As President Obama's approval numbers continue to spiral downward, the left has purposefully tried to tie the increasingly popular small government conservative movement to the largely fringe "birthers". In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a birther. I happen to believe that President Obama was born in Hawaii and was therefore eligible to be sworn in as President of the United States on inauguration day. That being said, I can't help but feel a little bit of sympathy for the birthers. Ultimately, the rise of the birther movement is the fault of a deficit of curiosity about Barack Obama on the part of the media.
As a result of his lack of experience in both the private and public sectors, coupled with his relative youth, President Obama's personal records are extremely thin. There are huge gaps in what we know about Barack Obama, whereas previous presidents have been open books. The media normally seems to revel in uncovering the seedy and controversial side of every political figure, but they have never exhibited the same interest in President Obama. Every president has had embarrassing issues arise from their past, but President Obama's level of secrecy, meant to maintain his squeaky clean veneer, only serves to fuel speculation.
Since day one Barack Obama has maintained an extreme amount of control over his image. One of the most important elements of that image has been the narrative of his past. To this end Mr. Obama has written two book that serve as the primary basis for this narrative. The media, whose very purpose is to be inquisitive, seems all too willing to accept it without question. Both Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of hope received scant scrutiny or fact checking. For comparison, the Associated Press devoted 11 reporters to pore over every word of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue.
Another example of the difference in inquisitiveness that the media has shown for this president as opposed to previous ones can be seen by the 2004 investigation of President George W. Bush's military records. The search for dirt on President Bush was so fevered that some seemed willing to throw journalistic standards to the wind in pursuit of something that would stick. Distinguished careers were destroyed in the attempt to uncover details about President Bush’s past.
At the time Bush began his stint in the Air National Guard, he was 22 years old. When Obama was 22, he was still a student at Columbia University. An investigation along the same lines as the Bush Air National Guard investigation would be impossible because Obama has not allowed the release of his college records. Unfortunately, the media seems to be perfectly content with this lack of access to key events in our presidents past and for all intents and purposes considers the matter to be a non-issue.
The birthers are naturally being drawn to and are fueled by the alternative media because nearly all of the negative press Barack Obama has received, including his controversial associations from his past, has originated with these sources. While most of the media treated us to puff pieces during the 2008 election, investigations into Obama associates like Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers percolated and exploded almost exclusively out of traditionally conservative outlets and the blogosphere. Mainstream sources on the other hand fiercely fought to discredit these stories, even when these controversies deserved scrutiny and provided a rare insight into candidate Obama.
President Obama's secrecy about his past and the media's apparent lack of interest in it does not assume that they are colluding to cover something up, but it does leave plenty of room for people who are conspiratorially inclined to fill in the blanks. Seeing as the left increasingly sees the birther movement as an albatross to tie around the neck of their enemies on the right, we can most likely chalk up the media’s lack of curiosity to good old-fashioned left wing bias. But even if bias is to blame, it's only natural that some would confuse their lack of investigation to be evidence of malfeasance.
Presuming the media’s love affair with President Obama continues, we can assume that their lack of curiosity will as well. For those who profess such admiration for the President but don’t seem to care much about whom he was prior to his emergence on the public stage though the question remains: Are you scared of what you'll find?