For as long as there have been birthers, there have been politicians jumping on the birther bandwagon. And for as long as there have been politicians jumping on the birther bandwagon, there have been politicians who casually lean up against the birther bandwagon but run away before anyone sees them.
Here’s TPM’s roundup of politicians who have proven to be, for lack of a better term, birther-curious, before having to back things up a bit…
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was caught on tape on July 11 telling an audience that he supports birther lawsuits: “But I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it.” A few days later, Vitter called out the “liberal thought police” for the “ridiculous” attack: “I’m not a birther, and I even said the issue is distracting. But I think people should have appropriate access to the courts.”
Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary, said in January that President Obama “should come forward with the information” proving he was born in Hawaii.
Hayworth asked: “Why should we depend on the governor of Hawaii?” In March, he backtracked, calling the birther debate “as esoteric as arguing about the eligibility of Chester Alan Arthur well over a century after he served as president.” Hayworth also unequivocally said: “Look, Barack Obama’s the 44th president of the United States. His election was certified. I believe he was born in Hawaii.” Though a month later, Hayworth came out in support of legislation in Arizona that would require presidential candidates to submit proof of their natural-born citizenship in order to appear on the state’s ballot, and even said he thinks the “legislation is drawn too narrowly.”
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) was captured on audio in March talking about possible legal strategies for a birther lawsuit, and saying about Obama: “Someone is going to have to come forward with nailed down testimony that he was born in place B, wherever that is. You know, the speculation is Kenya. And that doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility.” Soon after, he walked his statements back: “I absolutely believe that President Obama was born in the United States. I don’t buy into the claims that he wasn’t. On the recording, I was asked a hypothetical legal question, and I gave a hypothetical legal answer in response.”
Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) wrote a letter to President Obama asking for his birth certificate, but in February made sure to clarify that of course this doesn’t make him a birther: “I know some folks will try to label this as ‘politically incorrect.’ Let me tell you something, political correctness is paralyzing our society. These kinds of things deserve straightforward responses. I think this ought to be put to rest. I’m not questioning his legitimacy to serve as President. I would think he’d like to clear this up in as unequivocal fashion as possible. That’s all I’m asking him to do.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said he came super close to filing a lawsuit questioning Obama’s citizenship: “I was one of the few Members of Congress that was willing, if I could come up with a way to prove that Barack Obama was not born in this country, I was willing to go into a lawsuit.” But he later clarified that this was before the 2008 election, and since then he had become convinced that Obama is a natural-born citizen, “even if he acts un-American and he seems to go against American interests.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was pretty coy about birtherism last August: “I haven’t seen enough evidence one way or the other,” he said, adding that the issue is being addressed “in the courts.” When called out for his statement, McHenry backtracked: “I have not carefully reviewed the evidence as a jurist would. However, from what I have read, I have absolutely no reason to question President Obama’s citizenship. I anticipate that as a legal matter the courts will continue to come to the same conclusion.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said last July that he thinks the birthers “have a point,” adding: “I don’t discourage it.” He later clarified: “The point that they make is the Constitutional mandate that the U.S. President be a natural born citizen, and the White House has not done a very good job of dispelling the concerns of these citizens. My focus is on issues where I can make a difference to stop the liberal agenda being pushed by President Obama.”
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said in a video last July that he doesn’t “have any reason not to believe that” Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., but qualified: “What I don’t know is why the president can’t produce a birth certificate. I don’t know anybody else that can’t produce one. And I think that that’s a legitimate question — no health records, no birth certificate.” Later, a Blunt spokesman claimed the quote in the video was taken out of context: “He did not state that he doubted that President Obama was born in the United States and did not suggest Obama is not the President.” As to whether Blunt believes Obama’s legitimately president, the spokesman said: “Of course he does and this is clear in the unedited interview.”