied in a CNN poll. It’s really pretty funny.

    I think this was a bad move by the President. All this proves is when Trump says “Frog”, Obama will jump. It will satisfy no one who’s not already satisfied.

    But perhaps this will raise Trump’s cred and he will actually run the the GOP nomination, which will just raise the level of crazy to new heights. (Or should that be sink to new lows.) So maybe Obama is crazy like a fox!

  2. Chuck Tanowitz

    Trump kept saying that his researchers were finding things in Hawaii. But he wouldn’t say what. I’m hoping that someone calls him on that and says to him, point blank, “your credibility is on the line here…” Maybe actually force him to address a true issue or two.

    Then again, having Trump in the race is probably very good for Obama, as he’s nothing more than a blowhard, he has no substance and all that will come out eventually.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Al: Any minute now. World Net Daily is calling it a “birth certificate” rather than a birth certificate.

  3. Brad Deltan

    I think Scott Adams nailed it with his analysis of Trump’s quixotic birther campaign not long ago.

    What I don’t get is why Obama did this NOW. The longer Trump stays in the race, the more damage he does to the Republican brand. And the longer he says in, the more likely he is to decide to keeping running when (not if) he loses the primary; if Trump runs as an independent, it will destroy any hope the Republicans have of winning the presidency. And likely damage their hopes in many other races, too.

    Yes, I agree with Adams that Trump has little interest in being President and more in pumping up his personal visibility and the ratings for his TV show. But it’s hard not to bask in the love of the electorate for months on end without one’s ego getting addicted to it. And Trump has a titanic ego; it’s gotten him to make really stupid business decisions before (remember, Trump has made AND LOST more than one fortune) and I see no reason it wouldn’t cause him to make really stupid political decisions, either.

    Technically this might’ve been the right thing for Obama to do, but the timing is probably the worst possible. I swear, Obama is the living example of Democrats’ ability to do more harm to themselves than anyone else.

    (BTW, I agree that no white president or candidate would ever have to deal with this. After all, it never really was an issue in 2008 that John McCain wasn’t born in the US, either…he was born in the Panama Canal Zone.)

  4. Pat Daukantas

    Perhaps I’ve taken too many science and math classes since the days of my journalism education, but there are questions that have a right answer and a wrong answer and nobody glorifies the wrong answer. If you say 2 + 2 = 5, that is wrong, NOT a “controversy.” Gaah.

    E.J. Dionne has some good comments about the media handling of this nonsense; I recommend it to Media Nation readers.

  5. Stephen Stein

    OK, media types – how long a story is it? (For instance, how long will it be at the top of memeorandum?) 12 hrs? 24 hrs? 48 hrs? Until The Wedding? (Until the Next Royal Wedding?)

    Place yer bets. I say “36 hrs”.

  6. ben starr

    @Brad. The McCain situation is not analogous because both parents were citizens and all details fit with the codes at the time for citizenship from birth. The Obama situation is completely distinct regardless of his race because his dad was not a citizen and the codes at the time of his birth would not have made him eligible for citizenship if born outside the US. @dan I think the key factor here in the efforts to discredit is that he’s a liberal Democrat not the color of his skin. They’d have come after Clinton as hard. Actually, they kind of did.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @ben: They came at Clinton with different stuff. With Obama, it’s all tinged with race. As for the citizenship issue, Obama’s mother was a citizen and never renounced her U.S. citizenship. I have no idea what the codes were at the time of Obama’s birth, but the Constitution trumps (oof — need a better word) mere laws, and Obama would have been just as much a natural-born citizen if he were born in Kenya rather than Hawaii.

  7. ben starr

    Actually, Dan, is that true? Even taking account of the Constitution. I may be wrong but at the time of his birth, I thought he wouldn’t have been considered a natural born citizen if he hadn’t been born in Hawaii. That’s why this is such an issue. Because his mother was only 18 she was unable to meet the federal requirement to have a natural born child while living outside the US. You needed to have lived in the US for five years after the age of 16 and because of her age, couldn’t have met that. Again, he was born in Hawaii so not relevant but this is, i believe, what birthers hang their hat on.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @ben: Don’t worry about what birthers hang their hat on. For instance: they also say that Obama had or has dual citizenship because his father was from Kenya, and that’s another reason he’s ineligible to be president — even “if” he was born in the U.S. There’s no end to it with these people.

  8. Mike Benedict

    Where were the birthers when Goldwater ran in 1964? He wasn’t born in the US.

    Or Mitt Romney’s dad, whose father — the son of a polygamist — was hiding out in Mexico when Mitt’s padre was born?

    Or even — god save his wacky soul — Lowell Weicker?!?

    Yeah, it’s about race.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      That’s a stretch with Goldwater, @Mike. But what the hell. None of this is serious anyway.

  9. Andy Koppel

    And lest we forget, following is what the new Republican National Committee Chairman had the temerity to say:

    In a statement after Obama spoke, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the issue a distraction — and yet blamed Obama for playing campaign politics by addressing it.

    “The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy,” Priebus said. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority — our economy.”

  10. M.J.Stevenson

    Forget about the GOP for a moment, the nonsense has to be gaining some traction with Independents or Obama wouldn’t have delivered the goods.
    Seinfeld and DeNiro coming out in the President’s defense –nice of them– showed that even they could see the MSM wasn’t going be effective.

  11. B.A. DuBois

    Dan, I’m a reasonably conservative person, and found this birther nonsense beyond the pale… have even tried to point out the ridiculousness of their positions, to no effect. Your absolutely right, there’s no end to it with these people.

  12. Brad Deltan

    @Brad. The McCain situation is not analogous because both parents were citizens and all details fit with the codes at the time for citizenship from birth. The Obama situation is completely distinct regardless of his race because his dad was not a citizen and the codes at the time of his birth would not have made him eligible for citizenship if born outside the US.

    @Ben: Even Dr. Cox agrees, YOU ARE WRONG

    That kind of pseudo-logic bullcrap is exactly what the birthers use to try and pretend they’re not totally being racist. IT DOES NOT MATTER ONE BIT WHAT THE CITIZENSHIP OF THE PARENTS IS – WHAT MATTERS IS WHERE THE PERSON IS BORN!! That’s the whole thing that people, many of whom are birthers, are whining about with “anchor babies”.

    McCain was NOT born in the USA, period. He was born on foreign soil, but babies born in certain places in the world…such as military facilities like the Canal Zone in Panama…are granted USA citizenship as a matter of course because it’s long been recognized that it’s impractical to expect US parents who are abroad (like in the military) to rush back to US soil the moment the contractions start.

    The bottom line, however, is the whole issue with McCain barely merited a small story in the NYTimes that was clearly written from a “isn’t that an interesting historical quirk?” angle and made it clear that multiple legal experts believed that McCain could not be disqualified from the Presidency because he wasn’t technically born in the US. With Obama, WHO WAS FRICKIN’ BORN IN THE US, the story has dragged on for OVER TWO YEARS despite all evidence to the contrary.

    That is not logical, it is irrational. Guess what else is irrational? Racism. End of story.

  13. Matt Kelly

    Am I the only one who thinks Obama may have planned this? He releases the birth certificate, and Trump immediately claims it’s proof that he can influence the political debate. Trump is on the news, Trump is touting Trump, Trump is rising in the GOP polls, etc. etc. etc.

    Um, Obama *wants* Trump to get into the race and up-end the GOP field. And while all the headlines are about birthers and Trump and Obama, the two people who *aren’t* in the headlines are Mitt Romney and Mitch Daniels, who are probably the only Republicans independents would consider and Obama really worries about.

    This looks like a mess for Obama today, but it’s creating the conditions for him to look very strong 18 months from now, which is where the prize is.

  14. Brad Deltan

    @MattKelly: no, you’re not alone in thinking that. I’m 100% sure the timing on Obama’s release is no accident. I’m not just not sure I agree with the idea that this was a “good” idea for Obama.

    Granted, it’s a fiendishly delicate balance, but as I mentioned above: it seems that Obama could’ve let Trump get a LOT more mileage out of this Birther nonsense…and the longer Trump was getting mileage, the more damaging to the other Republicans it would be. ESPECIALLY if Trump actually stayed in through the actual primary vote or if Trump actually stays in, loses the primary, and then runs independent. The latter would be a dream come true for Obama’s reelection campaign as it guarantees a Perot-type split in the conservative electorate.

    But Trump’s run, at least at the moment, isn’t about being a birther…it’s about feeding his ego and pumping up his image so his show gets more ratings. The latter is logical and will eventually demand he bow out. The former might just grow big enough that it overrides any logic…but not now. Obama’s given Trump too easy an out, too early in the process.

  15. Christian Avard

    Re: Gary Mathis’ observation/tweet: Wow. To do ink analysis from a PDF photo copy is rather impressive. Wouldn’t you agree?

    I can’t stand Lawrence O’Donnell. He’s the liberal version of Sean Hannity and I’m not a fan of over the top cable news punditry. However, how can you not laugh at this one? Marc Cooper said the following about this TV meltdown: “It should be illegal to have so much fun for free.”

  16. L.K. Collins

    I can’t help but laugh at both sides of this ridiculous issue…the birther idiots and the fools like Dan who see it as political fodder. Sophomoric at best.

  17. Bill Hanna

    L.K. Collins says:
    April 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm
    I can’t help but laugh at both sides of this ridiculous issue…the birther idiots and the fools like Dan who see it as political fodder. Sophomoric at best.

    @L.K., you don’t mean that you actually “have to laugh.” What you mean is that some really special gift allows you to look down in smug condescension at the controversy over whether the first African American president—your president—should have to prove his authenticity to a group of marginalized clowns, led for the this particular 15 minutes by an arch-clown, who knows he’s a clown, flaunts his clownship, laughs at it, and invites the reckless and the ignorant to sign up as his “apprentice” clowns. It seems to me that, no matter how above it all you pretend to be, you need to come down one side or the other on this.

  18. L.K. Collins

    Yep, stupid, ridiculous and idiotic. But don’t forget the sophomoric, too.

    Political fodder? For Dan and all of those who have problems admitting that hopey-changey got lost, the economy is heading into its second (or third) tank in two years, and our foreign policy is a shambles, it is one of the things they use to divert attention from the failures. The old “find an issue to demagogue so you don’t have to own up to it” technique!

    Have an effect on the 2012 election, Aaron? We can sure count on the blindly faithful of both sides to make it so, I would hope the you could rise above that, but I’m not holding my breath.

    As for Dan’s continuing comments that opposition to Obama is racist, I can only say that his remarks are offensive. Prove it, Dan or shut up. You’re even less credibility than Al Sharpton.

  19. Rick Peterson

    @LK: all the people equating a lack of blind Obama allegiance with racism are afraid to answer the question: why has this guy not connected with so many Americans? It is easier to use the “racism” trope than to examine how an articulate guy validates all of our self-satisfaction on how far we claim this country has come on race. (“I’m not a racist but I can’t speak for YOU”.)To come out of nowhere and bootstrap disparate contituencies into a successful presidential run is nothing short of miraculous. That said, a majority of Americans now seem to be suffering buyer’s remorse, according to the polls. They are not as invested in Mr. Obama’s world view as the average reader of this blog. Being a sophisticated citizen of the world may be an ideal of folks on both coasts of America but the votes of the unwashed masses in the flyover states count just as much as ours. To tell people that they should unquestioningly accept someone to whom they have never been properly introduced is irrational. Whirlwind courtships sometimes end well but how often? To trivialize real racism by conflating any policy disagreement with the ugliest of human instincts is, well yes, offensive. For all I know, when I get to actually learn something about this guy, I may wind up really liking him. I sure wish that had happened BEFORE the election though.

  20. Mike Rice

    Donald Trump who is apparently garnering support is evidence that this country is rotting from within.

  21. Mike Benedict

    It’s become oddly painful to watch those who claim that are not racist twist themselves into knots arguing that they hate Obama based on results and nothing else, ignoring of course that they hated him BEFORE he was elected, because (of course) he is black.

    Guys, trying to pretend you are somehow different from your average KKK member is Hamletesque. Good luck convincing the rest of the jury.

  22. Al Fiantaca

    I like to think that my vote counts as much as those “unwashed masses in the flyover state”. While I’m at it, I’m also as moral, upstanding, and patriotic as them. I’m tired of the implication used in political discussions, usually delivered by the phrase “Middle America”, that they are somehow better or more hard working than me.

  23. L.K. Collins

    You don’t seem to think they are, Dan, so why is such a sin for them to return the favor?

    And I see our favorite player of the race card put forth his usual hate.

  24. Rick Peterson

    OK, apparently I’m missing something here. Not voting for someone because of race despite accomplishments is racism but voting for that same person because of race despite a lack of accomplishments is NOT? (And expressing an opinion is not an accomplishment.)The only KKK members I ever “met” were screaming at me in Southie in the late 1960′s while I marched against Pixie Palladino and Louise Day Hicks, so spare me the self-aggrandizement, St. Michael. How dare you.

  25. Mike Rice

    @ Mike B.
    I don’t “hate” Obama based on results, I’m disappointed. And that feeling is reflective of not only our president but of Congress as well.

    Race doesn’t factor into the equation. After all, would a racist country elect a black president?

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      “Would a racist country elect a black president?”

      @Mike Rice: 47 percent voted against Obama. Some of them were racists.

  26. Mike Benedict

    @MikeRice: Anyone who holds Obama to a different standard simply because he is black is indeed a racist. And those who claim he wasn’t born in the US, or think he’s a Muslim, or a communist, or a socialist (need I go on) are holding him to a standard that they never would have held McCain, Huckabee, Romney, Bush, or even Mrs. Clinton. (Btw, I just described most of the Republican party.)

    And for the record, I have never met a racist who considered himself a racist.

  27. Rob Goodwin

    Hi Dan,
    I think blaming this issue on race is wrong. Obama is a Democrat and because of this Republicans must try to delegitimize him. With all due respect, it is exactly what they did to Clinton. Is it racist to call Obama a Marxist, or Socialist, or Communist? They accused Clinton of drug smuggling and even murder. Hannity and Matthews hosted Jennifer Flowers on their shows in order for her to say how gay Hillary was and how Clinton probably did order hits on people. Falwell sold videos expounding on the murderer Clinton. Don’t you remember the War Against Gore?!….and to a lesser extent Kerry and even Dukakis. This is par for the course and to reflexively blame it all on racism is short sighted and bad politics. I for one would like to see the Dems win a bit more, and tarring every birther as a racist isn’t the way to do it. The fact is the press could have ended this issue as soon as it started by explaining in every article that Obama did present the only legal document recognized by the state of Hawaii way back in 2008. The state’s Republican governor confirmed that as well. This isn’t a race problem, although I’m sure many of his detractors do harbor racist views. This is a complete abdication of the roles and responsibilities of the press. The same type of abdication which painted Al Gore a liar, John Kerry a communist sympathizer, Bill Clinton a murderer, and Dukakis funny looking in a helmet. Just reflexively yelling racist is lazy, and paints way too broad a brush. At least cite facts when you call someone a racist, which I believe would be very difficult when you are calling such a large swath of the population racist. Also, claiming none of this is really serious anyway is lame. I would say this phenomenon in our politics is one of the most serious issues we face as a democracy. A democracy needs the truth to be part of the conversation, and instead we have the Washington Post inviting Trump to the corresspondents dinner as their guest. Nuff’ said.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Rob: Calling Obama a Marxist is not racist. But birtherism is clearly rooted in race.

  28. Mike Benedict

    McCain wrote a law that covered up all the actual events tied to his POW record. No one called him a commie. Bush bailed on his military service. No one called him a commie. McCain led the charge to bail out the savings & loans. A pure capitalist would have let them perish, but no one called him a socialist. There was nothing in Obama’s past to suggest he was a communist or socialist or Marxist. Attaching all the “ists” to Obama was clearly rooted in the fact that he doesn’t look like “we” do. Even when he acts in the same way a Republican president might, he gets annihilated by the right-wing media. That’s not hate based on decision-making, that’s hate based on skin color.

    And Rob, I agree the MSM press completely dropped the ball. They bowed to their media owners, the catcalls from the right, and their own cowardice.

  29. L.K. Collins

    Translation of Mike’s last post:

    Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate hate, hate, hate.

  30. Mike Rice

    To clarify my previous post, I dare say that a majority of this country’s citizens are not racist.

  31. Rob Goodwin

    Hi Dan,
    You should read the Howler today. He’s talking about you. Don’t you work with the Duke? I wonder if he would agree that this issue isn’t important and would never happen to a white president. Considering what happened to him in the 88 campaign, I doubt it. Dukakis was the first presidential candidate I ever voted for. I was 18. I’m now 44 and I remember the way they tried to make him seem unamerican like it was yesterday. I’m sure you do too, that’s what makes your appraisal of this ugly mess so depressing.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Rob: Just checked it out. Somerby’s not talking about me personally, so that’s a relief. Yes, I remember the Dukakis takedown well. The right uses what it’s got. With Dukakis, it was his liberalism. With Clinton, it was sex life. And with Obama, it’s his race.

  32. Mike Benedict

    Dan, in the Duke’s case, it was racism too. Read Atwell’s own account in Prof. Stephen Wayne’s “The Road to the White House.” Willie Horton was picked because he would be considered threatening to white America.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Mike: Yes, but not racism directed at Dukakis, who was white the last time I checked.

  33. Mike Benedict

    Dan, don’t you think “vote for this guy, and scary black thug will rape your wife and kill you” qualifies as racist?

  34. Rob Goodwin

    Hi Dan,
    So with Gore and Kerry it was….? I think you’re being overly simplistic. You said it yourself, the Republicans use what they have. Sure it ended up being all about sex for Clinton, but that doesn’t explain Whitewater, Travelgate, the Licoln bedroom mess, the Vince Foster mess, the Russian spy accusations, the murderer charges, the drug smuggler charges, and the list goes on and on. It wasn’t all about Dukakis’s lberalism either, he was painted as different than most Americans because of his Greek heritage. They also tried to insinuated that he had mental issues. He’s a veteran but somehow got painted as anti-military! One of the biggest charges agains Obama is that he is anti-free enterprise, a socialist even. That’s not about race, that’s about the Republicans using whatever they can to paint a Democrat as out of the main steam and even radical. It’s an old trick and it works very well for them. Replying that all of those poor souls that got duped into believing this crap are racists won’t change a single vote, and will more likely harden their views and confirm to them that they were right all along.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      “Replying that all of those poor souls that got duped into believing this crap are racists …”

      @Rob: And where, exactly, did I ever say that? I’m talking about the activists, the leaders. Some of their followers are racists and some aren’t.

  35. Rob Goodwin

    With all due respect Dan, it’s me who thinks, for the most part, that people are being duped. You have stated many times without qualification, until now, that the birthers are racists. You have said that for Obama it’s all about race. That’s where we differ. I believe people are being conned, and you have stated mutiple times in this thread, without supporting facts or qualification of any kind, that the birthers are racist. There is a VERY BIG difference between calling birthers racist and calling leaders and activists racist. To be sure, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with you on the leaders and activists either. They use what works.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Rob: Show me where I’ve said all birthers are racists — links and quotes.

  36. Rob Goodwin

    Hi Dan,
    I thought my argument was pretty clear: you should be very careful who you call a racist. You may not have ever said ALL birthers are racist, but you cleary implied it. If you’re going to claim racism you should have some very solid facts to back-up the assertion. I didn’t see that in this thread and frankly there weren’t a lot of qualifiers used with the charge either. Sunday’s Globe had a letter from a reader that stated how upset he was that it took Obama so long to show his long-form birth certificate and how Obama could have saved everyone a lot of time and effort if he had just shown the form back in 2008. Then he expressed his extreme annoyance at the fact he was being accused of racism, when in his mind the issue had nothing to do with race. Is it possible he’s telling the truth?

    Below are some of the statements you made in this thread:

    No white president would have been pressured into this.

    With Obama, it’s all tinged with race.

    Don’t worry about what birthers hang their hat on.

    But birtherism is clearly rooted in race.

    And with Obama, it’s his race.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Rob: So I didn’t say all birthers are racists. I knew I didn’t. Rather than listing statements that you think sound sort of like it, maybe you ought to post a retraction.

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