On the heels of what some in conservative media circles are heralding as a "breakthrough" story and "journalism in its purest form" -- the Breitbart.com piece highlighting a 1991 pamphlet that erroneously listed President Obama's birthplace as Kenya -- Rush Limbaugh entertained the "thought-provoking theory" on Friday that Obama is actually the one who started the birther conspiracies to take advantage of an "affirmative action opportunity that was available only to those born in Africa."
Limbaugh stated that he agreed with this premise and that the final takeaway from all of this was that "the guy" -- Obama -- "will exaggerate, make it up, lie, what have you. That's the lesson to be learned here."
It's unclear where this "theory" originated, but Limbaugh was referring to a piece posted at Pajamas Media on Friday by Roger Simon, who purported to guide readers through the "mystery of the Kenyan birth" and offered several "explanations" for why the pamphlet, published by Obama's former literary agency in 1991, said Obama was "born in Kenya." He ultimately concluded that "the agent's source for Obama's birthplace was... Barack Obama." Simon went on to write:
Why would he lie about where he was born?
Well, he might have wanted to glamorize his past, but if that's so, it's pathetic. I suspected there was a more substantive reason, one that would cause him to leave his African birth place in place in the bio. But to take the risk of being found out, it would have to be strong.
What if, we thought, as others have suggested, the reason Obama's school records have not surfaced is that he enrolled, at one of those institutions at least, as a foreign student -- a Kenyan?
But why would he choose to do that? Well, maybe for a grant, a subvention, a scholarship that was available uniquely to students from Africa or similar locales.
Yes, I know that's not "fair," in the lexicon of the Lord of Fairness, to have adopted a phony identity and deprived others of an opportunity they may have more richly deserved. But it would certainly fit with Obama's early need to be recognized as a Kenyan by his agent and, presumably, his publisher. As we all know, it's not the crime, but the cover-up. (In this case, actually, it's both.)
As time went on, of course, college drifted away and politics reared its head. The Kenyan identity became less necessary, even a liability, so it was dropped.
I don't know about you -- but this makes sense to me. It also fits with the tomb-like silence around his college years.
But I could be wrong.
The conservative Powerline blog, which Limbaugh cited, jumped on Simon's thread, calling the theory "intriguing" and "thought-provoking."
Sadly, there is nothing "intriguing" or "thought-provoking" about entertaining conspiracies that are being pulled, as far as I can tell, from the air -- especially when so many holes have been poked into this particular birther bubble:
- News outlets were reporting in 1990, prior to the pamphlet's publication, that Obama was born in Hawaii.
- The literary agency, Acton & Dystel, has explained that the "born in Kenya" line "was nothing more than a fact checking error."
- In April 2011, the White House released a copy of Obama's original, long-form birth certificate -- the one birthers demanded after being unsatisfied with Obama's certificate of live birth.
There's more here if you care to look.
But Limbaugh wasn't the only one who thought this "theory" was worth discussing. On his radio show on Friday, Fox News' Mike Huckabee suggested that Obama said he was born in Kenya to "present himself as an internationally themed author." Huckabee added: "I don't know, but he ought to tell us. I mean, he's the president, for heaven's sake. We ought to find out."
In his May 17 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto noted that "[o]f course Obama wasn't born in Kenya," but he nevertheless speculated that Obama was behind the error:
One innocent possibility is that the young Obama himself was for a time under the misapprehension that he was born in Kenya -- a parallel to [Elizabeth] Warren's assertion that she simply believed the "family lore" about her Indian heritage. Although one is physically present for one's own birth, one is not in any meaningful sense a witness to it. Obama, like the rest of us, knows he was born in Hawaii only because others have told him so and official documents say so.
In any case, Obama's putative foreign birth fit in with the image his agents were trying to sell: that of a young man whose exotic background gave him a pertinent perspective on "social and racial issues." Obama, like Warren, was a product of elite academia, which places a great premium on such "diversity." When tales of exotic origins become a kind of currency, it shouldn't surprise us to find that prominent people, when they were young and ambitious, turn out to have passed counterfeits.
Hot Air's Allahpundit concurred, writing that this is "another case of Obama, who once famously described himself as a 'blank slate' for voters, re-inventing his identity for professional gain. An author born in colonial Kenya sounds more worldly at first blush than one born in Honolulu."
There have been absurd theories thrown at Obama since he came on the national scene -- remember the postman? The birth certificate stamp? The watermarks from Photoshop? This latest embarrassing failure fits right in.