Thinking of running for president, but can't find a copy of your long-form birth certificate? No problem, say Arizona GOPers. Just be prepared to provide a description of your penis.
The state's birther bill, which had until recently been sidelined, cruised through the state Senate on a 20-to-9 party line vote Wednesday and was passed by the state House late Thursday. It's now awaiting the signature of Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer. The bill, resurrected late last month with some minor changes, requires presidential candidates to provide a valid long-form birth certificate before they can appear on the ballot in Arizona. Because not all states even produce such records anymore, the bill allows prospective candidates to provide any two of the following documents in lieu of a long-form birth certificate: an "early census record," a signed post-partum medical record, a hospital birth record (also known as a certificate of live birth), or a baptismal or circumcision certificate.
That's right: Arizona Republicans want you to provide proof that you've been circumcised; it makes the "boxers and briefs" question look downright prudish. But a warning for overzealous candidates: As the Phoenix New Timeshelpfully notes, "Pulling out your penis in front of election officials, however, will not prove citizenship—and, in the worst case scenario, could get [you] labeled a sex offender." Rules to live by.
As we first reported in January, Arizona's bill was inspired by conservative activists who believe President Obama is not an American citizen by birth (for the millionth time: he is). To that end, potential GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently jumped on the birther bandwagon, called Arizona legislators this week to voice his support for the measure, and invited the bill's supporters to a meeting at his Manhattan office. More than a dozen states have now considered legislation to require presidential candidates to verify their citizenship, but Arizona's bill is the first to clear a state legislature. If enacted, Democrats say the law would face a legal challenge.
Republicans talk a lot about the need to make tough, painful cuts. We just didn't know this is what they had in mind.
According to Adam Serwer's Birtherism Lexicon, birthers, like dwarves, come in seven different vintages: birthers, post-birthers, ironic post-birthers, pseudo-birthers, the birther-curious, reform birthers, and orthodox birthers. Newly minted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants you to know he's in that eighth category: He's not a birther:
Mitt Romney forcefully said Tuesday night that he believes President Barack Obama was born in America and that "the citizenship test has been passed."
"I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office," Romney told CNBC's Larry Kudlow the day after he formally announced that he's exploring a run for the White House. "The man needs to be taken out of office but his citizenship isn't the reason why."
Romney's right—at least about the citizenship bit. But it also goes to show just how low the bar has been set for the Republican field in 2012: A candidate can come off as reasonable and moderate simply by asserting that the President of the United States is, in fact, from the United States, and not part of some sort of vast, international conspiracy to destroy the republic.
Eight years after the Supreme Court deemed Texas' anti-sodomy statute unconstitutional, the state's penal code still lists "homosexual conduct" as a criminal offense—and Republican lawmakers are fighting to keep it that way.
A pair of identicalbills that have been introduced in the Texas House would delete language from the state penal code making "deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex" a misdemeanor offense. Under the proposals, a clause in the state's health and safety code that cites the criminal statute and states that homosexuality is "not an acceptable lifestyle" would also be repealed.
That is, if the legislature's Republican supermajority ever lets the bills come to a vote.
"Their silence is deafening," says Democratic State Rep. Jessica Farrar, who sponsored one of the proposals. "It's killing us. It's just as bad as if they were vocal."
Last weekend conservative activists converged at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University for "The Awakening," a two day conference devoted to issues of serious concern to the United States going forward—like the threat of Islamic law to the Constitution, the coming monetary collapse, and the abortion "Holocaust." Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was there scheduled to attend*; so was fellow GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich; Mike Huckabee couldn't make it but sent along pre-recorded remarks. In other words, kind of a big deal.
But the event's most illuminating speech may have come from Ryan Sorba, a "pro-family activist" who became a minor icon on the far-right in 2010 after condemning the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference for including gay people. At Liberty, Sorba took the occasion to criticize conservatives for using the word "gay," and instead suggested a handful of substitute words that he feels carry less baggage. Via the Florida Independent, here's Sorba's advice:
"Stop. Using. The word. Gay. Because if we continue to use this term that is grounded in an identity, we're conceding the premise that it is an identity and the rest of the debate we're on their ground. We're arguing on their terms. He who defines the terms controls the debate and by extension public opinion. What we need to do is state that look this is either same-sex attraction, or maybe they're engaging in same-sex intercourse or sodomy—whatever word you're comfortable using. And that's it."
Anyways, Sorba's right about one thing: Anti-gay activists are losing the debate. A majority of Americans support gay marriage, and 78 percent of Americans supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I'm just not sure that swapping "same-sex sodomy" for "gay" is really going to push back against the arc of history.
Republican politicians like to talk a lot about American decline. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, for instance, recently warned that Democrats have "declared war on marriage, on families, on fertility, and on faith." (Fertility!). Newt Gingrich went even further, suggesting that Obama's agenda "would mean the end of America as it has been for the last 400 years."
Now, it looks like the new era of American Unexceptionalism is starting to take its toll in the Republican Party.Here's Politico's Jonathan Martin:
Interviews on both sides of the Capitol have revealed widespread concern about the lackluster quality of the current crop of candidates and little consensus on who Republican senators and House members would like to see in the race.
While the days when congressional insiders could determine a party nominee are long gone, their open grumbling lays bare a broadly held sentiment within the GOP.
"I don't see anyone in the current field right now, and people say that to me, as well. I'm reflecting what I hear," said California Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee.
We just don't make smart, charismatic presidential candidates like we used to.
So what's the solution? Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has been floated as a potential candidate—and he's expressed dissatisfaction with the current field—but I'm not sure Americans are going to rally behind someone who thinks gays should be banned from teaching in public schools. Marco Rubio's been called the "Cuban Barack Obama," but he's only been in the Senate for three months. Martin's sources say they're considering "a to-be-determined business executive or military leader"—but Dwight D. Eisenhower's dead (not to mention term-limited), and David Petraeus says he's not interested.
It's still, of course, very early. Mike Huckabee is leading the polls in Iowa and he's probably not running; Donald Trump is in third. But it's never a good sign for your electoral chances when party bigwigs are publicly bashing your candidates before the first debate has even been held.