Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a relatively moderate Republican, wants to be Governor. But to have any kind of shot at the 9th floor, he figures he must placate the activist base of Sand Land's GOP, which is deeply, rabidly insane.
Hence, the predicament he finds himself in, having to declare in an official press release that, "I am not a birther."
I believe him when he says that. I mean, anyone with an intelligence quotient in triple digits knows that the birther conspiracy is right up there with the Flat Earth Society in terms of credibility.
But when Bennett tells KFYI's Mike Broomhead that, "I'm not playing to the birthers," by asking for assurances from the state of Hawaii that it has President Barack Obama's original birth certificate in safekeeping, I don't think even Bennett believes Bennett.
His claim that he's not pandering to conspiracy theorists -- a claim made to contradict my colleague Matt Hendley's contention to that effect -- is belied by his actions.
Bennett insists he had no choice but to look into the birth certificate issue. His office had received more than 1,000 e-mails and a petition with 3,000 signatures from birthers, so he was forced to ask for confirmation of the birth certificate from Hawaiian officials.
Hey, what's a Secretary of State to do when besieged by crackpots?
And yet, a little Googling would have led Bennett to the 2009 statement above from Hawaii's then health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino that she had "seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen."
Fukino, an appointee of Hawaii's former Governor Linda Lingle (a Republican), had issued a similar statement the year before that she had "personally seen and verified" Obama's birth certificate.
In 2011, after she left her position as Health Director, NBC interviewed Fukino and she explained in detail how she had inspected Obama's birth certificate on two occasions.
She called the birther conspiracy theories "ludicrous," but conceded that no matter what Hawaii officials say or release, the conspiracists will never say die.
"They're going to question the ink on which it was written or say it was fabricated," Fukino told reporter Michael Isikoff. "The whole thing is silly." Nevertheless, Bennett insists he's done his Boy Scout best to get Hawaii to re-confirm what it has confirmed heretofore. On Broomhead's show, he described downloading some form from a Hawaiian government website and sending it in, expecting he would receive an answer tout de suite.
"All they've got to do is e-mail me back saying 'yes' and it's over," Bennett told Broomhead, Thursday. "But they haven't for eight weeks, and I'm just stunned that they're making this so hard."
"Stunned"? Really, Ken? Bennett admitted to Broomhead that Hawaii had indicated they're fed up with fielding these stupid requests when the issue was laid to rest years ago.
So why would he be "stunned" that Hawaii would drag its feet on fielding such an asinine inquiry, one it receives by the tons from idiots far and wide?
I do not think Bennett is one of those idiots. Generally, he's been a competent public official, and he hails from the non-crazy wing of his party.
But he has to make the Tea Party rounds, where hatred of Obama remains at a fever pitch, and where he will no doubt be applauded for stating that Obama's name "possibly" might not make it on the ballot.
Indeed, Bennett has to speak to a group of Teabaggers on Monday, when he's scheduled to address the freakish Russell Pearce-worshippers at the Red Mountain Tea Party in Mesa.
According to RMTP's website, Bennett will "answer tough questions about why President Obama is still on the ballot given Sheriff Joe Arpaio's investigation into his birth certificate."
That's an investigation Bennett, with a straight face, claims to take seriously, BTW.
Bennett will also address the issues of "voter protection" and "voter fraud" at the Teabagger soiree. Essentially, those issues translate into the groundless belief by the 'baggers that the "illegals" are stealing elections, or trying to.
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For now these gray-haired 'baggers have power within the state GOP, and it would take stones for a Republican candidate to stand up to them, and to completely dismiss them, just as those who promulgated the screwy theory that 9/11 was an "inside job" had to be dismissed.
Bennett did express skepticism in his replies to some of the birther e-mailers dogging him. But he should have either ignored them completely or replied with a form letter stating that the matter had long ago been resolved.
The Secretary of State likely reckons he'll need a slice of the wackjob vote to make it through a Republican primary.
That may be true, but I'd advise him that the birther-baggers are so far off the deep end that a moderate with a shred of pride will never satisfy them. Unless Bennett is far more shameless than he lets on.