If you ask Al Sharpton if something is racist, what are the chances he's going to say yes?
On Wednesday's "Ed Show," the host asked the civil rights leader, "If this had been a white president, would we be seeking his birth certificate the way they have been doing this on President Obama?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: You know, Republican leaders have never really wanted to completely shut the door on this issue. It's like they got in the caucus and said, “Well, you know, kind of distance yourself from it but don't slam it away because you never know where the American people are going to go on this. Maybe we can get the majority of Americans to believe that really he is illegitimate and should not be president.” And other Republicans openly stoked it, like the House Republicans who co-sponsored a birther bill. It's gone way too far for too long.
Let's bring in the President of the National Action Network, Reverend Al Sharpton with us tonight. And professor of sociology at Georgetown University, Michael Eric Dyson. Gentlemen, great to have you with us tonight. Reverend, I'll ask you first. If this had been a white president, would we be seeking his birth certificate the way they have been doing this on President Obama and the work over that we've seen for 2 1/2 years? What do you think?
What do you think the odds are of Sharpton saying "No?" If you answered "Metaphysical certitude," you'd be correct:
REVEREND AL SHARPTON: Frankly, I don't believe we would, and I don't think it is just the birth certificate, though, clearly that has gone way, way out of bounds, and the media coverage, the saturation day and night has been appalling.
Wow, color me very unsurprised.
Let's examine the premise as well as the answer with something else that happened in the 2008 presidential campaign that liberals in the media all seem to forget.
The New York Times published a piece on February 28 of that year with the headline "McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out":
The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office. [...]
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”
Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a Navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that Mr. McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.
CBS pounced on the story:
At the top of Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith teased a story on John McCain being born in the Panama Canal zone rather than inside the United States and if it would disqualify him from the presidency: "Born in the USA. John McCain wasn't. Can he still be president?"
The story, which was regurgitated from The New York Times, was presented as a news brief by co-host Russ Mitchell a few minutes later:
Does John McCain's birthplace disqualify him from serving as president? The New York Times raises the issue in a report this morning. McCain is a citizen, but he was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal where his father was posted. The Constitution says only a natural-born citizen can serve as president. So far no one born outside the U.S. has served as president.l
The liberal "fact-checking" website Snopes reported on July 23 of that year, "As much as we’d like to dismiss this one as just another frivolous election season rumor, it’s impossible to make any definitive statement about Senator McCain’s presidential eligibility because the issue is a matter of law rather than a matter of fact, and the law is ambiguous."
In the end, Snopes couldn't decide definitively whether or not McCain was eligible to be president. And this was a man born to two U.S. citizens on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal. Imagine if one of his parents wasn't a U.S. citizen.
As such, to answer Schultz's question differently than Sharpton did, McCain is white. If one of his parents wasn't a U.S. citizen and he had won in 2008, there would be members of the far-left as up in arms about it as the birthers are Obama's birth certificate.
Consider that for eight years after the Supreme Court ruled on Florida's right to keep counting votes until Democrats finally found enough to tip that state to Al Gore in 2000, there were liberals that felt George W. Bush was an illegitimate president.
By the way - much like McCain, he was also white.
If there was no racism involved in those questioning McCain or Bush's legitimacy, there's none in those concerned about Obama's.
The sad reality is we live in a tremendously polarized and hyper-partisan nation, and people on both sides of the aisle are always looking for reasons to have their opponents disqualified. When this happens, some nefarious motive is always presumed to exist.
This happened during Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings when his supporters in the media made his detractors look like prudes looking to toss out a president for having oral sex. This of course was not the case mounted by the prosecution, and those on the right were actually angered by the president committing and suborning perjury, crimes far more serious than what the press dishonestly led the public to believe.
With this in mind, despite Schultz's absurd question, and Sharpton's predictable answer, what lies at the heart of those that don't believe Obama was born in Hawaii is the same thing that makes so many feel Bush wasn't a legitimate president.
For the most part, it's an irrational and inexplicable hatred for those with an opposing political viewpoint.
This is same thing that made more than half of Democrats polled in 2006 claim that Bush might have known about the 9/11 attacks before they happened. This just so happens to be almost exactly the same percentage of Republicans that today aren't sure Obama was born in Hawaii.
Did I mention that George W. Bush was white?