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Meet the Birthers

Who are these people, really?

| Sun Aug. 9, 2009 7:21 PM EDT

Ann Coulter thinks they’re "cranks." Right-wing radio kingpin Michael Medved prefers to call them "nutburgers." Their ranks include a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, a Clinton conspiracy theorist, a habitual presidential candidate, and a professional poker player. They’re convening amateur grand juries and suing the President—not to mention suing each other. Meet the birthers: people who believe, despite truly overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and has illegally usurped the presidency.

Orly Taitz

Born in the former Soviet republic of Moldavia, Taitz is a peroxide-blonde SoCal dentist with a law degree from an online academy and a black belt in Taekwondo. More than anyone else, she has vaulted birthers—their preferred nomenclature is "doubters" or the "eligibility movement"—into the public eye.

In 2008, Taitz helped to bring a lawsuit on behalf of Alan Keyes, disputing the validity of Obama's birth certificate. This year, she hit the headlines again when she filed another lawsuit from an Army reserve major who charged that "Barry Soetoro" was not his lawful commander in chief. Both suits were rejected, prompting Taitz to accost Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Antonin Scalia at public events to demand an investigation into the matter. All of this has won her generous, but not always flattering coverage from television personalities like Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and David Shuster, who Taitz has described as "brownshirts."

Recently, Taitz has caused a rift among the birther ranks by circulating a document that she claimed was Obama's Kenyan birth certificate. A federal court threw it out after determining that it was a fake—later it emerged that the document may have been a prank played by an Obama supporter. This fiasco led leading birther Andy Martin to denounce Taitz as an "obvious crackpot."

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Philip Berg

Berg is a 9/11 Truther who hopped the birther train after a brief detour with the PUMA crowd—the small but noisy band of Hillary Clinton supporters who refused to accept that Obama had won the 2008 Democratic primary. A former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general, Berg is no stranger to long-shot lawsuits—he previously sued George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, alleging that they were complicit in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

After being approached by a disgruntled member of PUMA (formally: People United Means Action; informally: Party Unity My Ass), Berg brought the first lawsuit claiming that Obama is not a natural-born citizen. In fact, Berg has said that he believes that Obama is an illegal alien who was not even qualified to represent Illinois in the US Senate. He recently disseminated a press release saying that he is also suing Orly Taitz, who he said was so unprofessional and unethical that she could possibly be an Obama plant working to bring down the eligibility movement from the inside.


 

Alan Keyes
The perennial candidate, anti-gay crusader, and anti-abortion activist is nevertheless perhaps the birther movement's most credible member—which isn't saying a lot. A party to the Taitz lawsuit challenging Obama's eligibility to hold the presidency, Keyes, who calls Obama a "radical communist” and a "usurper," says he refuses to acknowledge Obama as president. Following the election, Keyes said: "He's going to destroy this country, and we're either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist… The man is an abomination… We're in the midst of the greatest crisis this country has ever seen and if we don't stop laughing about it and deal with it, we're going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion, and Civil War."

Carl Swensson

A Georgia-based activist, Swensson is spearheading a novel but legally meaningless tactic: convening "citizen grand juries" to file "presentments" indicting Obama for fraud and treason. So far, Swensson says juries have met in several states and pronounced Obama’s claim to office to be illegitimate. According to material posted on Swensson's website, the citizen grand juries derive their authority from the Magna Carta and can assume ominous powers: "The grand jury may distrain and oppress the government in every way in their power, namely, by taking the homes, lands, possessions, and any way else they can until amends shall have been made according to the sole judgment of the grand jury."

But don’t worry! The same document also says: "The grand jury may not imprison or execute any government personnel or their children."

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