Questioning one's government — even to what some might consider a ridiculous degree — is infinitely healthier than trusting one's government without question.
But there is a difference between dissent and distraction. There is a movement currently underway to force President Barack Obama to show proof that he is a natural-born citizen of the United States by presenting his birth certificate to the public. The movement has even gotten support from men on the Right I respect, like CNN's Lou Dobbs, and those I don't, like the politically schizophrenic Alan Keyes. One Army soldier has refused to deploy, citing Obama's lack of citizenship, and Congressman Bill Posey of Florida has even introduced legislation to require future White House occupants to be forthcoming with their paperwork.
This is stupid — and not because the mainstream media and liberals say it is — but because it really is stupid. Let us pretend for a moment that these folks, now called "Birthers," are right and that the proof of citizenship the White House has already presented is indeed fraudulent. What do they expect to happen? That Obama will be stripped of his office? Democrats who still believe that George W. Bush stole the election from Al Gore in 2000 have as much — and perhaps even a better — argument than those who question Obama's citizenship, and yet Republicans who tell them to "get over it" are right to do so. There comes a point when the outcome of an election becomes settled, however fair or unfair, and it's only practical that the losing side concedes electoral defeat. Seriously, if Obama was born on Mars does anyone really believe the election of 2008 is going to be overturned on a technicality? And for those who do, I don't remember any staunch, letter-of-the-law defenders on the Right making much noise when Bush administration officials were accused of numerous, much more serious, unconstitutional activities.
My problems with the Obama administration are the same problems I had with the Bush administration, both of whom were, or are, intent on drastically expanding government according to their own vision of the "common good." Our current president is already projected to outspend Bush, and as libertarian essayist Justin Raimondo has observed, Obama's only foreign policy "change" is the battlefield, where increased efforts in Afghanistan have led to the conflict being dubbed "Obama's war." Where is the antiwar Left, who were so vocal during the Bush administration? Oh, that's right — they only oppose Republican wars.
But while the grassroots Left has become predictably quiet under Obama, the grassroots Right has become louder. The Tax Day and July 4th Tea Party protests were encouraging successes, where citizens fed up with government spending seemed ready for something a little more radical than simply voting for the GOP again. As the shine on Obama's new presidency begins to wear off, issues like socialized health care, cap and trade, and stimulus spending continue to galvanize Americans from across the political spectrum. Two of the most conservative members of Congress, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, are getting broad bipartisan support for legislation that would have been considered too radical a year ago — a financial audit of the Federal Reserve, a secretive, unaccountable institution who's habit of simply printing new money makes them a primary culprit in causing the current economic crisis.
Today, there is much potential for real "change" the Right can believe in, despite the Left's increasingly hostile attempts to portray Americans concerned with such issues as crackpots and loons. But with the president's popularity waning and the potential to advance limited government efforts growing, why in God's name would conservatives want to get sidetracked with some petty nonsense about Obama's birth certificate? What did right-wing obsessions over similar conspiracy theories, like the curious deaths of Clinton administration officials Ron Brown and Vince Foster in the 1990s, ever do to help seriously advance conservatism? And when polls indicate a majority of Americans are worried about massive spending, why would conservatives want to scare away countless potential allies by behaving like the crackpots and loons the Left portrays them to be?
If I were President Obama, I think I would invent the birth certificate conspiracy myself, not only to make my political enemies look stupid, but to keep them from focusing on my actual agenda. And conservatives who insist on making up imaginary reasons to oppose this president, instead of fighting the upfront and obvious big government policies of a formidable foe, won't learn anything new or earth-shattering about Obama's origins. Except that he wasn't born yesterday.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.