Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues., or Wed., Sept. 10, 11 or 12
Even after Democrats’ rousing national convention, there are reasons to be disappointed in President Obama’s administration. However, too many people swallow online venom like it was elixir. Or fact.
A reader who occasionally writes recently forwarded claims about the President that he not only accepted without checking, but is convinced aren’t reported because media love Obama.
I don’t (although I fondly recall the 2008 candidate Obama). I fault Obama for his chumminess with Wall Street, not closing Guantanamo, not pushing for the public option in health care reform, neglecting labor’s Employee Free Choice Act, failing to end the war in Afghanistan, yielding on cap-and-trade, not pushing for Palestinian statehood, committing to keep operatives in Iraq after “withdrawal,” supervising drone attacks, spying on citizens not suspected of wrongdoing, and harassing whistleblowers.
Nevertheless, false accusations persist, the latest of which “prove” the President is a Muslim and claim that his (and First Lady Michelle Obama’s) law licenses were “surrendered” because of improprieties.
Concerning the first, I replied to the reader, “You’ve never struck me as gullible, so I fear you may think I am. This edited [video] clip is from different appearances (hence the background changes). Here’s the transcript of Obama’s actual remarks: ‘I also want to be clear that America’s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. The United States has been enriched by Muslim-Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them.’
“Obviously,” I added, “he is one of the many Americans with Muslims in their families or who’ve lived in a Muslim-majority country (Indonesia, when he was a toddler).
“Bottom line,” I continued, “– SO WHAT? As Republican leader Gen. Colin Powell said in 2008, ‘Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine … One picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. You could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards – Purple Heart, Bronze Star – showed that he died in Iraq … At the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David; it had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American ... He gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions’.”
Another online falsehood states, “Barack Obama, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, is no longer a ‘lawyer.’ He surrendered his license back in 2008 in order to escape charges he lied on his bar application. Michelle Obama ‘voluntarily surrendered’ her law license in 1993 after a federal judge gave her the choice between surrendering her license or standing trial for insurance fraud!”
A 30-second visit to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (www.iardc.org/) or fact-checking sites shows it’s hogwash.
“James Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel for the ARDC, said that the Obamas were ‘never the subject of any public disciplinary proceedings’,” reports FactCheck, the nonpartisan service trying to reduce deception and confusion in politics. Based at the University of Pennsylvania, FactCheck adds, “Grogan said that it was fairly common for lawyers who didn’t intend to continue practicing law to go on inactive status. In 2011, more than 12 percent of the state’s 87,943 registered attorneys were on inactive status.”
Of course, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse last week said, “We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
But facts (and their absence) matter. Writing about those who ignore evidence and still think the president isn’t native-born, Arizona weekly newspaper publisher Elliott Freireich explained the willingness to embrace lies: “There is no logical explanation for why an inter-racial couple would have had any reason to perpetrate such a complex hoax in an attempt to make their son appear to have been born in Hawaii under such circumstances. But there is a word for anyone who believes there was any motive much less any ability to forge documents to misrepresent Barack Obama’s birthplace: racist.”
Anti-Obama people aren’t all racist, but some such believers certainly seem like haters.
Check dubious claims at sites such as FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, or primary sources like the ARDC (use “Lawyer Search” tab).