Republican senator Mitch McConnell warned Barack Obama a few months ago that acting on immigration reform would be â€œlike waving a red flag in front of a bullâ€. Everybody believed him, because Republicans were fresh off a debt-reduction strategy nicknamed: â€œHand it over â€“ or the economy gets itâ€.
Now, a prominent Republican is second-guessing what may be Obamaâ€™s boldest provocation yet: visiting Kenya.
The White House announced on Monday that Obama would attend the 2015 global entrepreneurship summit that will take place in July in Kenya. It will be his first trip to Kenya as president. An official announcement with the anodyne title â€œReinforcing the US-Africa partnershipâ€ trotted out various government-related excuses for why Obama, whose father was Kenyan, would make the trip.
But a former Republican governor saw an alternate explanation: Obama is â€œjust inciting some chatterâ€ on the question of where he was born.
â€œI think his trip back to Kenya is going to create a lot of chatter and commentary among some of the hard right who still donâ€™t see him as having been born in the US,â€ John Sununu, who has a record of knocking Obama as un-American, told Fox News on Monday.
â€œI personally think heâ€™s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead issue a long time ago.â€
The â€œchatterâ€ Sununu was referring to is theorizing, advanced by some on the fringe of the Republican party, that the president was born in Kenya, despite the birth certificate posted online by the White House listing a birthplace of Hawaii, Americaâ€™s 50th state.
Some Republicans think the â€œbirtherâ€ talk makes the party look bad. For all they know, the White House might think so too.
Republicans didnâ€™t catch on just yesterday to the presidentâ€™s crafty ways. Mitt Romney explained how Obama beat him to win re-election in 2012 with big policy â€œgiftsâ€ for women and people of color. That was after corporate titan Jack Welch called out the â€œChicago guysâ€ for cooking the jobs numbers to make the president look good.
And now this: travel to Kenya, and in July no less, just as the US presidential nominating contest is expected to hit its stride, potentially giving an unusually prominent platform to a Republican whom some in the party would prefer to silence.
Donald Trump, the real estate magnate, announced earlier this month that he had formed an exploratory committee around a 2016 presidential run. If he sticks with it, July 2015 could well find Trump onstage at a Republican debate in, say, Ames, Iowa, 10 seconds after Independence Day fireworks have turned the patriotism dial up to giddy.
Who knows what Trump might say? Especially standing on stage next to Texas senator Ted Cruz, who announced a presidential candidacy of his own last week. On the day Cruz announced his campaign, Trump attacked him for being born in Canada â€“ not a quality the US looks for in her presidents.
Cruz has argued, as John McCain did in 2008, that he is a natural-born citizen, because his mother was a US citizen when he was born. The vast preponderance of constitutional scholars back Cruz up on this.
But you donâ€™t see him vacationing in Montreal.