Friday, May 18, 2012 8:05 AM
Again -- as in the case of yesterday's breaking news from Breitbart News that Obama's literary agency bio described him as "born in Kenya" -- the equally fascinating story is the media relationship with this new piece of evidence.
To be sure, the appearance of the "born in Kenya" bio raises more questions than it answers. Who provided the original information? Was it all a "simple mistake," as the agency's booklet editor Miriam Goderich now claims? Was it even a mistake?
We have no idea -- yet. With Breitbart following the story today, however, we now know from a fellow client of the agency, Steve Boman, that he was asked to provide his own bio; we also now know through Internet archives that this Obama "born in Kenya" bio stood in the agency website and client list for 16 years -- until two months after Obama declared himself a candidate for president in in 2007. Suddenly, "born in Kenya" changed to "born in Hawaii."
Again, these reports leave multiple questions unanswered -- questions the media have long proven themselves unwilling to ask or even entertain. Since Barack Obama himself has failed to be forthcoming in any way with bona fide paper documents attesting to his basic identity -- sorry, the manipulated computer imagery he has posted at the White House website is evidence only of fraud -- what is required is a Congressional committee with the necessary subpoena power to prove the President's origins and eligibility once and for all.
Brietbart News, meanwhile, needs to allow its better news judgment, which drove it to publish the report in the first place, to steady itself. Breitbart has released a report on a piece of evidence -- a report on a physical 1991 document which came into their hands -- that only bolsters the claims that this president's eligibility is in doubt. Breitbart is simply not responsible for protecting this president's eligibility; News organizations are responsible only to pursue the facts. This should be obvious; but our media, Left and Right, have for so long become captive to ideology that they no longer see their overriding professional responsibility.
Which is why Breitbart editors are still attaching disclaimers to their own news reports, rather than simply presenting the story only and simply so far as it is supported by the facts.
The real mystery is not where Obama was born--which has long been settled--but why Goddard failed to ask her agent a single relevant follow-up question about how the 'fact checking error' occurred in the first place.
Settled by what? Unelected websites? By whom? A selected reporter who tweeted that she ran her finger over the seal? Frankly, we still may not even know what the "real mystery" is. I think it's safe to say, however, there remains a "real mystery." It doesn't behoove any journalist to cling to the Narrative of Authority even as facts emerge which seem to undermine it.
Meanwhile, there seems to be some dire human need for a happy outcome, for a good alibi, for a perfectly rational explanation, otherwise we wouldn't see such exertions to make the few facts we know fit all best or at least better case scenarios. We seem to want more than anything else that this president be no more than a Barnum-esque exaggerator, an image manipulator, a liar, even -- but not, please-oh-Lord, ineligible. Across the pond at the Telegraph Blogs, the mindset is expressed by Tim Stanley, who is described as a "historian of the United States." Taking on the "born in Kenya" bio, Stanley writes:
Today, the President has satisfied all right-minded folk that he was in fact born in Hawaii.
For support, he actually links to the "right-minded folk" at CNN! He continues:
Breitbart.com itself has always rejected the absurd cult of birtherism.
Pat on head for Breitbart. Now, pivot:
In fact, this story is really the opposite of birtherism – Breitbart infers that in the past Obama encouraged people to think that he was born abroad in order to establish an identity as an authentic, exotic voice in the debate on racial politics.
Given that the "born in Kenya" bio raises more questions than it answers, given that it substantiates the distress of those of us who are not satisfied by dodgy computer imagery to establish the i.d. of the POTUS (especially when it is so ridiculously easy for him to produce the physical documents for verification and be done with it) Breitbart isn't just "inferring" (and with Stanley's approval), Breitbart is choosing. It is choosing a narrative into which to plug this new fact. This isn't journalism. It's politics.
And what of "Birtherism"? It is a purposefully nasty-sounding term that functions, as "McCarthyism" does, to shut down not just debate but thought itself. I think we should open our eyes and realize "Birtherism" describes curiosity, undergirded by a genuine concern for rule of law, for the Constitution, for the republic itself. As a society, we have permitted such curiosity and concern to be caricatured and, in effect, taken from us by the use of a bad, bad word.
Not a good sign for liberty's future.