“Birthers” seem to be all the rage nowadays. We speak, of course, of conspiracy theorists who have convinced themselves that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, but instead made his debut in Kenya and, therefore, is ineligible to be president. Never mind that it is possible to see Obama’s birth certificate online or that Hawaii has repeatedly declared it to be real or that there were two separate birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers on the day of Obama’s birth. None of this is likely to convince someone who believes in a conspiracy of anything other than the lengths to which a cover-up will go.
But conspiracy theorists usually operate somewhere out on the fringes of politics, whereas the birther movement has increasingly been pushing itself front and center. Its appeal is hard to pin down, although Wired writer Steve Silberman posited a theory in an impressive 140 characters on Twitter, saying, “Birther hysteria is shadow play in the Jungian sense. Obama is ‘other’ to them b/c he’s black, so they make him an alien usurper.” Whatever their reasons, birthers have gotten angry enough and public enough to disturb meetings, prompting 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson to complain to Politico in a story on the birther phenomenon that conspiracy theorists have made parts of his job impossible: “Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down … That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”
Of course, you can’t say that one-quarter of your constituency consists of conspiracy theorists without somebody hollering, and, as Polinaut points out, that somebody was Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton, who declared Peterson’s comments “outrageous and offensive.” On Monday, Peterson tried to clarify his comments in an apologetic press release, republished, in part, in Polinaut: “The other point I was trying to make is that there are people in the 7th District who freely identify themselves as outside the mainstream — on the left and on the right — who try to hijack public forums like town hall meetings.”
In an undoubtedly futile attempt to deflate the birther phenomenon, Hawaiian Rep. Neil Abercrombie introduced a bill declaring Hawaii as the official birthplace of Barack Obama. As City Pages points out, drawing from Daily Kos, the resolution was quickly blocked by none other than Michele Bachmann, invoking quorum rules. Her obstruction was short-lived, however, and once a quorum was present, Bachmann voted for the bill, which passed unanimously.
In the meanwhile, Bachmann’s old nemesis, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has officially declared his candidacy for her 6th District seat, as the Star Tribune reports. Tinklenberg was unsparing of Bachmann in an email to supporters, saying her tenure has been “a history of embarrassments.”
So we know where Tinklenberg stands, but what of Norm Coleman, who has hinted at a possible run at governor? According to the Associated Press, Coleman won’t be making any decisions about his candidacy until spring. KSTP has a different story, however. According to them, Coleman has privately been telling people that he will not run.
In other election news, the Associated Press reports that the GOP recruitment committee is meeting today in Duluth to look for candidates for attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor; all three jobs are currently filled by Democrats; KARE11 compares Tim Pawlenty’s lead-in to a presidential run to Palin’s (“very different,” the station concludes).
The second anniversary of the collapse of the 35W bridge is fast approaching, but the Associated Press reports that no public events are planned to commemorate the day. A representative from Mayor R.T. Rybak’s office, quoted in the story, says the reason is that survivors of the bridge collapse and others connected to the event have indicated a desire to move on with their lives.
The American Jewish World sums up the controversy generated by a brief comment by local Chabad Rabbi Manis Friedman, who was quoted in Moment Magazine’s “Ask the Rabbis” column as saying, “The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children [and cattle]” in response to the question “How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors?” Friedman complained that his quote was out of context and represented a specifically Old Testament approach to the question. Author Gershom Gorenberg provides some context of his own in the newest issue of Moment: “Friedman may think he’s presenting old-time Judaism. In fact, his words are an example of the thoroughly modern phenomenon known as fundamentalism. Fundamentalists are frightened by the openness of the modern world, by the autonomy of the individual, by modern insistence on reaching truth through reasoned debate.”
City Pages points us to an unexpectedly entertaining series of photographs, in which Al Franken discovers one of the pitfalls of being a professional politician: Sometimes, when you go to kiss a baby, they respond by biting your nose.
In sports: FOX9 details the Timberwolves trade of center Etan Thomas for point guard Chucky Atkins from Oklahoma City; the station also reports that Brett Favre’s indecisiveness has become the subject of a Sears commercial, in which the quarterback labors over a decision about which LED television to purchase.