In the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup, there’s a scene where Chico’s character, Chicolini, is on trial. The prosecutor asks, “Chicolini, when were you born?” Chico answers: “I don’t remember. I was just a little baby.”
I’ve though of this line while reading about the latest installment in Breitbart.com’s “vetting” of the President. It seems a 1991 pamphlet from his literary agent described him as “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.” Almost everyone is saying it’s a simple fact-checking error. Even Breitbart.com doesn’t claim it as evidence he actually was born in Kenya; rather, they say:
It is evidence–not of the President’s foreign origin, but that Barack Obama’s public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.
First of all, this is almost certainly true, as it is true of every other politician. How often have you seen a Presidential candidate, on a visit to Pittsburgh say “Go Steelers! I’ll fight for you in Washington as hard as Hines Ward blocks.” and then the next day in Wisconsin say “You know, my mother’s best friend’s brother had a cousin from Wisconsin, and I’ve always had a soft spot for those Packers. How ’bout Aaron Rodgers, huh?”
So, it’s kind of a waste of time to say “hey, look; this guy presents himself differently according to the situation! He is unfit to be President!” They all do that. Even if this isn’t a typo–and it probably is–it’s not important.
I hate the phrase “dog-whistle” used in regards to politics. It’s often used as a cheap excuse to say “well you didn’t say [awful, usually racist thing], but it’s what you meant.” That’s dishonest debating. But in this case, it seems almost like Breitbart.com is actually saying (aside, to conservatives) “Here’s evidence he was born in Kenya.” (aloud, to world in general) “We’re not saying this means he was born in Kenya; we just think he’s a liar!”
Although, at least the allegation that he was born in Kenya, crazy as it is, would be important if true. (Which it isn’t.) It relates to an actual legal issue of his eligibility to be President. The stated allegation from Breitbart.com, in contrast, is a stupid bit of minutiae even if it’s true.