Mitt Romney cracked a joke at a campaign stop this afternoon in Michigan which has people on both sides of the aisle in a frenzy. Some say it was a poke at birthers, yet birthers are taking it to mean that Romney's coming on board with them. Some say it was a poke at liberals who whisper about Romney's racist undertones. In response, liberals are... well, continuing to call Romney a racist.
But I disagree with both of these assumptions. I think the joke was aimed squarely at the media.
Let's face it -- the "birther" movement has had no bigger fan than the mainstream media who likes to paint all Republicans as hateful racists who cling to God, guns and conspiracy theories to protect themselves from an apocalyptic invasion of minorities and gays, or something. So while the reporters at the Romney rally today gasped at Romney's supposedly overt racism, the audience got the joke, responding to Romney's dry humor with applause and laughter.
It's a perfect example of a "secondary reaction" joke, Ace of Spades HQ writes. "The joke itself is lame. The humor comes from imagining the reaction of the thin-skinned Obama and his hyperprotective partisans in the press."
It's true -- the reaction of the media to Romney's joke has been hysterical:
-- Never one to overreact, MSNBC calmly discussed the "breaking news" of Romney's quip and labeled it the "most despicable bigotry we can imagine." (Seriously? Dear MSNBC, open a history book once in a while, will ya?)
-- Mediaite's resident boy-who-cried-racist Tommy Christopher proclaimed that MSNBC's Touré was right in accusing Romney of using "n***rization" as a campaign tool to "racially marginalize" President Obama.
--CNN's John King tweeted that his "birther comment" ruined a perfectly good day for Romney.
--Reporters at the Huffington Post were beside themselves, saying it was "awkward for Romney to play on the birther conspiracies that have plagued Barack Obama." Uh, awkward for whom, exactly?
--Salon.com headlined their report, "Romney Goes Birther," and said the joke was proof the GOP candidate was "doubling down on whiteness."
--The Washington Post also weighed in, writing that Romney’s joke "injected the toxic issue of birtherism into an already bitter presidential race." Wah-wah.
"Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them," said campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. "Gov. Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America."
The outraged Obama campaign wasted no time in trying to use this "new low for Romney" as a springboard for a new email fundraising push. Yet the Obama campaign itself has repeatedly joked about the conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama's birth certificate -- they even make money off of it!
Gee, you know who else likes to joke about birthers? Barack Obama does:
I think perhaps Romney should just randomly insert the words "birth certificate" into every stump speech he delivers from here on out -- it's the best way to get media attention. Obama accuses Romney of being a tax-dodging felon and the media yawns. Romney cracks a birth certificate joke and they soil themselves. I bet if Ann Romney added "birth certificate" to her remarks at the upcoming convention, the media wouldn't hesitate to broadcast it.