The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Monday, July 27:

A year after then-candidate Barack Obama released a birth record showing he was born in Hawaii, the president-isn’t-a-natural-born-citizen mythology is gaining a troubling second wind.

Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, a conservative Republican, recently was booed loudly for defending Obama’s citizenship and his right to be president during a town hall meeting. Several conservative politicians are now coyly perpetuating the fake-citizenship myth. And Florida Rep. Bill Posey has gone so far as to sponsor a bill with several Republican co-signers that would require future presidential candidates to provide a copy of their original birth certificate.

Maybe this is the way political disputes play out in the Internet Age, but we think it is disgusting and dangerous. Someone flings a charge, then lets word of mouth, e-mail blasts and talk-show chatter turn an easily debunked allegation into a full-fledged circus of conspiratorial cover-up theories. Americans deserve better and need to demand some responsibility – especially from elected officials who seem most interested in playing to the worst instincts the political fringe has to offer.

There should be more politicians like Castle who say what needs to be said – the truth. Conservatives may harbor legitimate policy differences with Obama, but allowing this off-base attack regarding the president’s citizenship to gain any foothold is simply dishonest

“Birthers,” as these conspiracy mongers are known, theorize that Obama’s mother gave birth to the future president in Kenya in 1961. Under one odd interpretation, Obama’s 18-year-old mother, an American citizen, didn’t meet an obscure law requiring her to have lived in the United States for at least five years after the age of 14 in order for her son to be eligible for the presidency. Other birthers argue that because Obama’s father was Kenyan, the president has dual citizenship and is ineligible to sit in the White House. Still others claim his birth document is a forgery.

Never mind that Hawaii has confirmed Obama’s “certificate of live birth” as a valid birth certificate. Never mind that a birth announcement was printed in a Hawaii paper in 1961. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court last year dismissed a legal challenge to his citizenship.

It’s perfectly legitimate for any citizen to challenge any president’s policies in fact, the American democratic system demands it. But the screwy idea that a freely elected president somehow isn’t the legitimate holder of the office is a dangerous chant that undermines the cherished institution.

In dark corners of the Internet, some wing nuts still allege that the president is a closet Muslim, just as others claim that former President George W. Bush knowingly allowed the 9/11 attacks for the purpose of some grand political gain. These attacks from both political extremes are vicious and baseless. They deserve rebuke.

It’s bad enough for those on the extreme edges of politics to tilt at windmills, but it’s far worse for those who should know better to fuel this paranoia.

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