One thinks of rats scurrying off a sinking ship.
Meaning the new exodus of birthers from birtherism. Fox News now says in a blog post that it hardly pushed the birther issue at all. Wonder how folks got the idea Fox did that? Oh yeah: by watching Fox.
And Rush Limbaugh says he warned people this was a dead end. This is the same Limbaugh who recently said there were legitimate citizenship questions about President Obama.
Granted, some on the right were starting to distance themselves from this absurdity even before Obama finally released his long form birth certificate last week. Witness Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoing a bill that would have required presidential candidates to provide proof of birth. Perhaps the few remaining grownups on the right begin to fear the effect of being defined by cartoon characters and cranks.
But let us not dismiss the birther imbroglio without calling out the bigotry at its core. Yes, that word will bring howls of protest from people who will declare that race had nothing to do with their demands for Obamas original birth certificate.
And I believe them. Or at least, I believe they believe what they are saying.
Thing is, bigots do not usually stand up and say, I am a bigot. They hide this from themselves, much less from you or me. Indeed, Mel Gibson, last heard telling his girlfriend she would be raped by a pack of effing N-words, just said in an interview that he is not a racist.
In assessing bigotry, then, one learns to judge actions over words. And the actions of many Americans have screamed their discomfort with the idea that a black man is now the man. A computer abstract of his birth certificate, a perfectly ordinary document that satisfies passport requirements of the U.S. State Department does not satisfy Donald Trump? Give me a break.
Some have suggested that Obamas opponents like George W. Bushs are simply out to delegitimize his presidency. Wrong. They are actually out to delegitimize him.
I mean, we just saw: the president of the United States required to show his papers, like some brother caught driving too nice a car in too nice a neighborhood after dark. Presidenting while black, I suppose.
Nor does even that suffice to prove his bona fides, as diehards now challenge the validity of the new document and Trump turns his attention to supposed irregularities in Obamas academic transcripts.
It never stops.
Gregory Howard Williams, an African-American man who looks about as black as Thor does, once told me how, when he became dean of his law school, a white woman congratulated him on his well-deserved achievement. Later, somebody told her he was black and she asked if that was why he got the job. When she thought Williams was white, she assumed he was qualified. When she learned he was black, she assumed he was not.
That, my friends, is what youre seeing here a new iteration of an old mindset which says a black man can never achieve a thing on his merits, so there must always be some trickery, some fakery, some sinister machinations obliging us to regard his success with suspicion. Even if the black man in question is the president.
I have seldom been more embarrassed for my country.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He chats with readers every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at Ask Leonard.