Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney officially embraced and re-ignited the "birther" movement and touched off a firestorm of protest across the airwaves and internet. In Michigan last Friday, Romney said, "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that I was born and raised."
President Obama should give a speech in Hawaii and say, “Everyone has seen my birth certificate, and know I was born and raised here in the great state of Hawaii. And everyone knows our trees are the right height.”
The dog whistle that Romney issued is representative of the characterization of President Obama as a foreigner; an accusation Republicans have been making since the day he took office. The mission of the Republican Party is to frame the president as someone who is un-American, from his heritage straight through to his policies. And now, a new documentary, 2016: Obama's America, is once again claiming the same thing.
It started with the birther movement. Four years after his election and despite repeated corroboration from the great state of Hawaii, 1 in 4 Americans still do not believe the president was born in the US. According to a CBS News Poll, among all Republicans, 45% believe Obama was born in another country, as do 45% of Tea Party supporters. But the birther movement is just the tip of the iceberg in the Republican strategy to characterize the president as un-American.
The Republican Party consistently argues that the president’s policies are based on a European model. Many Presidents have used Keynesian economics or principles, an injection of government spending to stimulate the economy. Republican Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush used stimulus packages but were never considered to be under European influence.
The Republican Party has argued that the Affordable Care Act is based on a European model of universal health care. Every president from Teddy Roosevelt, to FDR, to Truman has advocated a form of universal health care, but they were not accused of being under European influence. The Massachusetts plan implemented by Romney, and the Heritage Foundation plan, that were the blueprint for the ACA are not characterized as being European in nature.
The Republicans appear to be hell bent on portraying this president as something other than American. Throughout their base, we still hear accusations that the president is Muslim and a socialist, connotations that suggest that the president is un-American. A July Pew Research survey found 12% of Americans continue to say Barack Obama is Muslim.
In a National Review Online interview, former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. John Sununu, former Governor of New Hampshire and Chairman of Romney’s National Steering Committee, suggested that the president is un-American when he said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” Later, Sununu was forced to apologize for the remark. In a November 2009 interview with the National Constitution Center, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, said that the Affordable Care Act puts the “government on the road to European Socialism, a different kind of America."
Conservative talk show radio consistently promotes theories that the president is un-American. Conservative talk show host, Michael Savage has called the president a “fiscal Marxist” and a “new Hugo Chavez.” “So there’s communism,” he said. “That’s Karl Marx Obama. That’s Hugo Chavez Obama. That’s Joseph Stalin Obama. This is a very dangerous man.” He writes, “We will very likely not survive as a free nation after four more years under Obama’s rule” implying that the president is a radical leftist carrying out a Venezuela-style revolution. Jeffrey T. Kuhner a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the conservative Edmund Burke Institute said, “President Obama is gradually transforming America into a socialist authoritarian state.” Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said, “This is what we have as a president: A radical ideologue, a ruthless politician who despises the country and the way it was founded and the way in which it became great. He hates it.”
Now, we have a new 'documentary' which promises to demystify the president, but more than likely will continue to build on the theme that President Obama is un-American and does not share American ideals. Dinesh D'Souza’s 2016: Obama's America, is based on his book The Roots of Obama's Rage. The film assesses Obama's life, career and first term through the prism of his father's life in Kenya. D'Souza is a conservative talk show/news regular and was once a political advisor to President Ronald Reagan. In his book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, D’Souza wrote that President Obama is “a man driven by the anti-colonial ideology of his father and the first American president to actually seek to reduce America's strength, influence, and standard of living.” The L.A. Times writes that “Mr. D’Souza’s film suggests that the President favors the rise of the Third World over America. An approach he describes as “The United States of Islam.””
Monday, in an interview session on the news program Morning Joe talk show host Chris Matthews accused Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman and his party of playing the race card.
A pattern has emerged in the Republican Party. The Republican Party wants the general electorate to feel comfortable with the idea that the president is anti-America, is not an American, and does not support American ideals. Accusations of treason result in wild applause at Republican events and go unchallenged by Republican presidential candidates. A signal that the strategy is entrenched and working.
A few Republican leaders have stood up and refused to go along with this strategy. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “I'm here to tell you that those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy. He's not a Muslim. He's a good man, and let's knock this crap off and talk about the real differences we have.” Former presidential candidate and war hero, John McCain, was roundly rebuked within the Republican Party and its base when he said the president is “a decent family man and citizen that I just have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
The Republican strategy to paint President Obama as un-American or anti-American is a losing tactic. Independents and moderates, the deciding vote in the 2012 election, are turned off by the message. They know President Obama is an American: He is decidedly pro-America;he is a shining example of the American dream; his story is a uniquely American story. A child from a broken home, never knowing his father, goes on to excel in school. He works hard and receives an Ivy League education. He fulfills the dream of every kid and reinforces the lesson we are all taught in school – if you work hard, get an education, you can be anything you want in this world including president. What is so un-American about that?