This week, billionaire media celebrity and presidential wannabe Donald Trump got back on the nightly news by proclaiming himself to be foursquarely within the "birther" camp -- namely, those who are convinced that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and thus, is constitutionally disqualified from serving. Does "The Donald" really, truly believe that President Obama was born in Kenya -- or Indonesia or Neptune? No, of course not; this is an obvious p.r. ploy. For although Trump is definitely not the second coming of Thomas Jefferson -- let alone Warren G. Harding -- he couldn't be that dense. Rather, he is dipping his well-pedicured toe into the font of right wing lunacy and letting the "true believers" know he is one of them. (.n.b. Moments ago, Fox News revealed that they are giving Trump his own morning news slot. "Bold, brash and never bashful. The Donald now makes his voice heard loud and clear every Monday on Fox," the network blurb put it.)
So The Donald has now joined the ranks of those who believe President Obama is an alien. I would hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of those who read The K.F. Stone Weekly are not birther believers . . . thank God. And yet, believe it or not slightly more than half (51%) of those who say they are "likely to participate in a Republican primary next year" say they don't believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. By contrast, 11% of Democrats and 23% of Independents say the president was not born in this country. From where I sit, even the 11% figure among Democrats is appalling.
Is there no end to what some people won't believe?
The answer, I'm sorry to report, is "No . . . there is no end to what some people won't believe."
In 1928, New York Governor Al Smith became the first Catholic to run for President of the United States. Anti-Catholic sentiment was so strong that people all over the country actually believed that if elected, Smith planned to extend the newly-built Holland Tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Vatican so he could take orders from the Pope! Then too, less than a decade later, rock-ribbed conservatives expressed their overwhelming antipathy for FDR's New Deal by "uncovering" the fact that the president was really from a Jewish family likely named "Rosenfeld." (To this day, there are dozens of websites -- including " Jew Watch " which back this bit of inanity.)
In the 1950s, there were hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- who bought in to the John Birch Society -sponsored canard that President Dwight Eisenhower -- the man who led American troops to victory in the European Theatre of Operations during World War II -- was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy." The Birch Society, which was created and funded by candy mogul Robert Welch (and Fred Koch, father of the Koch brothers who are today major, major underwriters of the Tea Party movement) also claimed that both Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan -- who headed the C.I.A. -- were part of the Communist conspiracy. They also spearheaded a movement to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, claiming that he too was part of the vast conspiracy seeking to overthrow America. Hauntingly, hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- bought into their conspiratorial lunacy.
Yes indeed, there doesn't seem to be any end to what people won't believe. Today, in addition to all those who believe that President Obama is foreign born, there are a host of new cesspools in which to wallow:
- Of those Republicans polled, 60% believe or at least are not yet sure as to whether ACORN will steal the election for Barack Obama in 2012. It should be noted that ACORN's board decided to shut down the operation on March 21, 2010, and filed for Chapter 7 less than eight months later. The organization has not existed for more than a year.
- A growing number of people have become convinced that William Ayers -- the community organizer described by most conservative pundits as "Obama's terrorist buddy" -- ghost wrote the president's best-selling book Dreams of My Fathers. Writer Jack Cashill (Ron Brown's Body; What's the Matter With California) has been making the rounds of Fox shows hawking his latest book, Deconstructing Obama, in which he claims that prior to Dreams of My Fathers, Barack Obama was "incapable of writing anything besides bad poetry." Donald Trump climbed onto this bandwagon, telling radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, "Obama is only president because he wrote a book that is supposed to be a genius book . . . but now it comes out that Bill Ayers wrote it." Cashill also claims that Obama has a second Social Security number which he filed with the Selective Service System . . .
- And now, the latest bit of nonsense that is finding a lot of currency: that the Obama White House is planning to launch a military attack against Israel in the near future! Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney, Jr . claims that the Obama Administration will use what he calls "The Ghadafi precedent," ". . . to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel." Moreover, Gaffney warns, this use of force will likely occur "in the not-too-distant future." Gaffney claims that shortly, the Palestinian Authority will come before the United Nations Security Council seeking a resolution that would recognize its unilateral declaration of statehood. Then, Gaffney explains, "three top female officials in the Obama administration [will] reprise roles they played in the council's recent action on Libya." The "three females" -- all vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic according to Gaffney -- are Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.; Samantha Power, senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council; and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton "whose unalloyed sympathy for the Palestinian cause dates back at least to her days as First Lady." According to Gaffney, one thing leads to another and before you know it, the U.S. has launched a military strike against Israel.
Gaffney's delusion was then amplified by Glenn Beck, who claimed that the Obama administration is "Pushing the Responsibility to Protect Act" that may jeopardize the "survival of Israel." Pointing fingers at Powers, Rice, Clinton and George Soros, Beck claims that it is only a matter of time before the administration seeks to take out Israel!
Do people really, truly believe this?
I'm sorry to have to say "Yes . . . There are people who definitely do believe this." And sadly, a lot of these folks are otherwise intelligent, well-read, worldly people who are firmly convinced that the president is a not-so-closeted Muslim who has surrounded himself with a vast cadre of self-hating Jews. To them, anything less than 100% support for everything Israel does is tantamount to treason. They live in a world of absolutes where that which distinguishes the good guys from the bad is as obvious as the difference between night and day. One can be an ohev yisrael (lover of Israel) while supporting a two-state solution or suggesting that perhaps it would be smart for the Netanyahu government to reinstitute a construction moratorium in East Jerusalem or on the West Bank. The two are not mutually exclusive -- at least in the real world.
Don't be fooled by the likes of Gaffney, Beck and oh so many others who proclaim their undying love and support for Israel on the one hand, while seeking to restore a Gilded Age on the other. And please, don't be fooled by guys like The Donald, who reinvent themselves at will, in order to gain a bit of credibility among the truly zany.
Like those who still believe in a tunnel linking Hoboken to the Vatican . . .
-2011 Kurt F. Stone