On Friday, Mitt Romney made a joke that seemed to ally him firmly with the birther movement. On a campaign stop in Michigan — where both he and his wife, Ann, were born — Romney said: "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised." (See video below.) Team Obama said it was bad enough when nut-job Romney surrogates like Donald Trump question whether the president was born in the U.S., but Romney's "decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America." A Romney adviser said the GOP presidential candidate has never questioned Obama's birthplace, and was merely expressing pride in his Michigan roots. Was Romney's line a harmless crowd-pleaser, or an unpresidential low blow?
Romney went way too far: Of course Romney doesn't really buy the right-wing fringe's birther nonsense, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, but his little zinger was still huge mistake. On the heels of Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remark, it's a fresh "reminder of the extreme voices in the GOP, which Romney has, at times, been slow to denounce." This lame joke makes him look "less than presidential, to put it mildly," and raises questions about his judgment and character.
"Mitt Romney's birther joke"
Obama has told worse jokes than this: The Obama camp's outrage is astoundingly hypocritical, says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. Obama himself has made jokes about the birthers — his campaign is even selling tongue-in-cheek "Made in the U.S.A." mugs. And if anyone's guilty of dragging the presidential campaign into the mud, it's the "Obama surrogates calling Romney a murderer" because people laid off by Bain Capital lost health insurance, or Obama, who loves making Seamus the Dog jokes.
"Barack Obama again jokes about his birth certificate, outrage ensues... oh, wait"
Loathsome, yes, but not a big deal: This will go down as the moment when the GOP's standard-bearer — not just a rodeo clown like Trump — started winking at the vile birthers, says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. "Looked at that way, it's kind of disgraceful." But it was, after all, only a joke. "I doubt swing voters were offended by [Romney's] attempt at humor, but I also doubt it makes them think any better of him."
"Romney's birther 'joke' and the automatic outrage machine"
And see what you think about Romney's joke:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- 10 things you need to know today: November 23, 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- Why insects are the future of food
Subscribe to the Week