Saturday, August 25, 2012

For Mitt Romney, Barack Obama just doesn't belong

I have no doubt Mitt Romney knows Barack Obama was born in the United States, which is what makes his silly little joke at a rally in Michigan that much more disturbing. His campaign team sees it for what it is, a gaffe, and have been trying to suggest this had nothing to do with the birther nonsense, but was simply Romney's attempt at humour to do with the Romney's "coming home" to Michigan. Well, that's ridiculous.

As Greg Sargent writes:
Of course Romney fully believes Obama was born in the United States. But in a way, that’s the point — he’s still willing to dabble in birther humor, either to rev up his base by proving that he’s willing to take it to Obama or whatever, or for a cheap laugh, or for some combination of the two.

Sargent continues by making the point that on the heels of Todd Akin "legitimate rape" controversy, this is a "reminder of the extreme voices in the GOP, which Romney has at times been slow to denounce."
The fact that uncomfortably large numbers still believe Obama has perpetrated an elaborate plot to fake his birthplace and ascend to the presidency illegitimately is a pretty damn big deal. 
It will be easy for the Obama campaign to seize on this to raise questions about Romney’s judgment, temperament, and character. Wow.

I think that's all true, but I also think it's true that Romney's silly little joke betrays something he does believe, along with a disturbingly high percentage of conservative voters, and that is that Barack Obama's presidency is not legitimate. The birther controversy has always been short-hand for this perspective. Birtherism is short-hand for those who think this election is about "taking their country back." Why else would it continue to have legs long after it has been debunked by virtually anyone with a half a brain?

It wouldn't take long to find a series of clips in which Romney claims Obama's political positions are "foreign," or that he doesn't understand the way the American economy works, or the way the American people think, and other such nonsense.

You don't have to be a Freudian scholar to understand that jokes are frequently a passive-aggressive way to assert things we actually believe but that are too dangerous to say outright. Again, I don't think Romney believes President Obama was born anywhere but in the U.S., but I do believe he thinks Obama's presidency is illegitimate. Birtherism is a continuing bad joke to make that case.

Final comment: I found the youthful "indiscretion" of Mitt Romney holding down a fellow student who was "different," and violently cutting his hair, very instructive. Romney clearly has always had strong ideas about what it means to "belong," to be the "right kind of person," to be acceptable. From his earliest days, he has been more than a little annoyed by those who have failed to understand what is expected of them, who, perhaps, don't know their place.

No, these comments about Obama's birthplace and his foreign understanding shouldn't be taken literally, but their metaphorical sense is just as disturbing.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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