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Is Talk of Obama's Citizenship to His Benefit?

Is Talk of Obama's Citizenship to His Benefit?

Date: Friday, February 18, 2011, 6:13 am
By: Frederick Cosby, Special to

Fifty-one percent of Republican voters don’t think President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (AP)

Some prominent Republicans are finally stepping up to say that "birthers" – people who don’t believe that President Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen – are giving the GOP a bad name.

But while condemning birthers, some Republicans also accused Obama of keeping the non-question of his citizenship alive as part of a sophisticated 2012 election trap set for the GOP to improve his chances of winning a second term.

Karl Rove, former senior advisor to former President George W. Bush, warned on Fox News Wednesday night that “Within our party, we’ve got to be very careful about allowing these people who are the birthers and the 9/11-deniers to get too high a profile and say too much without setting the record straight.”

“We need the leaders of our party to say, ‘Look, stop falling into the trap of the White House and focus on the real issues,’” he said.

But GOP leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate have been reluctant to do that. Instead, they routinely hem and haw, wink and nod when asked about Obama’s citizenship rather than firmly acknowledge that the president was born on U.S. soil.

For the record, Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. The tropical islands went from U.S. territory to 50th state in August 1959, nearly two years before Obama was born. His birth certificate has been verified by Hawaii government officials, and there were notices of his birth placed in Honolulu’s two newspapers in 1961.

Under the U.S. Constitution, presidential candidates must be natural-born citizens. For example, the Constitution would have to be amended in order for former California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria, to run for president.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may not want to answer the question directly because the Obama birth question apparently has legs among Republican voters.

A poll released earlier this week by the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 51 percent of Republican voters don’t think Obama was born in the United States. In 2009, PPP conducted a similar poll that revealed 44 percent of GOP voters had doubts about Obama’s citizenship.

At least 10 state legislatures have introduced bills that would require presidential candidates to provide some form of evidence that they are natural-born citizens.

Rove said birthers are leading the Republican Party into a White House trap.

“This is the White House strategy; they love this,” said Rove, who declared that he believes that Obama was born in Hawaii. “Look, the president could come out and say ‘Here are the documents,’ but they are happy to have this controversy continue ... Every moment the conservatives talk about this, they marginalize themselves and diminish themselves in the minds of independent voters.”

The diminishing and marginalizing continued Thursday when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who flirts on the edge of birtherism, repeated the half-hearted GOP line when asked on ABC about her beliefs on Obama’s citizenship.

“We should take the president at his word,” Bachmann said, echoing a line often used by Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and other key Republicans.

Some Republicans had a hard time believing the PPP survey results that so many in the party don’t think Obama is an American citizen.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who will run for the senate seat held by retiring Sen. Jon Kyl, told CNN that “most people understand and accept the reality — the reality is that, yes, he was born in the United States.”

“We ought to get off this kick,” Flake told CNN. “There are plenty of differences we have with the president between Republicans and Democrats than .....

Is Talk of Obama's Citizenship to His Benefit?