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April 23rd, 2010
06:30 AM ET

Avlon: Birthers have 'deep discomfort' with Obama as president

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of the new book "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN Independent analyst John Avlon says the birthers’ claims that President Obama is ineligible to be president should be on the ash-heap of discredited conspiracy theories by now."]

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

The wingnut wars continued this week with revivals of unwelcome old fringe fault lines: the birthers are back in the form of a state legislature vote and members of a teacher’s union are protesting budget cuts with a prayer for the New Jersey governor’s death and comparisons to genocidal dictators.

The birthers’ claims that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore constitutionally ineligible to be president should be on the ash-heap of discredited conspiracy theories by now. But despite his birth certificate being put online by the Obama campaign back in June of 2008, verified by both Politifact and the Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, the desperate attempt to de-legitimize our duly elected president has its defenders. Add to that list the GOP members of the Arizona House of Representatives, who by a vote of 31 to 21, voted this week to require President Obama – or any presidential candidate – to submit their birth certificate to appear on the state ballot.

Arizona Republican State Representative Cecil Ash appeared on CNN's "AC360" on Wednesday night to defend the ridiculous bill (which still has to pass the state Senate), and in his fumbling offered this revealing explanation:

"I think there's been a lot of controversy over the issue, created a division among a lot of people in the United States, for better or worse, many people don't believe he is a U.S. citizen, they believe he has loyalties, divided loyalties I suppose you could say."

Fears of “divided loyalties” is what this is ultimately about – a deep discomfort with Obama as president, rooted in a twisted belief that he is fundamentally un-American. The birth certificate is both a symbol of this belief and an attempt to undo an election after the fact, stemming off the deeper dynamic that has caused some unhinged people to believe that losing an election is the equivalent of living under tyranny. The wingnut legislators who voted for this bill ought to be ashamed for this ugly bit of pandering while remembering a bit of apparently forgotten wisdom – everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.

On the left, union protests over budget cuts in states across the nation have taken on urgency with budget season upon us. But they got Tony Soprano ugly in the Garden State earlier this month, when New Jersey’s Bergen County Teachers Union President Joe Coppola sent this e-mail to 17,000 of his brethren:

"Dear Lord, this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays... . I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."

Coppola's defense was that this pop-culture imprecatory prayer was a joke that reflected lousy judgment and said that it was never meant to be seen by the public. But that option doesn’t exist in the age of the Internet – and postings on their union’s protest Facebook page only compounded the controversy. Here’s Camden County Vocational and Technical High School biology teacher Marlene Brubaker post, as uncovered by PolitickerNJ's Wally Edge: "KingKrisKristy is copying from another famous dictator: Pol Pot, who got rid of teachers and intellectuals and turned the population against them. NJ has its own Khmer Rouge, it's your Legislature." Classy.

Send in your suggestions for 'Wingnuts of the Week'

Comparing any elected official to a genocidal dictator is always way across the line, whether it is a Democrat like President Obama or a Republican like Chris Christie. And when the rage is directed at a 5% budget cut per school district – returning to 2007 budget levels – in an effort to close a $10.7 billion dollar budget gap, we are in danger of losing any sense of perspective. It’s made even worse by the fact that teachers are paid to set an example for our children both in and out of the classroom.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.

Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. tehheh

    The union guy was poking fun at that prayer that was originally naming Obama as the "favorite." Yeah, it's stupid. But not new. And many U.S. citizens have lived in foreign countries for long spans of time. Granted, most of them have been relatives of military members and their time on foreign soil was on U.S. bases. With Obama, the story of his youth in Indonesia with his mom and stepfather is overemphasized to make him look less like a good Yank and more like an enemy sympathizer. He shouldn't suffer bigotry because of his mom's open-minded life. The person who wrote that Clinton or McCain would have used that kind of information - if it were true - was spot on. That lie about Kerry kept going and probably cost him the election.

    May 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  2. chuck

    Hey, guys, every detracting comment or claim about Barack Obama I have ever heard has been debunked as a hoax or malicious rumor on or Just use your browser before you spread something (just use the keyword search on these sites) and you will avoid making yourself sound foolish or nasty or both. You might want to check out John McCain. He wasn't born in the US of A. He was born in Panama. The controversy has never been settled in the courts.

    May 4, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  3. Thomas

    And I have 'Deep Discomfort' that there are so many people that ignore evidence, and continue to create "controversy" where there is none.

    May 4, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  4. jmz

    Devil- actually to question the policies AND the legitimacy of the govt are both freedom of speech and a right here. The very history of America prooves that. Also you cannot question policies without questioning legitimacy. they go hand in hand. I believe obama was here. and even if i didnt, proving he was born somewhere else and the thing that go along with it before his term his up to actually do anything is futile. There are plenty of things I feel he is doing wrong as president. His supporters however want to use the 'sedition' charge as a way of silencing anyone who opposes him. ESP us tea party members who are gainning strength. They have tried 'racist' to silence us and that did not work. Next they tried 'violent'. BOTH charges were not only false but the exact opposite was proven true. Especially when you compare the racism, and violence on the left. The birthirs like the truthers on the left arenot part of the main stream. Tea party members ARE. for every member you see there are many more you do not. we are just the vocal section of the mainstream view in America, that Obama and the govt have gotten too big and too far away from what america is supposed to be. For all thoes who support this mainstream witchhunt, better be prepared to have the 'sedition' charge aimed at you when Obama dosent like something you said. When you call the swat team on a peaceful protesters consiting of older people in wheeel chairs, or have the police chase reporters away so they cant report gay people protesting. you cant say thats good or the actions of a reasonable man. born here or not is no longer the issue. we already have enough on him to make him a 1 term pres, the question is how to keep him from destroying us in the time he has left.

    April 30, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  5. The Devil

    I think birthers need to stop and think.

    To openly question the government policies is freedom of speech.

    To openly question the legitimacy of the govt. is sedition.

    I for one would need a whole lot more proof that the President was born elsewhere before I willingly commited treason.

    April 30, 2010 at 2:24 am |
  6. Allan

    As an award-winning creator of advertising and marketing programs with over 40 years experience... I feel that I can qualify as an expert in the field of mass manipulation.

    In my expert opinion, Obama has been the target of a well-planned and well-orchestrated "disinformation" campaign. The people behind this reasonably successful campaign appear to be the same people who ran the recent atttack on the Clintons in the form of the "Whitewater Scandal" during Clinton's term in the White House.

    What used to be called a "whispering campaign" has become a screaming ranting campaign with the advent of e-mail, the Internet."blogs" and right wing broadcasters like Limbaugh and Fox "News".

    Here is how this type of disinformation campaign works... advance an idea that is difficult to disprove... get many people to use the same phrase or similar phrase over and over... discount any disagreement with the idea as disingenuous.

    This is not a new concept. here is what was said once by a noted propaganda expert:

    "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, THE TRUTH IS THE GREATEST ENEMY OF THE STATE."
    - Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, 1933-1945

    April 29, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  7. jmz

    obama is unamerican- not because of where he was born but because of his policies. he is ashamed of this country, and has no loyalty to is as a pres should. it was prooven during the campaign and every day since he was elected. wake uplibs,.,.you are the 'useful idiots' that obama, mao, alinsky, stalin, che, hitler etc love and need to gain power.

    April 26, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  8. Rick Geary

    While the illegal immigrant bill seems logical given the number of illegal immigrants in this country, stopping people because of the way they look or their ethnicity and asking them to show their papers sparks of the days of the USSR and the Soviet Block countries. Is this what we want in USA?

    As far as the Presdient's citizenship and birth, this has already been discussed ad infinitum and his birth in the US and status as a natural born citizen has been proven and presented to the nation before he was ever elected. Those who continue to question this are nothing more than biggots, angry that a person of African American heritage is President of the USA.

    April 25, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  9. KC

    McCain could not throw Obama's alleged birthplace in his face because McCain himself was born outside the US.

    What the birthers don't get - don't WANT to get - is that it is not the place of birth that matters. Any child born to an American citizen (which Mama Obama was) is an American citizen, regardless of where the birth occurs. Simply register the birth with the American Embassy in the country where it occurs, and the child receives documents proclaiming him to be a natural-born US citizen. Period, no questions asked.

    April 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Gerard

    If the stimulus bill would not have been passed we would more than likely have close to 20% unemployment. If the healthcare bill would not have been passed our children with pre-existing conditions would be without coverage. In the future it would be adults with pre-existing conditions with no coverage. Obama is protecting the American citizens from capitalistic idealism which leaves anyone who is, by no fault of his/her own, chronically ill or has an ongoing health problem. It would be a sad day in this country if 30,000,000 of its citizens would continue be left without access to healthcare. Those against this will be well served to examine your you have one. To merely allow this group of citizens with health problems to expire is inhumane....very close to what is happening in dictatorship type regimes such as the Po Pot or North Korea. And teabaggers and ultra conservatives, stop over-reacting....your like a bunch of wild west cowboys who shoot first and then ask questions...rather uncivilized.

    April 24, 2010 at 7:04 am |
  11. Dr. Waite

    The only evidence that the alleged president Obama has produced is an alleged "Certificate of Live Birth". but, if one looks at the seal and blows it up, it is certainly not a seal from the State of Hawaii because the name "Hawaii" is no where to be found on the blown up seal. If one compares the blown up seal to an authentic seal from Hawaii, the one on Obama's alleged "Certificate of Live Birth" is clearly NOT the same as the genuine one.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  12. kismetique

    Marc, where were YOU when Bush was sending us down the toilet? I was out there protesting, perhaps if you had been doing what we are doing regarding Obama, maybe together we could have stopped Bush!

    Now, you think Obama is cleaning up Bushes mess? Look again, because Obama has only continued Bush's agenda 100x the speed.

    It's funny that he blames everything on Bush, but then continues the exact same policies. A lot of the regs he is trying to push on Wall Street stem from when good ole Willy was in office – playing with his willy instead of running the country. Then the Dems got the majority in Congress and Dodd and Frank wanted Freddie and Fannie to lend money to people who obviously couldn't pay it back and wha-la, here we are. I'm not saying it is ALL the Dems fault, but they had a hand in it too – not just Bush. Bush jumped the tracks and left his conservative values behind as he pushed the TARP – he says he regrets that now. Obama ran with the TARP and just had to have is OWN Stimulus spending – which has done nothing for this country.

    I was glad the Health Care crap was over with, hoping he would jump on the JOBS bandwagon. Nope – now he has to go after the people the funded his campaign for Presidency....only they are FOR this 'so called' smack down. Humm...something just doesn't smell right on that one. If I had financed someones run for office, I certainly wouldn't be happy about then being smacked down, unless there was something in it for me under the table. Congress is VERY good at under the table and backroom deals. This bill is no different.

    wise up.

    April 23, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  13. Jango Davis

    If the Arizona bill passess, then no one born in Hawaii will be able to run as president because the state only releases certificates of live birth.

    So, Republican Arizona will end up being sued by the Republican Governor of state of Hawaii (who BTW verified Obama's Birth Certificate) for violating the civil rights of its citizens by effectively keeping them off the ballot in their state by refusuing to recognize anotehr state's official document.

    The case will eventually end up in the supreme court. Both repubicans will end up as losers and every democrat will be laughing with Obama right into a second term in the White House.

    Its wonderful how the tea baggers are making the republicans eat each other up alive.

    April 23, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  14. Khalid Al-Mansour

    Hey John,

    Lets be honest for a minute here... we all know you have your walking orders to promote the falsehood that Mr. Obama has met the qualifications laid out in the Constitution. You are not a journalist. You don't give a rats' behind about the truth. When the TRUTH eventually does come out (and it will)... I pray that you and every last one of your ilk who perpetrated this friad on the American people get EXACTLY what you deserve. By the way...I'm a Democrat who voted for this imposter.

    April 23, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  15. jmz

    marc where were you? what were you doing? perhaps if you were doing what we did mabye something would have changed. Im right with you,.,.america was asleep. i truly believe that but to sit there and say we should just let another ahole do damage because its 'tradition' is idiotic. Second about thoes tax "cuts" umm hate to tell you but he IS raising taxes on everyhting else. Next that bill you wanted and he rammed though is already showing to be alot more than what he said AND it still dosent do what he says. 10 yrs of TAXES to pay for 6 yrs of 'service' which will not start for a few are right you cant make up facts Just wait til it does. you better pray we can repeal this monstrosity and stop him from his other plans. . Next how do tyou 'clean up' a mess by making it 4 times as dirty? in 1 yr he has racked up over 4 times what bush did in 8. and thats just the beginning. next how long do you think you can punish the rich before you cant tax them anymore? huh? i know you want to punish thoes evil rich people because you think you are entitled to something they had to work for. However, it been shown you can tax them 100% and it STILL will not pay for what obama wants. so how long before you are taxed to your definition? pehaps you should listen to fox, they my "tell me what to think" but at least im still thinking. show me where this tax and spend has ever worked? if obama was really trying to 'fix' things he would be working on JOBS..nothing else, like we told him to like he promised! instead he is doing everything BUT jobs and what the american people(his BOSS) wants.Obama is shown to be EVERYTHING we say he is and more. theres a reason why why obama numbers are dropping and our numbers are growing. please dont confuse your inability to see the obvious with an intimate knowledge of truth.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  16. Marc

    JMZ. Where were you when Bush actually DID ruin America? You know this whole economy problem and the failed expensive wars etc? Direct result of 8 years of Bush driving the bus into the ditch and THEN stepping on the gas some more.
    Obama has only begun to clean up the mess.
    Instead of blaming the guy who has to clean up the mess, why don't you grab a broom.
    Obama has cut taxes for everyone except for the rich.
    You can't make up facts.

    Shouldn't you be watching FOX right now so you can be told what to think for the day?

    April 23, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  17. jmz

    Liz@ we at the tea party have legit ideological grievences with this admin. the bithers and truthers are not apart of us. This govt has gone completly out of control with taxing, spending, and growth. In case you still haent noticed we have just passed a brand new entitlement thats already showing signs of costing far more than what obama said. obama is now trying to get his hands on the finacial district. he still has done nothing about jobs. and considering that thevast moajority wants this healthcare monstrosity repealed shows alot about how much damage obamahas done. So far everything we have said has been correct. Wake up. obama is systematically destroying our country. this is being proved daily. take a look at what we believe in. go to a tea party rally. youll find the main stream media has completly misled america in what we stand for and who we are. especially when you compare us with the actions of left wing demonstrators. Its a sad day when people with grievences are regarded as the enemy. becareful what you wish for

    April 23, 2010 at 8:09 am |

    @Marc, thank you for your comments. I agree with everything you said about OBAMAS' fake birth question and the radical ISLAMIC GROUP, being allowed to continue in NEW YORK! As far as the TEA PARTY and THE BIRTHERS GO, it has just come down to them perpetually harrassing PRESIDENT OBAMA personally as well as professionally! They are trying to get a rise out of him, so they can say.. 'SEE, WE TOLD YOU HE WAS WEAK'! As far as the NY RADICAL MUSLIMS, like the BLACK PANTHERS, why hadn't they been shut down? DUH!

    April 23, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  19. Marc

    I really liked your comments lately about the Teabag Birthers and the South Park controversy.
    We need more people like you calling BS on this stuff.
    Please keep it up...hopefully others in the media won't be afraid to speak up as well.

    How come nobody reminds the Birthers or Teabaggers that Obama beat Hillary and McCain...2 people who would have used ANY weakness or scandal to destroy him.
    If he really wasn't born in America, Hillary and John would have beat him over the head with it every day, and you can bet they looked into it with full force.
    Also, if he wasn't born in America, wouldn't he have had to apply for citizenship at some point in the 60's?
    Wouldn't there be evidence of that somewhere?

    As for the Islamic group threatening South Park, I hope they enjoy their freedom of speech and religion in New York where they reside.
    Exercising their rights, while trying to squash other peoples just makes them jaggoffs.
    Why is an Islamic hate group allowed to exist in New York exactly?

    John Stewart said it best.

    Go F@#% yourselves.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  20. jmz

    to birthirs: im sure obama was born here. But even if he wasnt. you prob will never get anyone to believe you even with evidence esp in the time needed to remove him from office. Sorry its just the way it is. Obama is doing plenty of damagea spresident and we need to focus on that. we need everyone to pitch in on the actual issues, becauese like thoes idiot 'truthers' like van jones. all this does is serve to marginalize the majority of us who have legit grievences against obama, his admin and progressive agenda.

    to the jersey teachers union- yes i realize it was a joke. what fool wouldnt. funy actually. however i find it appauling that you are so unwilling to help the state out. christie is actually doing what is needed to save your state from bankrupsy. instead of the tax and spend mentality of the fed which is destroying us. i know teachers work hard but your benifit packages are appauling and the govt is going bankrupt trying to fufill them. its time you, me and every american to get it through our thick skulls that all these entitlement programs, union deals etc, are destroying this great country, and turning its citizens into lazy freeloading, self entitled communist pigs. wake up. what the govt give it controls. if it gives you helthcare, it controls your health, finane, it controls your money, media, it controld your thoughts. a slave to the govt or a slave to an individual is still a slave!

    April 23, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  21. mike

    It was not birth certificate that released, It was a Certificate Of Live Birth and there is even evidence that that was faked, Also Obama has spent 1.9 million dollars to block the release of his records

    Mike santa rosa, ca

    April 23, 2010 at 6:48 am |
  22. CJ Serdy

    Shame on your for reporting the few horrible things from that facebook page that has MANY intelligent and worthy posts. While there will be fringe people in any group, you should be more thorough than to take a two week old quote and make it seem relevant. Sharpen the journalism skills you were taught and read the thoughtful posts please.

    April 23, 2010 at 6:40 am |