Ken Bennett's "Birther" Request Shows the Insanity of Arizona's GOP

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This leaves about 42 percent of Dems (or dem-wits) who need to be drummed out of their own party.

Maricopa County's cynical top cop knows a good thing when he eyeballs it, which explains the sheriff's "cold case posse" spending a reported $40,000 on a sham "investigation" into birther claims, concluding (surprise, surprise) that there is "probable cause" to believe Obama's long-form birth certificate is a "forgery."

That Arpaio would exploit the stupidity of conspiracy wackos is no shocker. But when my colleague Matt Hendley blogged that Secretary of State Bennett (who also acts as Romney's Arizona co-chair) apparently had jumped on this backward bandwagon, I raised an eyebrow. This mainly is because Bennett always has struck me as a Republican of the non-crazy variety, one not given over to the partisan insanity of some of his colleagues.

In an e-mail quoted by online publication World Net Daily (better known as World Nut Daily), Bennett, though skeptical of birther claims, said he had asked Hawaii officials for yet another verification of the Obama birth certificate. The likely Republican candidate for governor also promised:

"If Hawaii can't or won't provide verification of the president's birth certificate, I will not put his name on the ballot."

The fallout from Hendley's blog was swift. Bennett was forced to issue a press release stating for the record: "I am not a birther." Yet he left the door open for more birther madness, telling KFYI's Mike Broomhead that though he believed Obama was born in Hawaii, that state's officialdom was dragging its feet on getting back to him and, therefore, it was "possible" Obama might not make it on the 2012 presidential ballot in Arizona.

Bennett claimed he had initiated the inquiry only because more than 1,000 of his "constituents" hit him with e-mails on the subject, demanding action. Add to that a petition with 3,000 signatures and Bennett felt he must play the dutiful public servant.

I suspected Bennett was using the issue to gain some traction with his party's dominant crazy wing. But watching him squirm before a couple hundred birthers at the RMTP gave me second thoughts.

Bennett's address dealt with what his office does to ensure accurate ballot counts and prevent fraud at the polls. Dull stuff, during which some of the seniors actually nodded off.

But before opening up the event to audience questions, Hatch directed Bennett to explain what was going on with the Obama birth-certificate situation.

The Secretary of State suggested that the current kerfuffle was a result of Hawaii's intransigence over the issue and its insistence that he must prove he has the authority to request the information.

That afternoon, Bennett said he felt he all but had resolved his contretemps with Hawaiian officials and that he believed, "within the next day or two," Arizona would receive verification from Hawaii and the controversy would conclude, at least for him

(One day after Bennett's appearance, Hawaii sent over a "verification of birth" to the secretary of state, which he accepted, though you can be sure the irrational, antediluvian airheads of the RMTP will cling to their birtherism in defiance of all sanity.)

Hatch then chided Bennett for declaring on KFYI that he was not a "birther," complaining that the secretary of state had used it like "kind of a dirty term . . . something that marginalized people."

So it does, just as the label and spelling of "troofer" rightfully marginalized the idiots wedded to the grand conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by the Bush administration.

Nevertheless, Bennett, to his credit, stood his ground. He said he did not think "birther" was a dirty word. Still, he said, he could not be categorized as one.

"I have my doubts," Bennett told them. "But for the most part, I believe [President Obama] was born in Hawaii. If he wasn't born in Hawaii and that could be proven, then I think [U.S. Secretary of State and former candidate for the Democratic nomination for president] Hillary Clinton would have proved it four years ago."

As Bennett explained that in Arizona, presidential nominees usually self-certify their meeting all the requirements for office, he seemed genuinely uncomfortable.

When asked what he thought of Arpaio's investigation of the matter — which now includes the ridiculous step of sending a deputy off to Hawaii along with a posse investigator — Bennett offered a critical response.

"If they found probable cause that a crime may have been committed, that the document is a forgery or whatever," Bennett said of Arpaio's posse probe, "that should be turned over to the County Attorney's Office and prosecuted, which has not occurred, and I cannot understand why that hasn't happened."

Heck, I wouldn't put it past Arpaio to throw something in County Attorney Bill Montgomery's lap. Monty wouldn't want it, natch, but that wouldn't stop Joe. This is an election year, after all, and Arpaio's Teabagger followers are fanatics.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons