Here is what I took away from this exchange:
MR. GREGORY: What you're saying, "It's good enough for me," is that really standing up and saying, for those who believe that or who would talk about that--you had a member of Congress, you had a new tea party freshman who was out just yesterday speaking to conservatives, and he said, "I'm fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth, and I do have a birth certificate to prove it." That was Raul Labrador, a new--a congressman from Idaho. Is that an appropriate way for your members to speak?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: The gentleman was, was trying to be funny, I would imagine. But remember something, it's not--it really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what to think. There's a lot of information out there, people read a lot of things...
Mr. Speaker, this joke is getting old.
Members of your party are taking this “joke” seriously. Just ask the Iowa GOP Caucus Voters that participated in a focus group:
Or how about the twelve members of the House that identify as “Birthers”:
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN 7)
Dan Burton (R-IN 5)
John Campbell (R-CA 48)
John Carter (R-TX 31)
John Culberson (R-TX 7)
Trent Franks (R-AZ 2)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX 1)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6)
Kenny Marchant (R-TX 24)
Randy Neugebauer (R-TX 19)
Ted Poe (R-TX 2)
Bill Posey (R-FL 15)
Mr. Speaker, you are the Speaker of The House: a position that wields a lot of power, influence, and respect.
Already, at a minimum, you have been confronted about this twice.
Instead of calling what it is, as you eloquently put it once regarding the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, you have decided to idly sit by and appease those who subscribe to these thoughts that do not even meet the basic standards of logic and reasoning.
Mr. Speaker, this “Birther” stuff is “Chicken Crap.”
Had there been anyone who questioned the citizenship of an elected official in any point in our nation’s history they would have been allowed to continue on their path to oblivion without any opposition.
Instead today, they make up the political discussion of this country.
I highly doubt it that anyone questioned the citizenship of eight of our first nine presidents: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William Harry Harrison. These eight men, who held the office of President, were born prior to 4 July 1776. Martin Van Buren, our eighth president, was born after the declaration of independence from Britain but prior to the establishment of our constitution in 1787.
Take a guess which country they were born in prior to that date?
Not the United States of America, since that country did not exist at the time of their respective births. Technically, they were subjects to the British Crown having been birthed in the British Colonies of North America.
So, if you were take an exact wording of the Constitution about the qualifications to serve as President, as these people claim to, our first nine Presidents would have been ineligible to serve because their places of birth (Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina) were not in the United States at the time of their births. The other criteria to citizenship if one is born outside of the U.S.: if one parent is a U.S. citizen. None of our first nine Presidents were born to a parent that had U.S. citizenship because the United States was not in existence.
To the Birthers: where is the demand to have George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson to produce their birth certificates?
There is a problem though…
Their citizenship status was grandfathered upon the establishment of the United States under its current Constitution on 17 September 1787. Similar if a Presidential Candidate was born in a U.S. Territory such as: Puerto Rico, Guam, Alaska and Hawaii prior to statehood in 1959, or on Coco Solo Naval Air Base in August 1936 to American citizens.
In no way am I questioning the citizenship of our first nine presidents which is obviously insane. The point I am making is that my arguments are backed up by facts. It is a fact that George Washington was born in Pope’s Creek, VA on 22 February 1732, almost a half-century prior to the establishment of the United States of America under its current Constitution. It is a fact that Barack Obama was born on 4 August 1961 to the parents of Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Dunham in Honolulu, HI; a state that had barely been in the United States for two years.
If you are willing to accept the false accusation that Barack Obama was not born in this country, then you have to accept the reasoning through proof and facts that through a technicality eight of our first nine Presidents were at the time of their births citizens of the British Crown. Again, if someone was to publicly exercise the claim that George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were constitutionally ineligible to serve as President at the time of their administrations, they would be laughed as a fool and treated as such.
The people who continue to support these claims that President Obama was not born in the United States must be ostracized for the lunatics that they are, Mr. Speaker.
The Birther Conspiracy Theory is not invading your party’s message; it has infected it. A recent Public Policy Polling report conducted among 400 persons nationwide who plan to cast a vote in the 2012 Republican primary states that:
A 51% majority of national GOP primary voters erroneously think President Obama was not born in the U.S. 28% know that he was.
When this question was asked in August 2009, it was 44-36 in favor of the “Birther Conspiracy.”
I can only imagine what the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary is going to look like. The “Birther Conspiracy” may play well within the GOP but not with the general electorate.
I am reminded of one of the earliest episodes in American history where a President was questioned about his legitimacy to hold the office and played a role in the downfall of a major political party. Ironically this President was born after the establishment of our Constitution.
President John Tyler
The same John Tyler who became President after the sudden death of William Henry Harrison who had caught pneumonia while delivering the longest inaugural address ever on an unexpectedly cold day in March 1841. The same John Tyler who would join the Confederacy and wind up elected to their House of Representatives but died prior to taking office.
If you want questions of legitimacy to the Presidency, John Tyler faced them throughout his term. Upon receiving word of President Harrison’s passing, Tyler arrived in Washington, DC on 6 April 1841 at 4 AM to take the oath of office and calling Harrison’s cabinet to a meeting where he asserted that he was the President by terminating Harrison’s practice of making policy by a majority of cabinet members.
A constitutional question was raised whether the office of the presidency simply “devolved” onto the former Vice President or just its powers and duties as expressed in the Constitution:
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.
Members of his OWN party such as John Quincy Adams, a former President who later went on to represent Massachusetts’s 12th district in the House, argued that Tyler should assume the role as a caretaker with the title of “Acting President.” Henry Clay, who had been one of the most powerful House Speakers and at the time the Whig Leader, saw this as his opportunity to be the man behind the scenes since Tyler and he were close friends.
As president, Tyler was not interested in this proposal. Tyler told Clay:
“Go you now, Mr. Clay, to your end of the avenue, where stands the Capitol, and there perform your duty to the country as you shall think proper. So help me God, I shall do mine at this end of it as I shall think proper.”
Two months into his term, both the House and Senate passed resolutions acknowledging Tyler as the tenth President of the United States. However, for the remainder of his time in office he was referred to as “His Accidency” and whenever he received letters to the White House addressed to the “Vice President” or “Acting President,” President Tyler returned them unopened.
Even in a House resolution calling for impeachment proceedings in January 1843 led by John Quincy Adams, the resolution referred to John Tyler as the “Vice President acting as President.” The vote for impeachment, which failed 83-127, was merely a political tool because Tyler frequently vetoed bills passed by the Whig dominated Congress and this was the Lame Duck Period of the 27th Congress.
Due to the questioning of his legitimacy, Tyler was at odds with members of his own party in the Congress. The Whigs believed that they could push their agenda through because they controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, but President Taylor stood in their path. He even vetoed a financial reform bill to counter the problems caused by the Panic of 1837… TWICE.
The second veto occurred in September 1841 AFTER Congress modified the bill to meet the demands after his first veto of the bill. The second veto resulted in a mass orchestrated resignation of his cabinet that was arranged by no other than Henry Clay. The only member of Tyler’s cabinet to not resign: Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who was finishing up a treaty with Great Britain concerning the boundary with Canada and to prove that he was independent of Clay. A few days later, Whigs voted Tyler out of their party and the political battles between the Whigs and Tyler continued.
Over the remainder of his term, Tyler would appoint a total of 22 men to occupy his six cabinet offices. This infighting and Tyler’s increasing unpopularity would cost the Whigs the House in the 1842 Elections and eventually both the Senate and the White House in 1844. Tyler attempted to run as a third party candidate that year, but withdrew from the race. He ended up supporting Democrat James K. Polk who defeated Henry Clay by 39,000 votes, the narrowest margin in the popular vote for any president with winning the Electoral College vote.
Even though the Whigs would score political victories by regaining control of the House in 1846 and the White House with the election of Mexican-American War hero Zachary Taylor in 1848, the political battles between Tyler and Clay caused a wide rift in the Whigs that could not be mended. The factions of Clay and Tyler eventually evolved into the issue that had dominated the American political landscape since the beginning of westward expansion: slavery.
For outside observers, it appeared that the Whigs were neutral on the issue, but eventually slavery would cause further splintering of the Party. Those that held pro and neutral positions within the Party faded away into political obscurity while those that held the abolitionists point of view formed their own party: the Republicans.
The chaotic destruction of Whigs gave birth to the Republican Party who held the principles of their predecessors and were united in saving the soul of the relatively young republic, by committing to ending of the practice of slavery.
Speaker Boehner, instead of allowing these Birthers to fade away into historical obscurity like the pro-slavery faction of the Whig Party or the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party, you have chosen to enable them by saying:
“It really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what to think.”
Then what the hell have you been doing in your almost 30-year career in American politics?
In your time campaigning for your seat in the US House, have you not told people why they should vote for you? Do you think you were elected to Republican Leader because you have physical traits that people like about you? Why did your caucus nominate you for the position of Speaker of the House?
Answer: You were elected because… (surprise) you told people what to think.
You told them to vote for you because you had a common interest with your electorate and then in the House, you told them that you would be the unifying voice for their party whether it was as a Party Leader or the eventual Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, when 12 members of the U.S. House and 51% of Republican primary voters are subscribing to this Birther Non-sense that even an elementary school student with a basic understanding of our Constitution can debunk in 2 minutes, it is no longer a problem; you have a crisis that requires fortitude.
Just saying, "It's good enough for me" does not go far enough. All you have done is enabled those corrupted and continue to spread this non-sense which is just as wrong as Rep. Raul Labrador’s (R-ID) statement at CPAC this last weekend.
A leader would tell them they are wrong and ensure a quick end to their political career; not: “It really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what to think.”
Mr. Speaker: that is your job. To end the madness. To stop the enabling.
It is time to remove the toxins of "Birthers", “Death Panels”, secessionist talk, and Second Amendment remedies that have made our political discourse as vile as when the country discussed Civil Rights in the 1950s-60s.
At this rate, Mr. Speaker, it will be you who will be deemed politically irrelevant once the insanity completely consumes your party. The rational ones with support will form smaller factions, but much like the smaller factions of Whigs post its dissolution, they will fade away. Historians will wonder what happened to the Party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. They will signal that it was you, Mr. Speaker, like John Tyler and Henry Clay with the Whigs in the 1840s, who began this era’s Republican Party decent into the political obscurity.
However, John Tyler had the courage to fight with members of his own party because of the continued question of his legitimacy as President because the country was still in shock over the sudden death of William Henry Harrison and over concerns about what would happen next because this had never happened before. Tyler, despite the conflicts with the legislature, provided stability during a period of difficult transition.
Speaker Boehner, you have struck your colors without sacrificing a bit of personal comfort and signed an unconditional surrender with the irrationality clearly dominating today’s Republican Party.