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The empty chair advantage

Sometimes I wonder if Obama is playing the birthers like a cheap violin

I don’t spend much time reading liberal sources and watching liberal commentators, so I can’t characterize them, but at least in anecdote I can report a theme, and that is that the birthers are good for Barack Obama.

One example is the Martin Bashir program on the Arpaio Cold Case Posse investigation of Obama on MSNBC that I linked to previously. On that program, commentator Goldie Taylor said:

I’ve heard a lot of my colleagues call this the “politics of otherness.” This is just their way of calling the President something else, like “Muslim,” like, you know, “illegal immigrant.” … So they can get around saying what they want to say, and that word we won’t use on this television today. This is just a cover for their own bigotry. …

You know what I love about it? What I love about it is that it’s going to remind people there there is a reason to go to the polls this fall. I think that this is a bad miscalculation on their part, if they believe that they can whip up, that they can incite this kind of hatred, push this kind of bigotry, and that the American people won’t respond.

Each time I hear this sort of thing my knee-jerk reaction is that it is just self-serving rhetoric – spin if you will. However, I am reconsidering the possibility that encouraging birtherism may actually be part of the Obama re-election campaign strategy, exactly as Karl Rove described it:

This is the White House strategy. … The President can come out and say “here are the documents.” But they’re happy to have this controversy continue because every moment the Conservatives talk about this, they marginalize themselves and diminish themselves in the minds of independent voters.

What got me thinking about this was what Obama and Democrat attorneys have done, or more accurately what they have not done in defending recent ballot challenges. What they could have easily done was to submit a certified copy of the President’s birth certificate (the short form). Instead, in Georgia supposedly an uncertified copy of the long form was sent to the Secretary of State, and a hyperlink to a web page containing the form was submitted in Mississippi. This, along with Jablonski’s non-appearance in Georgia and the empty chair in Indiana could be viewed as egging the birthers on. It was only when people started taking birthers seriously did the White House respond, as it did last April when it released the long form birth certificate.

The examples I have cited are a long way from sufficient evidence of an intentional Obama campaign strategy of nurturing birthers just enough to use them to discredit conservatives in general, but in the future I’ll not be dismissing such claims as just rhetoric.

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57 Responses to The empty chair advantage

  1. avatar
    katahdin March 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    While I don’t think the Obama campaign is deliberately egging the birthers on, I do think they know a political gift when they see one, and they would be negligent, if not stupid, to ignore the lovely conundrum that the birthers present to Republicans.
    The only real energy in the Republican party comes from the tea party and best part of of them are birthers. It was a local tea party group that persuaded Joe Arpaio to launch his “investigation” of the president’s birth certificate. So Republicans don’t want to alienate them. But independent and conservative Democratic voters regard the birthers as loons. Thus Republicans are forced to do a difficult balancing act: flirt with the birthers covertly while denying them publicly.
    If they weren’ such race-baiting creeps, I’d feel sorry for them.

  2. avatar
    Jim March 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    I don’t think you can dismiss it just out of hand that the campaign might be trying to use this. But after watching this for 3+ years and seeing how once you answer them by giving them what they want, they just move the goal post, it’s more likely that they’ve just decided that all they can do is show how ridiculous their demands are. If they’re never going to be satisfied, why bother? The President has won every court case, shown both the long and short form BC, provided all the proof possible. At some point you just have to consider them a joke and let the other side worry about them.

  3. avatar
    G March 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    I’m with you on this.

    Jim: I don’t think you can dismiss it just out of hand that the campaign might be trying to use this. But after watching this for 3+ years and seeing how once you answer them by giving them what they want, they just move the goal post, it’s more likely that they’ve just decided that all they can do is show how ridiculous their demands are. If they’re never going to be satisfied, why bother? The President has won every court case, shown both the long and short form BC, provided all the proof possible. At some point you just have to consider them a joke and let the other side worry about them.

  4. avatar
    Scientist March 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    I think this is giving the birthers way more importance than they actually have. They have never mattered. Obama was leading in the polls before he released the COLB in 2008 and the release went completely unnoticed and had no discernable poll impact at all. It’s hard to say about the long form release, because it came at the same time as bin Laden, but I would be surprised if it changed the approval ratings at all.

    Obama’s approval has tracked the economy, consumer confidence, jobs., etc. pretty well. 0.1% on the unemployment rate has more impact than 833 birther court cases and pressers.

    I’m with James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid”. Only a major foreign policy crisis would alter that.

  5. avatar
    mary March 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    While I agree with Katahdin that OFA would be foolish to look the birther gift horse in the mouth, I do think that Obama voters are enraged by this and it is a further incentive to go to the polls. I spent the fall collecting signatures to force a referendum on Ohio’s voter suppression law. Voters aren’t stupid and it was obvious who the targets of the law were. We submitted nearly double the amount of signatures needed. The birthers and the voter suppression laws are just part of disrespect shown to the President and the 69 million voters who elected him. I hope and believe that the anger which is building will spur the turnout we need to win.

  6. avatar
    CarlOrcas March 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    There’s no advantage to Obama in engaging them. In fact it gives them credibility they don’t deserve and, in the end, it won’t make any difference.

  7. avatar
    Fazil Iskander March 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Something else to consider: when the “Swift Boat Veterans” – Jerome Corsi, again – smeared John Kerry, the Kerry campaign did what reasonable people do with fanatics: ignore them, in the reasonable belief that the electorate will not take them seriously. Surprise, the electorate did take the Swift Boat crew seriously, or seriously enough to damage the Kerry campaign. It’s kind of amusing, don’t you think, that Karl Rove is now accusing the White House of covertly colluding with “birthers” for it’s own political gain? The Bush campaign – run by Rove – did much the same thing and won an election.

    The question to ask, in light of the “Swift Boat Campaign” against John Kerry is: how does a politician deal with smears – or insane attacks – against him/her? Ignoring them seems no longer to work. In a close election, the numbers of those persuaded by “fruitcakes” (the technical term) may be significant enough to alter the result. If you attack them, the (somewhat justified) response is: “Why are you attacking fruitcakes? They’re harmless. Attacking them makes you look bad.”

    The Obama administration has done a little of both things: it’s ignored and attacked. It has also made fun of them, when making fun of them suits the re-election campaign’s purpose. But, in the end, this is fairly new ground. In an age when paranoia is a political tool – a thing that can be used – paranoia will be exploited. The defense against this kind of attack has to be handled sensibly and sensitively, but you also have to belittle (or take out) the threat. I don’t see that the Obama campaign could really behave much differently that they have. If ignoring “birthers” doesn’t work, and attacking them makes you seem petty, what are they reasonably to do? (And you know as well as anybody else on the planet, Doc, that providing documentation, when dealing with birthers, is a strategy that will only lead further into the mire.)

  8. avatar
    ASK Esq March 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Of course the campaign knows there is value in the birthers being associated with the Republicans and/or conservatives. After all, you can buy the coffee mug and t-shirt from the campaign. However, I doubt the campaign strategy is having any influence on the legal strategy. The lawyers know that they don’t have to do much of anything to win, and providing the courts with a certified birth certificate, while making victory easy, would do nothing to quell the birthers’ blind fury. They know they’re going to win even if they do basically nothing, because that’s the way the law works. If the claim was that President Obama was actually a replicant, they wouldn’t need to submit MRI films to show he’s human, they’d just win once the court heard the plaintiffs’ arguments.

  9. avatar
    ellen March 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Re: “The question to ask, in light of the “Swift Boat Campaign” against John Kerry is: how does a politician deal with smears – or insane attacks – against him/her? Ignoring them seems no longer to work. In a close election, the numbers of those persuaded by “fruitcakes” (the technical term) may be significant enough to alter the result. If you attack them, the (somewhat justified) response is: “Why are you attacking fruitcakes? They’re harmless. Attacking them makes you look bad.”

    I think the answer is that you have to answer the insane claim immediately, and then come up with a lie in a month or so (so as not to show that it was done simply in response) that is equally vicious and equally insane–but one that is believable–against the opponent.

  10. avatar
    Scientist March 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Actually, Obama ignored the birthers in 2008 and it worked pretty well. Remember, the COLB was released to prove his middle name was not Mohammed and there was very little press coverage of the release.. I don’t believe he ever said a word about his birthplace at any point in the 2008 campaign.

  11. avatar
    jayhg March 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    I think you can dismiss it out of hand. There is no way the President’s team is egging on birthers. They make fun of birthers and by putting the birth certificate on a mug, but saying that the president could have easily done [fill in the blank] has been proven to not work. Birthers are not satisfied with ANYTHING….so just because the president’s team makes fun of them and the fact that they will never be satisfied can not be seen to be “egging them on.”

    I’m surprised at you, Dr. Conspiracy, and also surprised that you posted “democrat” attorneys. That’s “democratic attorneys.” Have you gone a little bit birther…….

  12. avatar
    jayhg March 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    katahdin: While I don’t think the Obama campaign is deliberately egging the birthers on, I do think they know a political gift when they see one, and they would be negligent, if not stupid, to ignore the lovely conundrum that the birthers present to Republicans.The only real energy in the Republican party comes from the tea party and best part of of them are birthers. It was a local tea party group that persuaded Joe Arpaio to launch his “investigation” of the president’s birth certificate. So Republicans don’t want to alienate them. But independent and conservative Democratic voters regard the birthers as loons. Thus Republicans are forced to do a difficult balancing act: flirt with the birthers covertly while denying them publicly.If they weren’ such race-baiting creeps, I’d feel sorry for them.

    I agree with THIS assessment of the birthers and republicans totally.

  13. avatar
    jayhg March 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Scientist: I think this is giving the birthers way more importance than they actually have. They have never mattered. Obama was leading in the polls before he released the COLB in 2008 and the release went completely unnoticed and had no discernable poll impact at all. It’s hard to say about the long form release, because it came at the same time as bin Laden, but I would be surprised if it changed the approval ratings at all.Obama’s approval has tracked the economy, consumer confidence, jobs., etc. pretty well. 0.1% on the unemployment rate has more impact than 833 birther court cases and pressers.I’m with James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid”. Only a major foreign policy crisis would alter that.

    Again………..AGREED 1000%

  14. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Actually, I considered “Democrat attorney” to be the correct phrase, an attorney for the democrats. I wrote it both ways and picked the one I thought better. One may argue what’s right, but I was in no way supporting or condoning the misnaming of the Democratic party.

    jayhg: I’m surprised at you, Dr. Conspiracy, and also surprised that you posted “democrat” attorneys. That’s “democratic attorneys.” Have you gone a little bit birther

  15. avatar
    Joe Acerbic March 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Extremely few conservative politicians dare say straight that birfoons are wrong and should stop. The “best” they can do is always “they are entitled to their opinions”, “I’m not going to tell people what to think” etc.

    They discredit themselves.

  16. avatar
    Keith March 8, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    Actually, I considered “Democrat attorney” to be the correct phrase, an attorney for the democrats. I wrote it both ways and picked the one I thought better. One may argue what’s right, but I was in no way supporting or condoning the misnaming of the Democratic party.

    perhaps ‘Democratic Party attorney’?

  17. avatar
    Tomtech March 9, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    Fazil IskanderThe question to ask is: how does a politician deal with smears – or insane attacks – against him/her?

    A Fogbow member suggested that the Press Secretary tell everyone in the Press Corp that the Sheriff Joe has determined that the document they saw, photographed, and touched last year never existed.

  18. avatar
    G March 9, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    All good points.

    Yes, the “Swift Boat” BS taught us that you cannot simply allow such unfounded smears to go unchallenged.

    The true art is finding the fine line of debunking and denouncing the BS, without “dignifying it” or responding to it any more than is necessary.

    Fazil Iskander: The Obama administration has done a little of both things: it’s ignored and attacked. It has also made fun of them, when making fun of them suits the re-election campaign’s purpose. But, in the end, this is fairly new ground. In an age when paranoia is a political tool – a thing that can be used – paranoia will be exploited. The defense against this kind of attack has to be handled sensibly and sensitively, but you also have to belittle (or take out) the threat. I don’t see that the Obama campaign could really behave much differently that they have. If ignoring “birthers” doesn’t work, and attacking them makes you seem petty, what are they reasonably to do? (And you know as well as anybody else on the planet, Doc, that providing documentation, when dealing with birthers, is a strategy that will only lead further into the mire.)

  19. avatar
    G March 9, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I disagree strongly. There is NO need to respond with lies. When the truth is on your side, stick with that and retain the moral high ground. If your enemies use lies – then OUT them as the lying scumbags that they are. Such enemies that have to resort to such underhanded tactics usually have enough LEGIT baggage that can be easily used against them. There is no need to make sh*t up. Doing such is ALWAYS wrong.

    ellen: I think the answer is that you have to answer the insane claim immediately, and then come up with a lie in a month or so (so as not to show that it was done simply in response) that is equally vicious and equally insane–but one that is believable–against the opponent.

  20. avatar
    G March 9, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Agreed 100%. Well said!

    jayhg: I think you can dismiss it out of hand.

    There is no way the President’s team is egging on birthers.

    They make fun of birthers and by putting the birth certificate on a mug, but saying that the president could have easily done [fill in the blank] has been proven to not work.

    Birthers are not satisfied with ANYTHING….so just because the president’s team makes fun of them and the fact that they will never be satisfied can not be seen to be “egging them on.”

  21. avatar
    John Reilly March 9, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    I’m glad you are coming around, Doc. The birther nonsense is a Republican trap, and it is best approached as done by Sen. McCain and by Sen. Graham. It’s a vicious lie, and decent people should have nothing to do with it. And that includes the related whispering, that the President’s Father was a Muslim, the President was raised for a while in Indonesia, etc. There are segments of the Republican Party where this stuff plays well, but those folks will never vote for President Obama.

    These people ignore the essential lesson of James Carville: “It’s the economy, st****d.” If they persist in raising questions about the President’s background, or keep harping on their desire to meddle in my bedroom, we will have four more years of President Obama. I do not believe for a moment that the President is encouraging this errant behavior. I do not like blaming the messenger or the victim. In the words of that great philospher Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” The Republicans need to boot these people from the party in a forceful way, and say we simply will not tolerate racism, ignorance and foolishness.

  22. avatar
    G March 9, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    I think it is way too late for that. The Republicans should have booted those people from the party in a forceful way when this all started. No, the party has given wink & nod encouragement and fed this awful behavior amongst their base for many, many years. It is no abberation that it has become so prevalent amongst the GOP base at all – it has been coddled, nurtured and encouraged by the cynical stokers of fear, resentment and hatred.

    They have been intentionally playing into this mentality for decades now…and on purpose – to scare voters and distract them from thinking from themselves in order to manipulate them to vote how they wanted them to vote, regardless of whether it was in their best interests or not.

    Most of the good, decent loyalist folk such as yourself have just turned a blind eye and passively shrugged and done nothing to speak out against it. Therefore, the cancer has been able to spread and practically take over. I think it is now far too late for any rescue and redemption from the monsters that the GOP Establishment have intentionally created and which even the decent loyalist GOP voters have to own, as they have stood silent and remained supportive, instead of openly condemning such action and allowing for an atmosphere of zero tolerance for such nonsense.

    No, now it is far too late to clean house. This is who the modern GOP is now. You can either continue to lay down with the dogs and get fleas or you can let them die on the vine and build a new healthy party from the ashes. Supporting them with your vote at this late stage is nothing less than shared culpability and approval via vote proxy for such bad, bad behavior.

    John Reilly: In the words of that great philospher Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” The Republicans need to boot these people from the party in a forceful way, and say we simply will not tolerate racism, ignorance and foolishness.

  23. avatar
    Lupin March 9, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    katahdin: While I don’t think the Obama campaign is deliberately egging the birthers on, I do think they know a political gift when they see one, and they would be negligent, if not stupid, to ignore the lovely conundrum that the birthers present to Republicans.

    I’m inclined to agree with this.

  24. avatar
    Lupin March 9, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    G: I think it is way too late for that. The Republicans should have booted those people from the party in a forceful way when this all started. No, the party has given wink & nod encouragement and fed this awful behavior amongst their base for many, many years. It is no abberation that it has become so prevalent amongst the GOP base at all – it has been coddled, nurtured and encouraged by the cynical stokers of fear, resentment and hatred.

    They have been intentionally playing into this mentality for decades now…and on purpose – to scare voters and distract them from thinking from themselves in order to manipulate them to vote how they wanted them to vote, regardless of whether it was in their best interests or not.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    If there’s one thing we learned the hard way on this side of the pond is that you ignore (or use) extremists to your peril.

    You’ve got to stomp on them early on.

  25. avatar
    G March 9, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    Well said! That has always been my attitude about such matters.

    The ironic thing, is that such a sentiment in general, is more in common with a conservative / right-leaning approach to things.

    …Yet it is the conservative party on the right here that never applies that lesson to its own house anymore. At least not much evidence of such since Barry Goldwater.

    Lupin: If there’s one thing we learned the hard way on this side of the pond is that you ignore (or use) extremists to your peril.

    You’ve got to stomp on them early on.

  26. avatar
    Lupin March 9, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    G:
    Well said!That has always been my attitude about such matters.

    The ironic thing, is that such a sentiment in general, is more in common with a conservative / right-leaning approach to things.

    …Yet it is the conservative party on the right here that never applies that lesson to its own house anymore.At least not much evidence of such since Barry Goldwater.

    We do have our National Front here, but every time they show signs of “leaving the reservation” (I define this as the 20% share allocated to lunatics in every country) we have protests and demonstrations.

    Also, they’re not presented as a serious alternative by the media, and given a respectable public soap box to spout their nonsense.

    Let’s face it: we all have extremists; where the US fell apart — because of talk radio, 24/7 news and the jettisoning of the fairness doctrine — is that it has not only tolerated but encouraged its lunatics.

    As I often put it, the “Shape of the Earth: Opinion Differ” syndrome is utterly unacceptable in a modern, civilized nation.

    It’s enough to look at, say, the anti-vaccine crowd or the global warming deniers, or recently the current “debate” over contraception, to shake one’s head in disbelief.

    Last night (here), Jon Stewart had the president of Planned Parenthood on, and seen from here, the discussion was quite surreal. I thought I was listening to people from, I don’t know, South Africa? Not America as I knew it.

  27. avatar
    Scientist March 9, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    John Reilly: These people ignore the essential lesson of James Carville: “It’s the economy, st****d.” If they persist in raising questions about the President’s background, or keep harping on their desire to meddle in my bedroom, we will have four more years of President Obama.

    John: I think you are understating the Republican problems. Sure birtherism and birth control don’t help them (they ought to simply avoid anything that deals with the begining of life, perhaps) but I don’t think the rest of their positions are winners either. Their stance on the economy seems to come down to always and in all circumstances cut taxes. That isn’t really an economic program-it isn’t 1980 and marginal rates aren’t 70%. Health care-the recent polls show the ACA around 50/50 overall, with large majorities in favor of many individual provisions of the bill. The Ryan medicare plan is very unpopular.

    The Republican pandering to the base on immigration has made them toxic among the fastest-growing demographic group. Remember how California used to be a swing state, even leaning Republican, until they completely pissed off Hispanics? Now they have done the same thing nationally. Beating the war drum on Iran? That is pretty unpopular. 2 wars in the last decade and most say enough.

    It’s honestly hard to see any area where the Republicans have positions with appeal outside their base. Simply saying the economy sucks is less and less true by the day and begs the question of what you would do diifferent or better than Obama. Saying, I’m a businessman and will create jobs is nice, but how many jobs did Berlusconi create in Italy?

  28. avatar
    red-diaper baby 1942 March 9, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Jayhg: “I’m surprised at you, Dr. Conspiracy, and also surprised that you posted “democrat” attorneys. That’s “democratic attorneys.”

    Actually it’s “Democratic attorneys.” A Democrat is not the same thing as a democrat, and a Republican for sure isn’t the same thing as a republican!

    Sorry to be so nitpicking, but the distinction is important.

  29. avatar
    G March 9, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    I completely agree with you. Well stated.

    To take that point one step further, the US media also has damaged our nation by always striving for “balance” when the reality is simply very uneven.

    There is way too much false equivocation that goes on here. When one side goes off the rails, such false equivocation only encourages their slide away from responsibility and towards extremity. There really is nothing here in our modern processes that provides a check to one side sliding completely out of control. Which is another reason that I’ve always hated the flawed two-party model that is in place here… but that’s going down a whole tangent of its own…

    Lupin: Also, they’re not presented as a serious alternative by the media, and given a respectable public soap box to spout their nonsense.

    Let’s face it: we all have extremists; where the US fell apart — because of talk radio, 24/7 news and the jettisoning of the fairness doctrine — is that it has not only tolerated but encouraged its lunatics.

    As I often put it, the “Shape of the Earth: Opinion Differ” syndrome is utterly unacceptable in a modern, civilized nation.

  30. avatar
    jayHG March 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Actually, I considered “Democrat attorney” to be the correct phrase, an attorney for the democrats. I wrote it both ways and picked the one I thought better. One may argue what’s right, but I was in no way supporting or condoning the misnaming of the Democratic party.

    The way I determined it was to say either “attorney for the Democrats” or “Democratic attorney.”

    I don’t think you’re a birther……that was a little tongue in cheek….

  31. avatar
    richCares March 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    empty chair seems to be working, INTRADE latest shares show
    1. Obama 61.4 %
    2. Romney 33.0%
    3. Santorum .8%
    4. Gionrich 2.0
    INTRADE has been the most accurate predictor for a long time

  32. avatar
    BillTheCat March 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I think the difference between the swift boating and the birth thing is, the swiftboating thing was construed as a he said-he said situation, which left a lot of doubt in rational people’s minds; The birth thing is just too far fetched – arguing that someone wasn’t as much as a hero as they were made out to be is one thing, but suggesting someone wasn’t born where they said they were is entirely another. One is possible (even though the SB thing was a bunch of outright lies), the other is pretty much out of the realm of possibility. I think that’s why the SB was effective and the birther thing is not, among most Americans.

  33. avatar
    justlw March 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    BillTheCat: the swiftboating thing was construed as a he said-he said situation

    The “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” membership only included one person who ever actually crewed with Kerry, and that person, Stephen Gardner, was not present any of the times Kerry earned his medals.

    So it’s really, “people who were actually there said; Corsi made crap up.” As usual.

    I agree it was construed as something more than that.

  34. avatar
    jayHG March 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    justlw: The “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” membership only included one person who ever actually crewed with Kerry, and that person, Stephen Gardner, was not present any of the times Kerry earned his medals.So it’s really, “people who were actually there said; Corsi made crap up.” As usual.I agree it was construed as something more than that.

    Also, I think John Kerry didn’t do what I would have done, which is get indignant that my accomplishments were misrepresented and by folks were were not even there when said events occurred. Instead, Kerry didn’t address them at all.

    Most folks, when lied about, will get angry and say something to the liars. John Kerry tried to play the “I’ve above these foolish people” game and it didnt’ work as well as if he had gone postal on them (which, by the way, Corsi deserved). So he allowed folks to wonder.

    Most folks like me didn’t believe the folks, and certainly didn’t believe the messenger when I learned that they were not even present and it was clear that the whole thing was politically motived, so that taited the whole “report” for me and most others. I didn’t know a single person who was a liberal who bothered with this and came to the conclusion that “I won’t vote for Kerry because of this swift boat stuff.”

    So I think that had Kerry gotten indignant and called them liars and showed that they made stuff up, that would have wroked better for him than his “above this petty stuff” stance.

  35. avatar
    Scientist March 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    jayHG: Also, I think John Kerry didn’t do what I would have done, which is get indignant that my accomplishments were misrepresented and by folks were were not even there when said events occurred. Instead, Kerry didn’t address them at all.

    I don’t really believe the Swiftboat stuff was the factor that caused Kerry to lose. Incumbent Presidents are hard to beat when their own party is united behind them (as the Republicans are finding this year). The economy in 2004 was OK and the Iraq War had not yet become a complete fiasco. I think Kerry was hurt much more by the image as a rich, out-of-touch flip-flopper from Massachusetts (not that I am thinking of anyone else) than by the Swiftboaters.

  36. avatar
    BillTheCat March 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Scientist: I don’t really believe the Swiftboat stuff was the factor that caused Kerry to lose. Incumbent Presidents are hard to beat when their own party is united behind them (as the Republicans are finding this year). The economy in 2004 was OK and the Iraq War had not yet become a complete fiasco. I think Kerry was hurt much more by the image as a rich, out-of-touch flip-flopper from Massachusetts (not that I am thinking of anyone else) than by the Swiftboaters.

    Well, he wasn’t very exciting to people, and didn’t have any policies that grabbed people’s attention. I think the SB thing was just another nail in the coffin that year, in addition to the idea that anyone not onboard with bombing arab countries was anti-American. The Dem’s were portrayed as the “party of cut and run”. I’m not sure any Dem could have won that year.

  37. avatar
    Fazil Iskander March 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    It’s difficult to say what, exactly, won the election for W or lost it for Kerry. I do remember an interesting moment from the campaign, though, when Bob Dole prefaced something he said about Kerry with “I respect the record.” Meaning that he had to insist on his regard for Kerry’s war time record. The doubt about Kerry’s “record” was part of a campaign aimed at sowing distrust. And as the Kerry people weren’t willing (or able, maybe) to turn the Swift Boat charade against the republicans they lost an opportunity.

    In an election, it’s always about shades of meaning and supposition. None of us know anything about our elected officials as people. We deal with their self-portraits. Both camps try to show the falseness of a candidate’s self-portrait, and the people have to decide whom they trust. It seemed to me that Kerry certainly could have won. It was fairly close (50.74% for Bush, 48.27% for Kerry .. not that big a win for a sitting president at war), so it’s possible the Swift Boat debacle, even if it influenced/instilled doubt in a percentage (1/4th of the swing voters was Time’s assessment) of the electorate had some influence.

    In any case, the Rove led Bush campaign did not blast the Swift Boaters for lying. There were even ties between the Bush campaign and the Swift Boaters. Regardless of how much actual influence the Swift Boat shenanigans had, it would be extremely foolish for the Obama campaign to ignore the smears. They haven’t. They have played the birthers, to some extent, but that’s in large part because the birthers are extremely easy to play. And the Republicans, who could, in a heartbeat, get rid of the birthers by denouncing them outright and en masse … haven’t. They’ve dragged their feet. They allowed Trump and Rick Perry, candidates for their presidential nomination, to pander to birthers. So, it’s very difficult for me to see that they have any credible case at all against Obama in his handling of the birther issue.

    (Nor do I understand Doc’s grumpiness about how Obama has “played” the birthers, because I’m really not sure why it’s incumbent on the Obama campaign to nullify “birthers” when the Republicans themselves refuse to. But, of course, I’m a Canadian living in Florida, at the moment. The world of American politics is a pure, Martian landscape for me.)

    Scientist: I don’t really believe the Swiftboat stuff was the factor that caused Kerry to lose.Incumbent Presidents are hard to beat when their own party is united behind them (as the Republicans are finding this year).The economy in 2004 was OK and the Iraq War had not yet become a complete fiasco.I think Kerry was hurt much more by the image as a rich, out-of-touch flip-flopper from Massachusetts (not that I am thinking of anyone else) than by the Swiftboaters.

  38. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    I didn’t mean to imply any criticism of Obama’s handling of the birthers. My way of thinking, “playing someone like a cheap violin” is to employ a superior strategy.

    Fazil Iskander: Nor do I understand Doc’s grumpiness about how Obama has “played” the birthers

  39. avatar
    Rickey March 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Scientist: I don’t really believe the Swiftboat stuff was the factor that caused Kerry to lose.Incumbent Presidents are hard to beat when their own party is united behind them (as the Republicans are finding this year).The economy in 2004 was OK and the Iraq War had not yet become a complete fiasco.I think Kerry was hurt much more by the image as a rich, out-of-touch flip-flopper from Massachusetts (not that I am thinking of anyone else) than by the Swiftboaters.

    You may be correct, but the Swiftboaters certainly didn’t help. Kerry did make a mistake by not taking the Swiftboaters seriously, and the media were complicit for giving the Swiftboaters so much uncritical publicity.

    I remember that one of the Chicago papers ran an op-ed by someone who questioned Kerry’s Vietnam Service Ribbon because it had two stars. How could that be, when Kerry did only one tour in Vietnam? It would have taken 30 seconds for a fact-checker to learn that the stars weren’t based upon how many tours someone did, but how many campaigns he or she participated in. I did two separate Vietnam cruises on an aircraft carrier, but I have three stars on my Vietnam Service Ribbon.

  40. avatar
    Fazil Iskander March 9, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    Oh. Well, you see there’s my problem, right there.
    Damn! Idiomatic speech gets me again!

    (On another note: folding like a cheap suitcase, I get. But playing someone like a cheap violin? Why not a Stradivarius? This expression has never made sense to me.)

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I didn’t mean to imply any criticism of Obama’s handling of the birthers. My way of thinking, “playing someone like a cheap violin” is to employ a superior strategy.

  41. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 9, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    And there was the thing about his honorable discharge letter that made it seem that the president had ordered some special group to whitewash his record or something — only the letter he got was a standard form letter.

    Rickey: I remember that one of the Chicago papers ran an op-ed by someone who questioned Kerry’s Vietnam Service Ribbon because it had two stars.

  42. avatar
    Northland10 March 10, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Fazil Iskander: But playing someone like a cheap violin? Why not a Stradivarius? This expression has never made sense to me.

    A Stradivarius takes a great deal of effort and ability by the performer to achieve the sound that can come from a Stradivarius. With a cheap violin, however, what you see is what you get. For a strong performer, it takes very little effort to get the maximum result out of the instrument.

    With a cheap violin, there is no need to consider expression and delicacy, because the end result is the same. The birthers may think they are the center of the President’s attention, but, in reality, not so much.

  43. avatar
    Fazil Iskander March 10, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    And there was the thing about his honorable discharge letter that made it seem that the president had ordered some special group to whitewash his record or something — only the letter he got was a standard form letter.

    Great explanation! Thanks you very much, Northland.

  44. avatar
    Fazil Iskander March 10, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Northland10: A Stradivarius takes a great deal of effort and ability by the performer to achieve the sound that can come from a Stradivarius.With a cheap violin, however, what you see is what you get.For a strong performer, it takes very little effort to get the maximum result out of the instrument.

    With a cheap violin, there is no need to consider expression and delicacy, because the end result is the same.The birthers may think they are the center of the President’s attention, but, in reality, not so much.

    Thank you very much, Northland.
    (I wasn’t quite awake when I wrote that last reply …)

  45. avatar
    misha March 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    richCares: INTRADE has been the most accurate predictor for a long time

    Intrade has an accuracy better than 90%. The only times they were wrong recently was Sharron Angle and Tancredo. Intrade has Obama at 61%, and Willard Romney to be Republican Presidential Nominee at 85.9%.

    I guess tying a dog to the roof of his car, for 12 hours, doesn’t matter.

    Romney tormented his dog, David Huckabee hung and tortured a dog to death, and Laura Welch Bush ran a stop sign at high speed, killing a classmate.

    Then there’s Bill Janklow: On August 16, 2003, Janklow was involved in a fatal traffic collision while driving his car, when he failed to stop at a stop sign. Janklow ran the stop sign, causing Randolph E. Scott to strike Janklow’s vehicle. Scott was killed in the accident. The accident occurred at a rural intersection near Trent, South Dakota. Scott, a 55-year-old Minnesotan, was thrown from his motorcycle and killed instantly. Janklow’s vehicle traveled 300 feet beyond the point of impact and hit a sign in a field. He suffered a broken hand and bleeding on the brain. In the ensuing investigation, officials determined Janklow was driving at least 70 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone and that he ran a stop sign at the intersection where the crash occurred. On January 22, Janklow was sentenced to spend 100 days in jail. After 30 days, he was able to leave the jail for several hours each day in order to perform community service. He was released on May 17, 2004.

    There seems to be a pattern here.

  46. avatar
    misha March 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    misha: Then there’s Bill Janklow

    I neglected to include the source for Janklow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Janklow

  47. avatar
    richCares March 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    “Then there’s Bill Janklow”
    In 1956 I was in USMC boot camp and the guy next to my bunk was Bill Janklow
    a pleasant guy that loved candy,on our first liberty he got totally drunk and made a complete ass of himself, probably the same guy.

  48. avatar
    MBrown March 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    IMO the Obama team are political realists. They do not do anything (or refrain from doing anything) by accident. They are very deliberate, alert, calculating. They have shown that they can be sly and will gladly arrange to have their clumsy opponents make a mistake.
    The birther nonsense hasn’t been addressed the same as other smears – it has been treated differently. The Obama team are very aware of detail and nuance – and are keen at measuring political value. They realize a) the danger of legal losses to the birthers is Zero b) the GOP is (similarly) allowing the birthers to act up, perhaps covertly encouraging them, because the GOP “team” think the “Hes not one of us” dog whistle to be one of their most effective. They wish to promote a negative image of Obama, by any means possible c) Moderates and Democrats and sane Americans detect the overpowering stench of mindless racism from the Birthers, and are strongly repelled. The majority of America hates that the GOP cannot, WILL not just cut off their worst contingents. Its the same widespread emotional reaction by the same majority of Americans to the GOP refusing to cut off Rush Limbaugh. Very powerful political imagery to be seen as the Mature, Rational, Positive adult leader who is beset by Immature, growling zombies. Obama will remain Presidential, far removed from the sewer wrestling. But that doesn’t mean his team won’t exploit it when some of the stinky sludge splashes up on one of the opponents. They might even toss a well placed rock in the stinky muck if one of them gets too close. Citation: Donald Trump.
    The rabid anti- Immigrant, anti-Muslim, SovCit, anti-government, anti-progressives,
    TEA party sects of the GOP are the most motivated and most energized parts. They are thick with birtherism, and so having that stench be their party’s cologne kills the GOP’s chances of ever getting in bed with other voting blocs.

    IMO, as evidenced by events such as The Empty Chair gambit (which included NO RISK whatsoever, despite the OMG drama) allowing the birthers to play their games is a minor but deliberate sub-sub-plot of the Obama strategy. It is a smart one. The only downside to dealing with the birthers is if Obama is perceived to have smacked the village idiot and make the dumb creature cry or bleed, he will appear to be a cruel bully. He and his staff is not a cruel bully, by nature and also by political calculation. Let the crazies act up, they are harmless noise – and make sure everyone sees that the crazies have GOP lawn signs and GOP t-shirts and GOP bumper stickers. Yes – it is deliberate.

  49. avatar
    John C. Drew, Ph.D. March 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    [This post was deleted as off-topic for the web site. Obama’s performance, philosophy and media coverage are not what we do here. Doc.]

  50. avatar
    Joe Acerbic March 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    What an eloquent analysis, MBrown!

  51. avatar
    Northland10 March 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    MBrown: The only downside to dealing with the birthers is if Obama is perceived to have smacked the village idiot and make the dumb creature cry or bleed, he will appear to be a cruel bully.

    Hmm.. a point worth considering. Though the birthers and other like them generally only respond to forceful gestures, many others could dislike a cruel bully method.

  52. avatar
    Joe Acerbic March 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    If the village idiot is constantly shouting obscenities and death threats to the villagers, they probably won’t mind a little smack or two…

  53. avatar
    misha March 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    MBrown: IMO the Obama team are political realists…Let the crazies act up, they are harmless noise – and make sure everyone sees that the crazies have GOP lawn signs and GOP t-shirts and GOP bumper stickers. Yes – it is deliberate.

    Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. – Napoleon Bonaparte

  54. avatar
    Sef March 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    MBrown: and make sure everyone sees that the crazies have GOP lawn signs and GOP t-shirts and GOP bumper stickers

    Love it when the village idiots self-identify.

  55. avatar
    J. Potter March 11, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    The empty chair is the only way to defend these things. When assaulted by another party, or forced to confront a party whose interests run counter to yours, simply state your case. Don’t present explanations or justifications. Do not give the other party the impression that your are on an equal footing (particularly when you’re in a superior position! (double particularly when you have nothing to lose!)). State your case and refuse to engage further.

    This will drive the other party INSANE. Giving nothing to go on, their imagination(s) will run wild and they’ll assume the worst. This is “psyching them out.” And often do exactly what you want them to. Thus, you have “played them” … “like a fiddle” 😉

    Although it results in some toasty bridges, this strategy has worked well for me over the years. Unfortunately, I haven’t been in a position to market these non-confrontational confrontation by marketing commemorative t-shirts and mugs. Maybe someday!

  56. avatar
    MBrown March 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    It not an entirely Empty Chair. The Obama team ( Campaign and Admin.) stay abreast of what is going on re: legal challenges. In addition, as said by a smart attorney on Fogbow, the judge must ensure that the Empty Chair is occupied by The Law and Truth. As we saw in Georgia, the system worked. The judge had to rule for the Empty Chair because the plaintiffs complaints were opposite of settled Law, and were opposite of the Truth. As we saw in Indiana and elsewhere, Republican and conservative officials and judges are not going to corrupt their court by ruling for birthers -that will be ruling against The Law and The Truth.

  57. avatar
    NBC March 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    MBrown: As we saw in Georgia, the system worked. The judge had to rule for the Empty Chair because the plaintiffs complaints were opposite of settled Law, and were opposite of the Truth.

    A default ruling indeed does not ignore issues of settled law and facts. The problem is that our ‘lawyer’ friends have failed to understand that one can get a default ruling against the other party and still ‘lose’ the case. The Judge had to determine if there was any foundation to the concept of a two citizen parent when ruling on the eligibility. The Judge found that settled Law had found natural born to refer to birth on soil only, with minor exceptions captured by common law exceptions, and thus the judge was forced to rule that the ‘two citizen parent’ hypothesis failed.

    That’s how our legal system is supposed to work. It seems to me that some birthers were hoping that a default ruling could be used to ignore precedents.

    How silly.