I understand that Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign was flailing and floundering. I understand that he was trying to do or say something, anything, that would lift him back to the frontrunner status that he’d so quickly fallen from.
But to rehash the so-thoroughly-debunked “birther” theories about President Obama, and then to couch it as a joke, is not only mean-spirited, unfounded and wrong. To do so was so fundamentally irresponsible as to call into question the candidate’s basic judgement so profoundly as to render him essentially unfit for the high office which he seeks.
Perry not once, but twice, tried in recent days to raise fresh questions about whether the president was indeed born in the United States and therefore legally entitled to hold the office. He should have picked up the phone and called Donald Trump on that one. It may seem an age away, but just six months ago Trump was building what appeared to be a surging White House bid precisely and entirely on the birther issue.
The president responded by releasing his “long-form birth certificate” — the exact document which birther conspiracy theorists had been demanding for years. Doing so popped immediately Trump’s presidential aspirations like the trial balloon that it was, and we fortunately have heard nary a presidential squeak from The Donald ever since.
Releasing the long-form certificate also presumably would put the whole stupid issue to rest permanently. Except that Perry resurrected the controversy for naked political gain, and then tried to spin it as just a little harmless fun: “It’s a good issue to keep alive. . . It’s fun to poke [Obama] a little bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’ I don’t have a clue about where the president — and what this birth certificate says.”
Governor Perry, you aren’t auditioning for some open-mic comedy show, you are campaigning to become the leader of the Free World. For a serious presidential candidate to call into question the legitimacy of the current occupant of that office is not a matter of simple tomfoolery. It’s a most serious charge, and in this case, to try to reiterate such a serious charge, one that’s already proven to be baseless on its face, isn’t only unpresidential, it’s so ridiculous as to clearly demonstrate that Perry just is not serious.
It’s so ridiculous that not one, not two, of but at least three,of Perry’s fellow Republicans had to call him out. “You associate yourself with a nutty view like that and you damage yourself,” Bush White House aide Karl Rove says. “. . . It starts to marginalize you in the minds of some of the people whom you need in order to get the election.” Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi and a former chairman of the Republican Party, also took Perry to the woodshed. The birther issue, Barbour says, is “not good for the Republicans.” “Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States,” says former Florida governor Jeb Bush. “It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President.”
Congratulations, Governor Perry. In trying to somehow prove Barack Obama isn’t a legitimate president, you proved you aren’t much of a legitimate candidate.