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Letter From The Editor

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Have you heard the new "birther" theory about President Obama? I hadn't, until I fell into a conversation with a fellow at a bar in Arkansas last week. The new theory says that Obama was born in Hawaii but that his real father was not Barack Obama Sr. but Frank Davis, an African-American communist who was friends with Obama's grandparents and had an affair with Obama's mother. This, my companion explained, is why the "real" birth certificate has never been released. And the fact that Obama's father was a communist explains why Obama turned out to be a socialist. It's all part of a grand plan, because Davis also worked for the FBI as an informant.

Or something. I don't know.

I do know that The Commercial Appeal did the voters of Shelby County a big solid this week by publishing a story on the backgrounds of all the candidates in the August 2nd election. Whoo, some of these folks have skeletons so big they wouldn't fit into Elton John's closet: unpaid taxes, wage garnishments, bounced checks, bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, reckless driving, job suspensions. (And there's no telling how many of these folks had communist fathers.)

One thing is certain: If you're running for public office these days, you'd better be prepared to have your laundry — dirty and otherwise — aired to the public. And anything you try to conceal will become fodder for your opponent's negative advertising. Just ask Mitt Romney.

The GOP candidate's campaign has been on its heels, in response mode for more than a week, due to Romney's refusal to release more than one year's tax returns. The Obama camp has been trying to paint Romney as a millionaire who's out of touch with the common people, and Romney has been cooperating beautifully. Publicity about his Swiss bank accounts, $100 million IRA, and off-shore holdings in the Caymans has been icing on the cake, as has the news that Romney continued as Bain Capital's CEO and sole stockholder for three years after he supposedly divested himself of his management role.

Romney desperately needs to find a way to go on the offensive, to put the president in response mode for a change. How he does that, I'm not sure. Donald Trump thinks the answer is to demand Obama's college transcripts, but somehow I don't think the possibility that Obama flunked English Lit 101 is going to do the trick.

Maybe they need to go talk to my new pal in Arkansas.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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