The con­spir­acy of ridicule and raillery

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

It was a good week for Barack Obama. For Amer­ica, not so much. The old adage that “what’s good for the pres­i­dent is good for Amer­ica” no longer ap­plies.

Last week in­cluded the econ­o­mists’ dec­la­ra­tion that the end of the “Age of Amer­ica” is at hand, but the pres­i­dent was fi­nally freed to make jokes about the birth cer­tifi­cate he kept to him­self for all these years. It’s still not clear why he fed the mys­tery for so long. He could have re­leased the long-form birth cer­tifi­cate at the nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion in Den­ver, when the buzz started, and spared him­self and the rest of us the long ha­rangue. The con­tro­versy may not be on its way to the grave­yard yet, but it’s prob­a­bly safe to laugh about it.

The pres­i­dent is on a let’s-get-se­ri­ous kick about the other things he has botched and bun­gled (he doesn’t put it quite that way), so he will ex­haust the birth-cer­tifi­cate jokes soon and we can get back to se­ri­ous things — the im­mi­nent Chinese as­sump­tion of eco­nomic lead­er­ship and dom­i­na­tion of the world, and what he and Congress can do about it, as­sum­ing he thinks some­thing should be done about it. The In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund says the “Age of Amer­ica” goes onto the ash heap of his­tory five years hence, in 2016, and the “Age of China” be­gins. That’s when the an­nual size of the Chinese econ­omy will sur­pass $19 tril­lion, worth bil­lions more than ours.

The skep­tics of his Amer­i­can birth are un­daunted, re­tool­ing and rearm­ing to con­tinue their cam­paign. They’re not per­suaded by the “long­form birth cer­tifi­cate,” or at least not per­suaded they can’t any longer spin their con­spir­acy the­o­ries for a vo­ra­cious mar­ket. And why not? His­to­ri­ans are still ar­gu­ing about whether Mary Sur­ratt was re­ally com­plicit in the as­sas­si­na­tion of Abra­ham Lin­coln, sim­ply be­cause John Wilkes Booth and his con­spir­a­tors con­spired at her board­ing house. Con­spir­a­cies are hard to give up.

Some of the new the­o­ries in the wake of the pres­i­dent’s dis­clo­sure, al­leg­ing that the birth cer­tifi­cate is a not-so-clever forgery, prove that the In­ter­net de­tec­tives who were ob­sessed with un­mask­ing Dan Rather’s doc­u­ments al­leg­ing that Ge­orge W. Bush was a draft-dodger in uni­form, are back at work, this time with a new, big­ger tar­get. They cite smudges, “mys­te­ri­ous” check­marks, the sig­na­ture of a con­ve­niently dead at­tend­ing physi­cian, a mis­spelled word, un­usual lan­guage, and un­ex­plained “wear marks” on the cer­tifi­cate as ev­i­dence that it was crudely “Pho­to­shopped,” or cre­ated on a com­puter.

My own con­spir­acy the­ory is here of­fered not as nec­es­sar­ily valid, but cred­i­ble and en­ter­tain­ing: Pres­i­dent Obama him­self con­spired with the Don­ald to set up his dis­clo­sure to col­lapse the birthers’ the­ory in a bur­lesque of raillery and ridicule. Pol­i­tics is, af­ter all, only vaude­ville re­deemed. Mr. Trump has been a Demo­cratic con­trib­u­tor for years, and his friend­ship with Oprah, an early and con­tin­u­ing en­abler of Barack Obama, is well known. The Don­ald helps the pres­i­dent, and the con­tro­versy helps the Don­ald, set­ting up a boffo night for his net­work tele­vi­sion shows. Oprah in­vites them both as guests to shore up her de­clin­ing rat­ings. The birthers fall back to re­group. No­body loses. It’s the Amer­i­can way.

Hap­pily, there was a bit of lagniappe — “a lit­tle some­thing ex­tra” — to make the week go down. There’s a rea­son why there will al­ways be an Eng­land, as mil­lions of Amer­i­cans dis­cov­ered anew when they got up with the cows and chick­ens Fri­day morn­ing to watch the royal wed­ding. There was pomp and cir­cum­stance aplenty, a nod to the for­mal­ity that was once the grace note of pub­lic oc­ca­sion, spo­ken in the glo­ri­ous lan­guage of the King James Ver­sion of the Bi­ble, and enough ref­er­ences to “God the fa­ther, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost” to give athe­ists, Is­lamists, sec­u­lar­ists, Hot­ten­tots, lib­eral church­men and other ir­re­li­gious folk se­vere heart­burn. The Lon­don news­pa­pers tried to make an in­ci­dent of the fact that Kate didn’t prom­ise to “obey” Prince Wil­liam, though she did prom­ise to be “faith­ful” to him and all he had to do was prom­ise to “love and cher­ish” her. “Obey” hasn’t been in the tra­di­tional Chris­tian mar­riage cer­e­mony for decades. Prayers were said for Will and Kate be­seech­ing the Lord to adorn their mar­riage with “the gift of chil­dren,” a re­minder to Kate about her duty to God and coun­try. There were no crumbs for the gay ca­balleros. El­ton John was there but didn’t get to sing. This was a mar­riage of hope for glory, with tra­di­tion en­throned.

Wes­ley Pru­den is edi­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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