“Birthers”: Unethical, or Merely Deranged?

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, a military expert who appears as an analyst on Fox News, has submitted an affidavit in support of Army Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lakin, who is refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because of his belief that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Lakin faces a court-martial for his refusal. Thus has General  McInerney officially admitted to being a “birther,” one of the legion of conspiracy theorists who deny Constitutional eligibility for the White House.

From McInerney’s affidavit:

“The President of the United States, as the Commander-in-Chief, is the source of all military authority. The Constitution requires the President to be a natural born citizen in order to be eligible to hold office. If he is ineligible under the Constitution to serve in that office that creates a break in the chain of command of such magnitude that its significance can scarcely be imagined… I cannot overstate how imperative it is to train…personnel to have confidence in the unified chain of command. Today, because of the widespread and legitimate concerns that the President is constitutionally ineligible to hold office…LTC Lakin has acted exactly as proper training dictates. That training mandates that he determine in his own conscience that an order is legal before obeying it…
For the foregoing reasons, it is my opinion that LTC Lakin’s request for discovery relating to the President’s birth records in Hawaii is absolutely essential to determining not merely his guilt or innocence but to reassuring all military personnel once and for all for this President whether his service as Commander-in-Chief is Constitutionally proper. He is the one single person in the Chain of Command that the Constitution demands proof of natural born citizenship… the Commander-in-Chief must now, in the face of serious– and widely held– concerns that he is ineligible, either voluntarily establish his eligibility by authorizing release of his birth records or this court must authorize their discovery…”

Well and powerfully stated. There is one problem, however: the theory that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. has been thoroughly shown to be pure paranoid fantasy. Objective investigators have satisfied all reasonable doubts by debunking rumors that the President’s Hawaiian birth certificate is a forgery, and there is even a Hawaiian newspaper birth announcement mentioning his name, and originating on his day of birth. Even if all this were not true, the scope of the conspiracy necessary to pull off the fraud Lakin, General McInerney and other birthers attribute to the President is too unlikely to even support good science fiction. As FactCheck.org put it, in discussing the birth announcement,

“Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.”

(The link above takes you to FactCheck.org’s definitive review of the controversy, and other links.)

So are birthers like the General unethical, or just deranged? Are they refusing to admit the legitimacy of President Obama authority as a political ploy, motivated by cynicism, racism, or perhaps vengeance for the irresponsible eight year chorus from Democrats that George Bush “stole” the 2000 election despite post-election newspaper recounts that showed the accusation to be groundless? Is it just dirty politics? Or is the birther syndrome more clinical, an example of confirmation bias gone wild as virulent political opponents of Obama persuade themselves to believe the impossible rather than facing the truth that he was elected to office, fair and square?

In Gen. McInerney’s case, at least, it’s a trick question: he is both unethical and deranged. He is unethical, because he had an obligation to consult objective research before joining an attempt to undermine the authority of the President. This is especially true because he is a public commentator on military matters, and carries, or at least did before this, an added measure of credibility and authority. He had an ethical duty not to abuse that status by stating in an official document that questions about President Obama’s birth are “legitimate” and “serious.” They are neither, and signing an affidavit that claims otherwise—during warfare!— is unforgivable—misleading, unfair, irresponsible, disrespectful, and a breach of the duties of citizenship. The fact that the claims are also “widespread,” which the General notes twice in his document, is not a justification for further inquiry. Widespread and demonstrably false beliefs based on stubbornness and ignorance do not deserve respect or deference.

Gen. McEnerney is also deranged. Signing an affidavit asserting the legitimacy of a phony controversy that any 7th Grader could disprove in ten minutes of Googling, and that anyone with rudimentary reasoning ability should be able to declare absurd with five minutes of thought alone, is an indication that the General is several cards short of a full deck. An affidavit is an official and sworn document, with penalties for dishonesty: the recklessness and poor judgment demonstrated by issuing this one goes beyond “mistake” or “What was he thinking?” to “Get the net!”

This is yet another test for Fox, which has flunked many. No serious news source can afford to present a birther as a credible expert on anything, except maybe Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. General McEnerney has to go, and now.

2 thoughts on ““Birthers”: Unethical, or Merely Deranged?

  1. “Well and powerfully stated. There is one problem, however…”

    Sorry, but you are another one who has not done sufficient homework on this issue.

    General McInerney’s claim that “The President of the United States, as the Commander-in-Chief, is the source of all military authority” is also false. As Col. Denise Lind, the military judge in the case, said in her ruling, “The authority to issue orders does not depend on the qualifications of the President, any suggestion that it does is an erroneous view of the law.”

    The orders that Lt. Col. Lakin failed to obey were issued not by the President but by others in his chain of command, and they are valid even under the theory that the President is ineligible for office.

    You are of course correct when you describe the various ineligibility claims as “demonstrably false beliefs.” But you seem to buy into the equally bogus claim that the issue is relevant to the question of whether Lakin is guilty of the crimes of which he stands accused.

    There is much misinformation being spread on this issue, and I am sorry to see you contributing to it.

    • Arthur: you seem to be immune to sarcasm. You also are out of line.
      I do not vouch for the General’s constitutional analysis by quoting it. It’s his statement not mine. The post is not about the Lakin case; it is about the ridiculous Obama birth controversy, and in inappropriateness of a General and commentator giving it credence. I did not discuss the Lakin case, the chain of command, or the reasoning behind his refusal to serve. A bogus excuse is a bogus excuse—I don’t care, nor do I have an obligation to discuss in a post about another matter and individual, exactly how bogus the excuse is. Saying that I “buy into” a bad theory because I don’t devote space to debunking it is both unfair and illogical. The Lakin case was not on my homework assignment.

      My father was a military man, and I know all about how the chain of command works. I didn’t need the judge—or you— to tell me that the man with the authority has it until it is taken away, credentials or no credentials. I appreciate the comment for its informational value to readers, but my duty is to cover the ethics topic I’m writing about, and not the details of related matters that have no impact on it.

      I did not “spread” misinformation by quoting the General’s affidavit, especially since no sane person would believe any assertion whatsoever made by someone who would sign such a document.

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