Much of the noise at the August town halls had nothing to do with healthcare. Irate "birthers" who reject evidence of Barack Obama's citizenship, turned out in droves to denounce the president is a foreign agent, or as one birther sign in New Hampshire put it, "the Trojan Horse of Islam."
The birthers have been egged on by members of the GOP who've winkingly raised doubts about Obama's birthright, including Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ("I can't swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn't" ) and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who believes the birthers "have a point" and said of their crazed fearmongering: "I don't discourage it."
It's easy to understand why: 36 percent of Republicans believe Obama is foreign-born, with another 20 percent unsure, according to an August PPP poll. The Republican base and the birther movement are nearly one and the same, says PPP pollster Dean Debnam, "That is really who their core is."
As I detail in my current Rolling Stone magazine piece, "The Lie Machine", the panic over Obama's healthcare objectives has been manufactured. But doubts about Obama's citizenship are more organic, growing out of the same well-spring of fear that gave rise to claims that Obama is secretly a Muslim.
The Typhoid Mary of the birther pandemic is Orly Taitz the Moldovan-born, Orange-County based attorney (famously also a licensed oral surgeon and real estate agent) who has filed several lawsuits contesting Obama's legitimacy as commander in chief.
In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone Taitz traced the origins of the birther movement to an article she penned after becoming concerned that the secretary of state of California had not been rigorous enough in demanding proof of Barack Hussein Obama's citizenship before placing him on the state's ballot.
Appealing to naked Islamophobia, Taitz titled her article "Osama Bin Laden Can Be On Your Next Ballot," in which Taitz recalls, "I argued that, hypothetically speaking, Osama Bin Laden could come to this country, bring hundreds of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and put his name on the ballot. Nobody's going to check and he could be elected president."
Taitz insists she's not a racist: "I would not be filing any legal action against any African American candidate who is legitimate for the position, who is not defrauding the nation," she says. "Moreover in one of my lawsuits against Obama, the leading plaintiff is Alan Keyes. His skin color is much darker than Obama's."
Over the course of a nearly two hour interview, Taitz laid out the birther conspiracy in all its glory.
A note: You are about to read a recap of wild conspiratorial ravings. Rolling Stone repeats them here not to give credence to any of Taitz's fictions -- in particular her efforts to link the president to murders and homosexual relationships. Rather it is to offer readers an unvarnished look at lunatic foundations that gird the birther movement. Enjoy:
According to Taitz, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Kenya and brought to Hawaii by his mother, a wannabe welfare queen who was determined not to lose out on federal assistance during the time-consuming process of naturalizing her foreign-born son. "From what I understand," Taitz says, "his mother was on welfare at the time and if the child is 'born' here she could get welfare right away as a single mother."
In a baroque flourish to the birther mythology, Obama was not entitled to automatic citizenship through his mother, owing to a technicality: "At that time," Taitz insists, "U.S. immigration and naturalization laws stated that when you're born to one U.S. citizen parent and one foreign national, the U.S. citizen parent had to have lived in the country for five years after age 14, meaning the mother has to be at least 19-years-old. When Obama was born," Taitz claims, "his mother was only 18-years-old. So he was not a U.S. citizen automatically."
To establish Barack as her anchor baby for welfare, Obama's mother instead filed for a Hawaiian birth certificate, says Taitz, which she insists at the time could be acquired "based on the statement of one relative only without any corroborating evidence from the hospital."
This explains why the birthers are not persuaded by the "Certification of Live Birth" the president has produced, or by the contemporary newspaper announcements triggered by its issuance and instead seek the original hospital records: "If you look at the document that Obama has posted on the Internet," Taitz says, "look for the name of the hospital. There is none. Look for the name of the doctor. There is none. Look for signatures. There are none."
Yet even if the original hospital birth record were to be handed to her by God himself, that would not persuade Taitz and her followers of Obama's legitimacy. Indeed, Taitz claims that the founder's definition of "nautral born citizen" meant a child born to two parents who were both citizens. "Based on that fact alone, " Taitz says, "Obama cannot be U.S. president because he had split allegiance from the time of his birth until now."
What exactly are these "spit allegiances"? Taitz believes that Obama, while never naturalized as an American, is a citizen of Kenya, as well as its former colonial occupier the United Kingdom, and of Indonesia. The crazy keeps cascading from there. The president, she claims, has "39 different social security numbers." She adds: "There are reports that Obama never had a US passport until he got a diplomatic passport in 2004. There were some speculations of his travels with his Indonesian passport until 2004."
And then there are the hit jobs: Referencing an incident in 2008 in which the passport records of the presidential candidates were breached, Taitz claims a young man who was cooperating with FBI in the investigation was found shot in the head. "Maybe there was something that they found," she says in a conspiratorial whisper, "something that somebody's hiding. We need to get to the bottom of this."
This is not the only execution Taitz tries to link to the president. Two gay members of Obama's Chicago church, she contends, also both ended up with gunshots to the head. "Who perpetrated the murder of those homosexual men from the church in Chicago?" she asks. "Both of them were murdered right before the Democratic primary. Possibly it has nothing to do with Obama," she says, before adding that one of the murdered men, "had homosexual relationship with Obama."
Taitz is sincere in her paranoia. She insisted to Rolling Stone that she had a date to make her case before the Supreme Court, but that her case was disappeared from the court's docket just following Obama's inauguration. "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts agreed to hear this case in the joint meeting of all nine justices on January 24th," she claims, "and right after the election on January 21st someone erased the case from the docket of the Supreme Court."
Taitz also insists her car exhaust system has been tampered with. "Honestly," she says, "I'm afraid I'm the next one that will be killed."
I asked Taitz what her endgame is. What do she and the birthers really want? The answer is the annulment not only of Obama's election but everything he's achieved while in the Oval Office.
"There are two precedents where by two senators were removed from office specifically because of the issue of citizenship and residency," Taitz says. "They were removed from office and a special election was held, and as a matter of fact all of their actions were nullified. So that's why I've been demanding that the Congress address this issue immediately because any and all action, any and all executive orders or laws signed by Obama would be deemed null and void if it was found that he is not eligible for presidency.
"So those who are now spending time and money and will on health care reform, we need to address the issue of Obama's legitimacy and eligibility for presidency, first and foremost. Because if he's not eligible then we can't talk about the healthcare, because if it's signed into law by Obama and he's not eligible then it's not binding. It's not real."