Jan Brewer's birther bill veto: 4 theories

Arizona's Republican governor stuns conservatives by vetoing a controversial bill requiring presidential candidates to submit proof of U.S. citizenship

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who last year approved the nation's strictest immigration law, shocked the political world by vetoing a controversial "birther bill" this week.
(Image credit: Corbis)

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) shocked the political world this week by vetoing two of the Right's "pet pieces" of legislation. One bill would have allowed firearms on parts of college campuses. The other, known as the "birther bill," would have made Arizona the first state to require specific proof of U.S. citizenship from presidential candidates. Brewer said the gun law was poorly written, and described the birther bill as "a bridge too far." (A similar "birther" bill was introduced in Louisiana last week, and the governor there, Republican Bobby Jindal, says that he will sign it if it reaches his desk.) So why did Brewer, a conservative favorite who fought last year for a tough new immigration law, exercise her veto power? Here, four theories:

1. The legislation was flawed

The birther bill "was a joke, and Brewer dismissed it as such," says Paul Thornton in the Los Angeles Times. She said she'd "never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their 'early baptismal or circumcision certificate.'" Plus, Brewer didn't want to give one person — Arizona's secretary of state — the power to decide who does or does not get on the ballot, because that could lead to "arbitrary or politically motivated decisions."

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2. Brewer was protecting Arizona's reputation

In passing and defending Arizona's controversial immigration law, the governor "shamelessly" and falsely blamed illegal immigrants "for everything from higher crime rates to headless bodies," says Cynthia Tucker in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She must be "tired of having Arizona made a laughingstock and the subject of tourism boycotts."

3. The governor isn't really even all that conservative

Brewer swung right by signing the immigration law last year, but now that she's no longer in a tough re-election fight, her true politics are emerging, says state Sen. Ron Gould (R), who sponsored the gun bill vetoed by the governor. "It's kind of disappointing, because we're going to see this year that Brewer is not a conservative."

4. The GOP is sick of the "nutty right"

Brewer's veto is a key sign that "a large portion of the GOP" is ready to dump its "deranged, self-destructive girlfriend" — the birther movement, says Carmel Lobello at Death + Taxes. Coming from a governor who "seems to loathe anyone born outside of the U.S. (as well as the children of immigrants)," the veto "speak volumes about a growing fracture in the Republican Party."

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