By Brigitte L. Nacos
The breaking news last night and this morning describes Showman Donald Trumps’ latest public outbursts about President Obama’s allegedly fake birth certificate as an unwelcome upstaging of Mitt Romney on the day, when the Republican presidential candidate secured enough votes for his party’s nomination. According to the Washington Post, “The provocative real estate magnate used the spotlight to promote his long-debunked contention that Obama was born in a foreign country. Romney aides admitted that this was an unhelpful distraction. At a moment when they wanted to put the president on the defensive, it was Romney who found himself in that position, leaving it to his aides to assert that he disagrees with Trump.” This was the dominant storyline: Trump rained on Romney’s parade just on the day, when he as the first Mormon in U.S. history had finally assured the delegate count for the presidential nomination.
The same day, when Trump used the media stage to revive the birther “issue,” Romney himself missed another opportunity to personally reject those rumors once and for all. The Caucus Blog of the New York Times reports today what happened at a campaign stop in Las Vegas on Tuesday:
“Speaking to a crowd at a furniture warehouse here, Mr. Romney recalled a suggestion from a man he had recently met on the campaign trail.
“I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution,” he recalled the man saying, “that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president being set by the Constitution, I’d like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.”
Mr. Romney did not endorse the idea, but he seemed to like it.
“You see, then he or she would understand that the policies they’re putting in place have to encourage small business, make it easier for business to grow.”
The article claims that Romney “joked” about this and that he has said that he believed the president is born in America. But by not at all questioning an allegedly suggested constitutional requirement of citizenship and birthplace for presidents, Romney played to the most divisive, and, yes, hateful fringe of the far-right conservative base that he obviously wants to win over and mobilize for the Election Day.
Romney himself needs to take the moral highway and disassociate himself from Trump’s ever more frenzied birther rumors which are mostly perpetuated on wacky, right-wing web sites to support the argument that President Barack Obama is foreign-born and therefore not eligible for the highest office in the land. He is, as birther conspiracy theorists claim, an illegitimate president. Hand-in-hand with the birther rumors goes the accusation that Obama is not, as he claims, a Christian but a Muslim with a secret and un-American fifth column agenda.
This is not a laughing matter, not when a significant number of Republicans embrace both the birther and Obama-is-a-Muslim conspiracy theories.