Big Sky Birther Steps in It
For the Whole World to See on CNN with Anderson Cooper
BY PAT HILL
Montana's in the national spotlight again. No Unabombers or Freemen this time around though. This time it's the Montana Legislature that's looking a lot like the Radical Right.
The Tea Party-oriented Repub-licans in the State House are bringing an unwelcome glare of attention to themselves during the first half of this legislative session. Half of the House Republicans are freshmen that Tea Party enthusiasts helped bring to Helena, and they're not being shy representing those Tea Party interests in the bills they're submitting. From silencers, spearhunting, and the establishment of militias to a downright thumb of the nose to the Federal Government with the establishment of a 17-point declaration of sovereignty.
Rep. Bob Wagner (R-Harrison) showcased a little of what has been happening in the Montana House in an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper. In a television interview on Cooper’s AC 360 show, Wagner discussed House Bill 205, a measure he sponsored this session that would have required presidential candi-dates on the Montana ballot to prove they are natural-born citizens of the United States. Such “birther bills,“ as they are called, have surfaced in other state legislatures, but they are not an expressed part of the overall Tea Party agenda, which seems to focus more on keeping Big Government as small as possible. The bill was tabled in the House State Administration Committee the day the pre-recorded interview took place, but it still hit the airwaves like a fresh cowpie on the Montana prairie. You could almost smell it when Cooper began the aired piece asking Rep. Wagner if he thought that President Obama was a U.S. citizen with the proper documentation to hold the nation‘s top job.
“I'm not really qualified to say whether I believe he is or not…it's irrelevant to me,” Wagner told Cooper. “There's been no proof offered and as far as what I believe, it doesn't really matter.” When Cooper pressed Wagner further, asking “How can you say that? There's been a certificate of live birth…a birth announcement in the news…there's plenty of evidence…how can you say there's not?”
“A certificate of live birth is different than a long form birth certificate,” answered Wagner. “If it's good enough for the U.S. passport office that's one thing…I'm more concerned about good enough for the state of Montana…Here in the state of Montana, we're required to keep our election process pure…that's what we will seek to do with this bill.” And Wagner stuck to his guns, no matter how hard Cooper pressed him.
“Sir, I won't argue with you,” Wagner said. “We'll set our criteria here in Montana according to how we understand the validation to be.” Then Wagner stepped into it deeper when he said that a candidate for President in this country must be “A natural citizen, according to the law of nations and the study of natural law…in accordance with a book written by Vitelle, which we believe to be the standard for natural-born citizenship, which requires that you have two parents of citizenship born in the United States.”
When Cooper reminded Wagner that the United States Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, states that “Under U.S. law, any person born in the U.S. regardless of what their parents are, is considered a natural born citizen,” Wagner took the final flop.
“I don't believe that to be so,” Wagner told Cooper. “In the state of Montana, we wish to do what we believe we think is right…in accor-dance with the Constitution.”
Wagner and his Tea Party compatriots do not represent the vast majority of Montanans. Opinion pages in publications across the state are decrying the way Montana is appearing in the wake of nonsensical legislative and nullification proposals that do nothing to create jobs or bipartisanship.
“Who among us is making these determinations that our freedoms are being lost?” asked Democrat House Minority Leader Jon Sasso in the House Chamber. Republican Rep. Cleve Laney, a freshman legislator and Tea Party organizer, took to his feet in the Chamber and answered “I don't intend us to secede from the Union. But I will tell you it is up to us. We are the people to decide.”
Most of us think this kind of talk is getting stale. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer echoed the words of Republican Rep. William McChesnie on Feb. 24.
“This needs to stop and stop now,” said Schweitzer. “Stop scaring our constituents and stop making us look like a bunch of buffoons.” Schweitzer also has a new branding iron on his desk at the Capitol that he got from the state livestock agency. It reads: VETO.
“Ain't nobody in the history of Montana has had so many danged ornery critters that need branding,” Schweitzer told the Associated Press.