This, unfortunately, should come as no surprise by now: a good number of the tea partiers who gathered in DC yesterday have serious doubts about President Obama’s qualifications to occupy the White House (i.e. where’s the birth certificate?) and his faith (he might not be a Muslim, but ya know…).
In fact, I couldn’t find a single tea partier to talk to yesterday who didn’t have doubts about Obama’s citizenship status or his faith. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone at yesterday’s 912 rally felt that way — just the ones I talked to. A year after 9/12/09 tea partiers were roundly criticized for images and rhetoric questioning Obama’s faith and past at their big DC rally, it seems the movement has not strayed from the idea that Obama is not just a bad president but some kind of other or “usurper” (as one banner calling for his overthrow on display put it) illegally occupying the nation’s highest office.
“People here know he’s not an American,” a tea partier from DC who would identify himself only as “Randy” told me. He launched into a refrain I would hear more than once during the day — Obama has not displayed enough paperwork proving his U.S. birth to get a driver’s license, not to mention a job that requires a security clearance.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Tea Partiers Storm DC For Second (And Smaller) 9/12 Rally]The facts, clearly, do not matter to some. Obama was born in Hawaii, case closed. The case is so closed, in fact, that Hawaii’s Republican governor, Lisa Lingle, recently signed a law allowing state officials to ignore repeated requests for the president’s birth certificate from misguided birthers.
Nevertheless, the president’s citizenship is an open question to the tea partiers I spoke with at the rally yesterday. “I have my doubts,” Jack Smith, a tea partier from Georgia, told me. “He needs to show us the documents.”
Smith also gave me the “Obama couldn’t even get a driver’s license” spiel. Other tea partiers I talked with told a similar tale.
The president’s faith was another topic for debate at the rally today. This is perhaps less surprising than the persistence of the birther rumor, considering that polls show doubting Obama’s Christianity is a growing phenomenon. More than one sign (here’s the reverse side on that last one) suggested Obama’s faith is not what he says it is, and tea partiers in attendance were more than happy to be less subtle in conversation.
Like Shelly Ehret, who traveled to the rally from Ohio. “I don’t know,” she told me when I asked her if Obama is a Christian. “Only God can know for sure what’s in his heart.”
Smith said he didn’t know about Obama’s faith either. But, in the end, he said Obama potentially hiding his Islamic background was less important than the birth certificate stuff.
“He may do that,” Smith said when I asked if Obama lies about his faith. “But I don’t care.” Smith said that it doesn’t matter if Obama is a Muslim, “as long as he doesn’t act on it.”
There’s nothing in the Constitution about what faith the president has to be, Smith said. The same can’t be said for Consitutional citizenship requirements. The reason why faith takes a backseat to birth is simple, Smith told me, gesturing to the tea partiers gathered around him.
“We really do care about the Constitution,” he said.