Why The Republican Party Is What It Is

“A reactionary is a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society.”

Wikipedia

I often use the term “reactionaries” to describe those folks on the right who have a problem living in the 21st century, a problem coming to grips with present reality. I sometimes differentiate between reactionaries and conservatives because conservatism doesn’t necessarily involve reactionary politics, though it often does, especially as we watch conservative behavior today. Most of the conservatives we see dominating the Republican Party these days are—without the slightest doubt—reactionaries.

As most of you know, I was born and raised in Kansas. I lived there until I was about 30 years old. I worked there. I played there. I became a conservative there. I was baptized into an evangelical faith there. The political Kansas I knew was mostly a right-of-center place, with pockets of leftish resistance here and there, and for the most part its politics was not radical or reactionary. Today, though, like a lot of red states Kansas has been radicalized and has turned into one of the most reactionary places in the country.

Nothing could better demonstrate the change from a mild, if not moldy, conservatism into a radical and fiery reactionaryism than what emerged in Kansas recently. Last week, as nearly everyone knows by now, the Kansas House passed a bill that, according to Time,

would permit businesses and government employees to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious principles. 

That Jim Crowish bill, which has been condemned far and wide by progressives, passed 72-49 and is now being considered by the state senate, which is expected to either water it down significantly or kill it. Apparently there are some Kansas Republicans left who haven’t been completely radicalized by religious zealots in the state. But the fact that such a reactionary piece of legislation passed one side of the legislature in 2014—2014 for God’s sake—says a lot about not only about the Republican Party, but it speaks to why it is that our national government is so profoundly, if not dangerously, divided.

At the heart of this ascendance of a rabid reactionary politics in Kansas and elsewhere—there is an anti-gay bill in Idaho that is even worse than the one in Kansas—is the anxiety that (mostly but not entirely white) evangelical and fundamentalist Christians feel deep in their bones over the loss of cultural dominance they and their Iron Age theology once enjoyed. Most of the theological angst started with the Supreme Court ruling in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale) that government-composed prayers could not be used in public schools, then just after that blow came atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s victorious lawsuit in 1963 (consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp) in which the Supreme Court put the kibosh on the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading in government schools.

If I heard it once, I heard it a gazillion times from the conservative church folk I knew back home: “They kicked God out of the schools! Why do you think things are so bad!”

So, it started with those two court rulings, but other rulings followed that were specifically related to Bible-based anxiety over a rapidly changing culture. There was Griswold v. Connecticut (which found that because of the Constitution’s now strangely controversial “right to privacy” states could not prohibit the use of contraceptives by married people; later this freedom was extended to all couples via Eisenstadt. V. Baird; and now we are fighting over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate). Skipping over the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade case (which isn’t necessarily—even though it has mostly become—a case involving evangelical theology), we come to Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case that effectively struck down all sodomy laws in the country and paved the way for the eventual legitimation of same-sex marriage, which is now driving right-wing Christians into convulsions not seen since the Gadarene Demoniac.

Along with—perhaps partly because of—these culturally significant court cases, public opinion has evolved in the direction of progress and against the forces of Bible-inspired conservatism. Holy Book-believing Christians have essentially lost the fight over whether the Bible or a secular Constitution will be the ultimate law of the land. This has led to a backlash, a serious and divisive backlash, among folks who take the Bible seriously and who genuinely—I repeat: genuinely— believe that America is going straight to hell because it has turned its back on God and his Word.

More important, though, than all the talk of cultural anxiety and ancient theology is what these Bible-believing folks have been up to lately. In order to turn their biblical notions and reactionary tendencies into public policies like the one proposed last week in Kansas, they have increasingly and fanatically turned to grassroots politics.

These religious reactionaries have educated themselves and essentially taken over the Republican Party’s organizational structure. One such reactionary lives right here in Southwest Missouri. I used to go to the same evangelical church he did and used to believe a lot of the same things he believes. His name is John Putnam. He’s from Carthage and he is the Chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party.

Mr. Putnam has essentially written his own bible on how to take over and transform the Republican Party from the ground up. He notes that there are some “183,000 precincts in the 50 states” and he outlines how the system works:

putnam's patriotsThe voters of each precinct, according to their state’s laws, can elect or appoint one man and one woman to represent the people of that precinct in their political party’s organizational structure (sometimes called the party “machine”).  The precinct chairs/executives become members of their county committee and elect their county committee’s Chair and Vice-Chair who, in turn, help elect their Party’s State Committee; plus, they largely influence which candidates will run (and most likely be elected) in their party’s primary election and who, subsequently, will carry their party’s banner in the November General Elections. 

All of this represents the nuts and bolts of party organization. It is how a political party can be commandeered by a zealous minority and how such zealotry can come to represent the face of the party. It it why the Republican Party is so schizophrenic. It is why its national leaders are so afraid to actually lead. It is why Washington is suffering from legislative paralysis. You think I am exaggerating? Putnam goes on to point out that,

Nationwide, half of these positions sit empty and most voters no longer even know they exist.  If Constitutional conservatives will fulfill the precinct leader’s role and elect Constitutional conservative chairs and vice-chairs to their county committees, we can cleanse our representative form of government in very short order.  This is assuming the men and women who fill the precinct position have the wisdom of  Cleon Skousen gleaned from The Five Thousand Year Leap and the virtue of George Washington (see Glenn Beck’s Being George Washington).

If that stuff about cleansing doesn’t scare you, then you don’t know who Cleon Skousen and Glenn Beck are. Perhaps now you can see why the Republican Party looks the way it does. This kind of tactical action is going on, has been going on, all over the country. Mr. Putnam provides local zealots everywhere, those who have a biblical ax to grind, with essential knowledge of how to go about that grinding. Become “party officials” at the local level, he says. Why? Because:

…party officials have a strong influence on who wins the Primary because of their influence in recruiting and endorsing candidates. They also influence whether the Party stays philosophically true to its platform. There is no reason why YOU cannot become a Precinct Patriot and be one who influences these decisions. 

If you ever wondered why a disturbed and disturbing man named Todd Akin became the Missouri GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2012, now you know why. Even after Akin was disgraced, even after his horrific views on women and rape were revealed, even after the Republican establishment abandoned him, John Putnam came to his defense and supported him. And even with that robust defense of a man clearly out of touch with reality, perhaps because of that robust defense, John Putnam remains in charge—in charge!—of the Jasper County Republican Party.

That tells you all you need to know about what is wrong with the GOP. At the ground level, where it often matters most, the reactionaries are running the asylum.

Prediction: 7th District Candidates Will Preach To The Choir

The Joplin Globe’s official editorial position, expressed today, is that the 7th District GOP candidates gathering for a “forum” tonight (all bleeping eight of ‘em) in Joplin should not “preach to the choir.”

Huh? Preach to the choir?  That’s what party primary voters are: the choir.  Especially here in our part of Southwest Missouri, where most of the folks worship at the Church of Republicanism and are full-throated singers in the Conservative Tabernacle Choir.

In any case, the Globe—using its own choir-like voice—is emphatic:

We need to know where they stand on the issue of earmarks. We need to know how they would curb government spending. We need to know what they will do for job creation and economy stimulation.

First, raising the issue of earmarks is an open invitation for demagoguery.  “Earmarks” represent less than 2% of the federal budget and getting rid of every single one of them—even though many are important projects—would not have much impact on the deficit.  But it does give each of our GOP wannabees a chance to talk tough and hope the voters remain comfortably ignorant.

Second, the Globe wonders how these candidates “will curb government spending.”  A different kind of newspaper editorial would ask, “How will you raise sufficient revenues to pay for government spending initiated by your fellow Republicans?” 

But our paper especially understands that there aren’t any Republicans around here who would be willing to suggest that we actually pay for Republican projects like Medicare Part D, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the two major tax cuts courtesy of George W. Bush, and so on.  Nope, now that Republicans are safely out of power, the issue is all about curbing government spending, particulary Democratic government spending. 

Funny how that works.

Finally, our paper of record wants to know what these 7th District hopefuls “will do for job creation and economy stimulation.”

Let me see….I KNOW! I KNOW! CALL ON ME, PLEASE! PLEASE!  TAX CUTS! IT’S TAX CUTS! MORE TAX CUTS!

And I’m not even in the choir.

Missouri Now Safe From Pee-wee Herman

I know I feel better now that I have learned that a local Republican operative, who likes to put on wigs and appear at rallies to lament our loss of liberty, finally managed to succeed in tightening the noose of state government around the neck of the adult entertainment industry in Missouri.

I suppose one man’s liberty is another man’s reason to squelch it, even if the squelcher squeals hypocritically about government tyranny at local Tea Parties.  Only in Jasper County  America.

We consider this a tremendous victory for the health and safety of Jasper County residents,” Peeping John Putnam told the Joplin Globe.

As I have pointed out before, among the new law’s restrictions is one I find manifestly weird.

According to Susan Redden’s reporting in the Globe:

Businesses that show films or videos must be configured so to give the manager an unobstructed view of patron areas.

I don’t know which is more strange: people who would pull off I-44 to watch an adult movie in the store and masturbate, or those who demand that the government tell the business owner to keep an eye on such folks.

Too much for my liberal mind to comprehend.

But I do wish that Republicans like Putnam, now that Missouri is relatively safe from premature ejaculators the porn industry, would be willing to tighten the noose of government around the necks of Wall Street and Big Oil, which, like the porn business, needs someone to watch what’s going on.

Because some of that stuff is much more worrisome than Pee-wee Herman types who have trouble waiting until they get home.

Joplin Tea Party Pix

The man on the right is famous local radio personality Mark Kinsley. The man on the left is Thomas Jefferson imitating John Putnam.

 

Obviously, spell-check was unavailable at the placard painting parties.

 

Thankfully, this was a “non-partisan” event.

Understandably, some people wanted to remain anonymous.

A Wide Birth

Last Friday, the Globe published a column I wrote about the McCaskill visit last week. The following is an unedited version (the parts deleted for publication are here bracketed and in bold), along with most of the comments from anonymous readers, which demonstrate the enormous separation of opinion on this “issue”:

Tuesday night, Claire McCaskill came all the way to Joplin to answer questions from the public.

The second question of the night came from John Putnam, chairman of the Jasper County Republican Central Committee and our local moral environmentalist, who wasted Senator McCaskill’s time with a question about Obama’s allegedly phantom birth certificate, a phony controversy existing only in the minds of confused conspiracists.

[Surely, a man who is contemplating a run for congress would have something more pressing to ask, like, say, whether the government will continue denying the existence of Roswell aliens or whether Glenn Beck will ever regain his sanity. But, no,] Mr. Putnam chose his moment with Sen. McCaskill to embarrass not only himself, but the entire thinking population of Southwest Missouri.

David Horowitz, a conservative writing about people like Mr. Putnam on Townhall.com, said:

The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, an unhinged demagogue on the political fringe who lost a senate election to the then unknown Obama by 42 points should be a warning in itself.

Now, Alan Keyes, based on the birth certificate issue, does not think Obama is really the president, referring to him as only an “alleged president.” He also said recently:

Obama is a radical communist. He is going to destroy this country and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.

Whether John Putnam agrees with Mr. Keyes about Obama being a radical communist we don’t know, but we do know now that he agrees with him about the “conspiracy” surrounding Obama’s citizenship,[certifying Mr. Putnam as a member of Horowitz's "fringe group of conservatives."]

Senator McCaskill, to her immense credit, tried to be diplomatic, but she eventually and cleverly turned the question around and asked Mr. Putnam in effect: So what would you suggest be done about it, if we found out the birth certificate issue were legitimate?

Which is a good question. What would people who think Obama is not a lawful president do if it could be definitively proven that his fatherland was fictionalized [by farsighted Manchurians? Would they march on the White House and burn a cross on his lawn? Would they kidnap Sasha and Malia and hold them hostage until Barack and Michelle turned over the keys to the presidential limousine?] Would they demand that Obama apologize and allow John McCain to be president on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays?

Michael Shermer, a writer for Scientific American and publisher of Skeptic magazine, said this about people who are infected with conspiracy disease:

There’s no amount of evidence or data that will change somebody’s mind. The more data you present a person, the more they doubt it … Once you’re committed, especially behaviorally committed or financially committed, the more impossible it becomes to change your mind.

WorldNetDaily, a “Christian” news outlet, has been a major instigator of those seeking additional proof that Obama was actually born in Hawaii. On Wednesday, the top four stories on its website were related to the issue, and there was an advertisement for a “Where’s the Birth Certificate” bumper sticker. Ironically and hypocritically there was also an advertisement for a book titled, “Heard Any Gossip?” in which the author claims gossip is a grave sin.

And in a perverse case of loving the sin and hating the sinner, Joseph Farah, founder of WorldNetDaily said:

I’m also calling on all my colleagues, from coast to coast and around the world, not to let this matter drop. Apparently it is a point of real sensitivity with Obama people. Good. Let’s rub it in. Let’s demand he produce the birth certificate at every turn – at every press conference, at every appearance, on every talk show.

John Putnam is obviously practicing what Mr. Farah is preaching,[and regrettably, exposing himself as a fringe conservative makes him a viable candidate in next year's race for the 7th congressional district.]

Meanwhile and miraculously , despite unrelenting attacks from the right, the alleged president’s approval ratings remain high.

COMMENTS (in order of last to first)

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Achilles writes:
President Barack Obama is more of an American than John Putnam and the conservative Republican rift-raft harassing Senator McCaskill at MOSO that night!
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oldman writes:
“John” : John, I have to ask you Sir why didn’t you spend time on the real issues, that being pinning Senator McCaskill down on illegal immigration. John, there are none so blind as those that will not see, I wish you would stop following all the bull plop that some of these so called christian society groups put out and go to work in helping fixing things that need fixing right now. I am so sorry you choose to believe the crap that fear mongers spread creating anarchy and division, this old Republic will not get saved by the likes of you if you continue on this dead end path.
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Ollie writes:
Why and Oh for pity’s sake, you both have asked interesting questions. What I don’t understand is why you don’t seem to be the least bit interested in having them answered. And as for you, Sour grapes, please explain how President Biden is going to advance the Republican agenda.
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Obviously writes:
Dr. Rev. Alan, Well obviously the Federal Elections Committee is just another co-conspirator. Buncha commies!
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writes:
Sour grapes, nothing but sour grapes from the loosing side! I really fear for us as a society when people cling to cow flop like this!
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Rev Dr Alan writes:
Those of you who say there is no birth certificate are missing the point. There is a federal elections commission which investigates every ones paper work before they are allowed to run for president. JoplinFreethinkers.org
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Oh for pity’s sake writes:
So let’s say that for reasons of my own, I want to falsely claim that I was born in Hawaii, when in fact I was not. How on earth, why in the world would the Hawaii State Health Department collude with me in such a fraud? They wouldn’t. They would not even go so far as to say, “We have it but we won’t release it without Oh for pity’s sake authorization.” The State of Hawaii holds Mr. Obama’s birth certificate because that is where he was born. Mr. Obama is eligible for the office of President of the United States. He won the election fair and square. By continuing to shrilly insist that there is a vast conspiracy to place an ineligible person in office, the proponents of this half-baked theory continue to alienate mainstream Americans.
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Why? writes:
I was not born in Missouri, I was born in Indiana while my father served there in the Air Force. The Vital Statistics office of the State of Indiana has the original of my birth certificate. Neither the State of Missouri nor any other state has so much as a copy of my birth certificate. Why would the State of Hawaii maintain a copy of anyone’s birth certificate who was not born there?
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Ollie writes:
David, you were told this once, but apparently it didn’t take. I hate having to repeat myself, so please read this carefully. The document to which you refer, the Certification of Live Birth, is not a legal birth certificate. It does not contain the name or signature of the attending physician or the name of the hospital. Look for yourself: tinyurl.com/csx827 . A REAL Hawaiian birth certificate looks like this: tinyurl.com/68ce9q . The state of Hawaii has acknowledged that they have Obama’s legal birth certificate on file, but it is SEALED pending Obama’s authorization for its release which he has so far refused. No one from the state of Hawaii has said what is on that document — only that they have it. As to your “authoritative sources,” factcheck.org is run by the Annenberg Foundation. That’s the same Annenberg Foundation that gave Bill Ayers $50 million to turn Chicago public schools into communist indoctrination centers with the assistance of none other than Barack Obama. And snopes.com is one guy and his wife, David and Barbara Mikkelson, working out of their house, and they’re both liberal Democrats. Their “exhaustive investigations” amount to nothing more than parroting the spin from Obama’s website. You might as well cite moveon.org and democrats.com as your sources. What’s wrong with America today is gullible people like you who believe whatever they’re told if it comes from someone they think is “cool.” As to you, Andrew, it’s not up to us to prove he is not eligible; it’s up to him to prove that he is. We have pointed out that he has failed to do that. He could put this all to rest Monday by simply authorizing the release of his REAL birth certificate, but he won’t do that. Have you ever even wondered why? Do you even care? Aren’t you the same people who bashed Bush for being “incurious?”
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Maite writes:
While hunting Obama’s Birth certificate, who’s keeping an eye on the Black Helicopters?
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Uncle Jed writes:
This all reminds me of the 8 long years that the libs attacked Bush. His military record, his DRUG USE, he stole the election (twice) his party animal background, his intelligence (even after he graduated with higher grades than Kerry),,, it went on and on and on for 8 years. NOW, they wonder why their NON-AMERICAN Communist president is being attacked. The liberal conspiracy idiots are now reformed,,,, one would guess. (He did NOT have sex with intern, he would not do something like that, you conservative conspiracy person,,, oooopps,, i was wrong,,,, he did)
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Obviously writes:
There has been an elaborate conspiracy and cover-up orchestrated by Obama’s parents, grandparents, various foreigners, state and federal officials, and any number of foreign and domestic bureaucrats to create the superficial appearance that Barack Obama is an American citizen when actually he is not. Having succeeded in their scheme, the conspirators sat back and waited for Obama to decide to run for president. Perfect genius is shown in giving the baby an obviously foreign name. For added giggles, they gave Obama the middle name “Hussein” – betting that the United States would install a dictator in Iraq by that name and then, even later, go to war with that guy, twice! I tell you, it’s genius.
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Andrew Maddock writes:
You people who believe that Obama was not born in the US are just plain stupid. For one thing, if it were true I am sure that the republicain party would have been able to have found out about it well before the election. They spent millions of dollars trying to prove it and failed. So if they could not prove it, why do you people keep trying? I mean, if it were actually true and the republians could not prove it, what does that tell you? They are a bunch of dumbasses and is that the kind of people you want to run the country?
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Lauren Eastman writes:
The birth certificate controversy has been exasperated by Obama’s own Kenyan grandmother. I saw a newsclip of her on TV, where she said, “I was in the room when he was delivered”. Well this lady has never left Kenya. There has never been explanation by the news media if she is deranged or just telling the truth. To further investigate this factual event would finalize this controversy one way or the other.
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JPS writes:
My friends, the day Obama opens (is forced to open) the safe to show his BC is probably the day he can no longer be president, the great scandal of 2009 is approaching….
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David Smith writes:
People, where do you get the idea that his birth certificate is sealed away somewhere? Snopes.com and factcheck.org have both investigated this issue exhaustively, seen the proof, the NOT SEALED AWAY proof, it has been reported on ad nauseum, and people still want to cling to their conspiracy? And people wonder what is wrong with America today.
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Savvy writes:
The COLB produced by factcheck.org has neither a doctor’s signature or the name of a hospital. No one has come forward as witness they were present at Obama’s birth in HI … Obama’s Kenyan grandmother HAS come forward. She claims to have witnessed Obama’s birth in Kenya. If Obama was born overseas, he is not a citizen of the U.S.A., as his mother (18) was not old enough to pass citizenship to a child born overseas, and Obama’s father was not himself a U.S. citizen. If Obama produced his long-form birth certificate, which he claims is in his possession, the matter could be resolved. But Obama has multiple lawfirms fighting the release of his long-form birth certificate and Occidental College records … which might indicate whether Obama applied for admissions or student aid as a foreign student.
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writes:
Duh; Obamas records were sealed for the same reason that George Bush’s records were sealed(D.U.I. records, records of military service, prior financial dealings etc. etc. Oh, and yes even Georges birth records.). Chief Justice of the supreme court John Roberts, a staunch conservative, administered the oath of office to Obama twice. Do you think if there was a way out he would have done this? John McCain was the only candidate not born in this country, and under the original wording of the constitution, he would not have been eligible to run! All of this is just crybaby sour grapes, and as adults you should get over it!
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the informer writes:
Graham is still in La La Land. He doesn’t believe his own eyes.
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Ollie writes:
“Shut up!” they explained.
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James writes:
Citizen grand jury indicts Obama!!!!! Groups in 20 more states reviewing eligibility claims The indictment delivered to state and federal prosecutors yesterday is one of the developments in the dispute over Obama’s eligibility to be president under the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that presidents be “natural born” citizens. http://wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=93481 http://americangrandjury.org/
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old1writes:
Keep calling us names & trying to make us look foolish. We will save America in spite of your attacks. “O” is not a Natural Born American so Keys is right. “O” is not President. He can’t be. His dad was a British Citizen, that makes “O” a British Citizen under British Common Law. This deals with British Law, “O” Sr. and “O” Jr. It has nothing to do with American Law, place of birth, or any paper Hawaii has locked up for what ever reason the have open records sealed. Now “O” being a British Citizen goes against Article 2. Section 1. paragraph 5. of our great Constitution. For further information read the letter John Jay wrote George Washington about adding the Natural Born requirement during the framing of the Constitution. This is all you need to prove “O” is not President. How did Howard Dean overlook this? Where’s Howard today? Anybody seen him?
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Realityis writes:
I agree, you have provided no reason or proof why we shouldnt question his elgibility. Obama is hiding somthing, be careful, if this story pops, your career will be in question.
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writes:
And the crackpots keep on raving, like shar and duh.
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shar writes:
Your article sounds ridiculous to me. “There’s no amount of evidence or data that will change somebody’s mind. The more data you present a person, the more they doubt it.” The fact is that, other than a COLB which is not proof of Obama’s eligibility, no other pertinent data has been offered. All records are sealed up tight so nobody can get any resolve on this issue at all. If Obamba was transparent enough and respectful enough of the American people and its Constitution, he would open up about his past, instead of hiding any evidence that could potentially prove he IS eligible. It is embarassing our country that Obama is do disrespectful of it.
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DUH writes:
If there is nothing to hide, then why is the birth certificate sealed away? Why was the term “African” listed on the birth certificate copy shown the press when the term was negro or black at the time. Why did Obama’s mouthpieces say he did not bow to the Muslim king? The truth is the truth. “The truth shall set you free” is apparently alien to the Obama administration. Same old Chicago thug politics which warmly received the Globe’s ringing endorsement.
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Rev Dr Alan writes:
John Putnam is not representative of this county we should make that very clear. His, and his groups, idea’s are certainly off the wall.
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