Sheriff Joe Arpaio sought to expand his political reach well beyond Maricopa County, Ariz., on Thursday as he became the latest to assert that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is probably a computer-generated forgery.
The 79-year-old sheriff, who has long seemed to cultivate his image as combative and abrasive and is currently under fire from the Department of Justice for suspected discrimination against Latinos as Main Justice has reported, asserted at a news conference in Phoenix that a “Cold Case Posse” launched six months ago has concluded “there is probable cause that the document released by the White House last year as President Obama’s birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery,” as the conservative website WorldNet Daily reported.
“Based on all of the evidence presented and investigated, I cannot in good faith report to you that these documents are authentic,” the sheriff said, according to an account in The Washington Times. “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.”
Thus, almost a year after the president released the long form of his birth certificate to put an end to what he has called the “silliness” over questions about where he was born (see The New York Times account from last April), that question remains an issue — at least in the hearts and minds of some people who are unwilling, perhaps even unable, to accept that Obama was born in Hawaii, rather than in Kenya. (Although the issue of Obama’s religion did not come up at the news conference, some of these same people seem unable or unwilling to believe that he is a Christian, rather than a Muslim.)
Arpaio said early on that he anticipated that some members of the news media would dismiss the latest assertions about Obama’s birthplace as “pointless, silly, trivial.” Indeed, that was true as journalists, apparently unconvinced by a slide show purporting to show document falsification by computer sleight of hand, peppered the sheriff with questions.
The question-answer session grew heated as the sheriff was asked how he could assert that “forgery and fraud” had been committed, yet assert a moment later that he wasn’t accusing the president himself.
So, the sheriff was pressed, if Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii, then he cannot be legally serving as president — isn’t that right?
“I never said that,” Arpaio replied, putting him puzzlingly at variance with “birthers” who have declared that Obama is unconstitutionally occupying the White House.
It is not clear what happens next. Arpaio said a Congressional investigation would be good, but that seems unlikely, given the concern of many lawmakers with holding on to their seats in this election year and the conclusion among moderates in both parties that the president, whatever his virtues and faults, was indeed born in the United States.
But the birth certificate issue — if it should be called an issue — seems unlikely to go away. Polls have shown that many Americans are still not convinced that Obama is one of them by birth. And cool clarity can be in short supply in an election season.
I’m sure the citizens of Maricopa County are happy to pay for Sheriff Arpaio’s “investigation.” On the other hand, it might keep his deputies from harassing American citizens of Latino ancestry.