Arizona's secretary of state Ken Bennett, has once again reignited the birther controversy with the statement that he will keep Barack Obama off the state's election ballot in November unless Hawaii provides verification that Obama was born there.
According to The Washington Times, in a radio interview with KFYI's conservative talk host Mike Broomhead, Bennet said, “I believe the president was born in Hawaii — or at least I hope he was. My responsibility as secretary of state is to make sure that the ballots in Arizona are correct and that those people whose names are on the ballot have met the qualifications of the office they are seeking.”
Bennett acknowledged that his decision was partly inspired by Sheriff Arpaio who announced what he considered proof that Obama's long-form birth certificate released in April 2011 was computer-generated forgery. Bennett claimed that based on Arpaio's claims, he has received 1,200 emails from people who want him to address the birth certificate controversy.
Digital Journal reports that Republican Arizona Sherriff Arpaio, 79, held a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, early in the year, in which he announced that investigation by his "cold case posse" had led him to the conclusion that there is "probable cause to believe that Obama's long-form birth certificate, released on April 27, 2011, is computer generated forgery."
According to Digital Journal, the Republican Sheriff said: "We believe probable cause exists indicating that forgery and fraud may have been committed, not only in President Obama's long-form birth certificate, but more disturbing evidence suggests that another fraud may have been committed regarding his selective service registration card."
The Sheriff concluded, "My investigators believe that the long-form birth certificate was manufactured electronically and that it did not originate in paper format as claimed by the White House.” Arpaio alleged that the "date stamp and registrar's stamp appear to have been imported from unknown outside sources."
USA Today points out that Arpaio has personal reasons for taking up the birther cause. Digital Journal reports the Justice Department sued the Sheriff's office alleging racial profiling of Latinos. But Arpaio said the lawsuit was only intended to court Latino votes.
According to USA Today, Bennett said he petitioned the state of Hawaii to provide the "verification in lieu of a certified copy of a birth certificate." He said that so far Hawaii has not complied with the request. He told Broomhead, "At the request of a constituent, I asked the state of Hawaii for a verification in lieu of certified copy. We're merely asking them to officially confirm they have the president's birth certificate in their possession and are awaiting their response."
Bennett said he had been trying for eight weeks to get Hawaii to verify Obama's certificate. He said he was surprised that he is not getting any response from Hawaii officials. The Huffington Post reports that he, however, admitted that Hawaiian officials said they were weary of endless requests for verification of Obama's birth certificate. In 2010, Gov. Linda Lingle (R), reacting to the state being inundated by requests, signed a bill allowing state officials to ignore requests for copies of Obama's birth certificate.
According to The Washington Times, Broomhead asked Bennett, “If they won’t comply, if they refuse to comply with this, will you remove the president from the ballot? Will you exclude him from the ballot?”
Bennett answered, “That’s possible. Or the other option would be I would ask all candidates, including the president, maybe to submit a certified copy of their birth certificate. But I don’t want to do that.”
USA Today reports that Bennett insists that he is not a "birther." He said, "First, I have been on the record since 2009 that I believe the president was born in Hawaii. I am not a birther."
But according to The Washington Times, Bennett's position appears to contradict the position taken last year by Republican Governor Jan Brewer, known not to be a fan of Obama. She had said that the birther controversy is a "distraction" and vetoed the "Birther Bill," Arizona House Bill 2177, that would have granted Arizona's secretary of state the power to decide whether a candidate was qualified to appear on the ballot.
Brewer also told CNN last year that the birther movement is "just something I believe is leading our country down the path of destruction and it just is not serving any good purpose.”
The Washington Times comments that Bennett is contravening Arizona laws which do not require that candidates provide certified birth certificates, and that he is pandering to Arizona voters who supported the Birther Bill. According to USA Today, Bennett is looking at the possibility of a 2014 race for governor. The Huffington Post claims that the move is intended to gain favor among Arizona birthers in preparation for his governorship run.
But Bennett denied that his move was to gain favor with the "fringe elements" in his state. He said he was only responding to the demands of 1,200 Arizonans who emailed him to express their concerns after Arpaio's press conference.
The Washington Times sums up the present situation with the comment, "We may have thought that with the release of the long form of Obama’s birth certificate this would have disappeared for good. However... there are still 41% of Americans who do not believe Obama is a bona fide American... Among Republicans that number jumps to a shocking 72%... There is a rampant paranoia loose in America... Birthers are just a symptom of that paranoia and there are plenty of people out there ready to exploit Americans' fear of the Other... birtherism is all about [the paranoid fear that] the biracial man in the White House is not one of us and he tricked us to become President."