I'm on Skype with Orly Taitz, and from Israel the queen bee of the Birthers is telling me that Barack Obama had all his gay lovers rubbed out, Chicago-style. Well, that's not fair. Taitz isn't explicitly accusing Obama of clipping his boyfriends to shut them up. She just wants to make sure I know that a few homosexuals from Obama's church, oddly, mysteriously, ominously, wound up dead. "Now, I don't want to say that Obama did it," explains Orly, in her dense Moldovan accent. "I don't want to say that people close to Obama did it. But those are the facts."
Taitz drops this bomb an hour into our two-hour-plus conversation, by which point I have already staggered past surprise and wonder into woozy, weak-kneed unease. The gay murders are just one accusation in a bloody, Byzantine list as long as the Chicago white pages. And I have long since surrendered to Taitz's recitation of "facts," after feebly suggesting that the odds are long that the president is guilty of all these transgressions. Could she just pick one? Please? "It seems," I whimper, "as though you sort of throw everything against the wall to see what sticks."
By now, if you know what the word "Birther" means, you've heard the name Orly Taitz. You're aware that she's a lawyer/dentist/real estate agent, that she believes Barack Obama is not a natural-born American citizen and thus not qualified to be president, and that she turned into barking Bessarabian goo on camera when trying to explain her belief system to MSNBC's David Shuster.
But I, unlike Shuster, allowed Orly to talk (and talk and talk and talk). I listened to Taitz -- let no one say I did not listen. Over the course of our conversation, Taitz veered from tainted vaccines in Prague to Hugo Chavez and rigged elections to Larry Sinclair, the man who claimed he had sex and did coke in a limo with Obama. Before I tell you more about Orly, let me just report what she said, about all things Birther and non-Birther. What follows is a glimpse into what the most prominent member of a politically significant conservative movement believes, with little editorial commentary, less fact-checking and a lot of dropped articles.
(Listen to a portion of the unedited interview here.)
Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate is a fake. Boring, I know. Per Taitz, Obama's mother concealed his birth in Kenya to avoid having to process her son through immigration, because she stood to lose years' worth of welfare dollars.
It's Barry Soetoro, not Barack Obama. In Taitz's telling, he went to school in Indonesia not as Barack Obama, but as Barry Soetoro. Through his father, he holds Kenyan and British citizenship, and through his stepfather, he has an Indonesian passport.
The president has dozens of Social Security numbers. They're so obviously fraudulent that they mark him as well over a hundred years old, and from Connecticut, and from every other sort of wrong place. In addition to forging his birth certificate, he had a goon tamper with his passport, then just maybe had that goon killed. ("I'm just providing the facts. You can infer anything you want, but here are the facts: This person was cooperating with the FBI. Had to do with passport records, and he was found, shot in the head.") Obama's Selective Service certificate is forged, and a police officer looking into forgery claims was warned off by higher-ups.
FactCheck.org is not to be trusted. FactCheck.org, the debunking site that verified Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate and labeled the Birther conspiracy bunk, is unreliable, says Taitz.
"Oh, oh, oh. Oh, let me tell you about FactCheck. FactCheck does not have one single forensic document expert. They have no expert. So what I have provided has more value than what they have provided. Not only that, did you know that FactCheck.org is an offshoot of Annenberg Foundation, as well as Annenberg Challenge." Which brings us to:
The Annenberg Challenge program for Chicago schools, for which Obama sat on the board, saw hundreds of millions of dollars mysteriously frittered away. Here, I admit I paused to wonder whether the Annenbergs might not be mad at Obama over the fraud at the Annenberg Challenge, and thus unlikely to cover up for his Kenyan-ness by pulling strings at FactCheck.org. But I said nothing to Taitz.
Obama's campaign was guilty of widespread intimidation of Hillary Clinton supporters in the Democratic primaries, perhaps in addition to vote fraud through dead voters. Also Obama or someone working on his behalf has made several attempts on Taitz's life, including tampering with her car.
Google is in on all of this. Taitz hedges and hints as with the gay murders, but she seems to entertain the possibility that Google, or possibly the entire Internet, is part of the plot to cover up Obama's illegitimacy. She muses darkly on the hacking of her PayPal account and the disappearance of her Wikipedia page, as well as hundreds of thousands of lost results for the search "Orly Taitz." She wants to know how else to explain why Google flagged her Web site as a "Reported Attack Site!"
Hundreds of servicemen are getting sick from mysterious vaccinations. Taitz wants some answers on why members of the military are required to receive certain vaccinations. "Did you know that there are hundreds of servicemen, that were vaccinated, and have reported serious, severe side effects of vaccination?" I ask her why there are mandatory vaccinations. "I don't know, and we can ask the Department of Defense. There is no reason provided!" Maybe soldiers going into combat may need certain kinds of immunity?
The flu vaccine is contaminated. "There is another concern in regards to vaccinations," says Taitz, "and vaccination against the swine flu." She starts to tell me about contaminated vaccines in the Czech Republic.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have been rigging our elections. He can do this because he owns Sequoia Voting Systems? Did I know this? No. Neither did Google, since searching the Internet seems to indicate it's actually just a group of Venezuelans who own Sequoia, a fact I point out to Taitz.
Taitz is unfazed. "That's another interesting issue, because there was a transfer of shares. And some shares were transferred to company called Smartmatic, out of Florida. And then there were reports that actually, Hugo Chavez and people close to him own a large number of shares of Smartmatic." Oh, and there was another report, says Taitz. "But mainstream media would not talk about it. One of the founders of Smartmatic was in a very strange accident, in a small plane. Both engines gave way, and the plane fell from the sky. Interesting -- it was the sky over Caracas, Venezuela." Haven't I ever wondered how it is that Congress maintains abysmally low popularity but most members are reelected, Taitz asks. I offer the standard response: "Because people distrust the institution of Congress, but like their personal representative? Isn't that what numbers usually show?"
"Not necessarily, not necessarily," says Taitz, and moves along.
Talking to Taitz was like watching a James Bond movie, only I couldn't follow the plot. I just knew that Obama was going to show up in the climactic scene, stroking the white cat on his lap and cackling in Swahili.
I pointed out to Taitz that maybe mainstream media reporters dismiss her because she continues to push evidence that is demonstrably false, like the Kenyan birth certificate and the idea that Obama traveled to Pakistan, despite a travel ban on Americans, with an Indonesian passport. The birth certificate is fake, there was no travel ban. But Taitz wasn't buying. "From what I know, this [Kenyan birth certificate] is a genuine document. So I actually, respectfully will disagree."
"And you know, specifically, what I did, I asked authentication. I did not want to hold a document that will endanger my life. There already were threats, there already were attempts on my life. I received Kenyan birth certificate -- it looks much more authentic than piece of garbage that Obama posted on the Internet."
I suggest, gently, that maybe this is why Obama won't engage with her. She won't respond to dispositive evidence, and instead insists that the president might be, in addition to ineligible for office, a bisexual, a Muslim, a foreign accomplice to murder. She is kitchen-sinking him with every possible allegation she can think of, in hopes that something will connect.
Taitz threatens to hang up on me. Then she denies that she endorses all of the claims made by folks like Larry Sinclair. "No, no, no, absolutely not. Absolutely not. In terms of Larry Sinclair, I never mentioned it in any of my [court] pleadings, because I felt, you know, this was so volatile."
"But you're mentioning it now," I point out fruitlessly. "You're trying to use it to discredit the president without having to be responsible for it." It's no use. Before I know it, Taitz is assigning me a mission to investigate Obama's dangerous liaisons. "Call the Chicago police and ask them ... is it true?" She suggests that she and I go ask the president this stuff together, or ring up the Attorney General. "We need to go to Department of Justice. Would you be willing to have a conference call with Department of Justice, with Eric Holder?"
It is one of many requests that I join Taitz in making a conference call to some relevant institution. Her hey-it-wasn't-me-who-said-it cynicism is intermingled with an almost touching, Capra-esque naiveté. She's spending her own money on her crusade, flying all over the country to file complaints and do research that never seems to go anywhere. But she seems to believe in the truth. Says Taitz, "Truth is truth. People should not be afraid to speak about the truth."
Taitz ought to believe the system works. After all, she's worked it pretty hard herself. Taitz, born in Soviet Moldova, moved to Israel in the early 1980s and earned a dentistry degree at Hebrew University. After a few years in Israel, she married American Yosef Taitz after their second date, and moved to the United States. (Full disclosure: Yosef Taitz is the CEO of a company, Daylight CIS, founded by my second cousin.)
They had three children, who are now high school and college-aged, and they live in Orange County, Calif. Taitz got a law degree through the online program of William Howard Taft Law School, and as she stressed to me, passed the California Bar. Her motivation for this second profession, she says, was her passion for learning. Incidentally, a search of the records of the Orange County court system turns up 22 civil cases involving Taitz, 20 of them in the last nine years. Mainly, they are tussles over accusations of dental and medical malpractice, along with some breach of contract suits. Taitz has spent about equal time in the plaintiff and defendant chairs, but mainly, she's spent a lot of time in court.
In 2006, Taitz sued the Tarbut V'Torah School for what she said was the unfair expulsion of her son, Benjamin. In her complaint, obtained from the Orange County court system, Taitz claims that principal Howard Haas wrongfully accused Benjamin of cheating, and expelled him without any opportunity to defend himself. This was done to Benjamin, Taitz wrote, "in retaliation of his mother speaking out against the Principal and reporting to the school board certain acts of misappropriation of funds and lack of donor receipts in the school."
The case ended in a settlement, perhaps including a nondisclosure agreement, because Haas, his lawyers, Tarbut V'Torah and Taitz all refused to discuss it with Salon. However, after demurring on the question of embezzlement by principal Haas ("I really can't talk about it"), Taitz made sure to point out that the principal no longer worked at the school, and had moved to Kansas. (By the way, curiously, here's what appears to be a video of Ben Taitz at the Democratic National Convention.)
And now she's turned her lawyering on Obama. She keeps pressing her case against him in the courts. Is she merely litigious, or is this part of her pursuit of the truth, or something in between? She returns again and again in our conversation to the idea of the law as central to truth, justice and the American way. So what if the courts have only ever rebuffed her? Those were just the rotten judges. Somewhere, she'll find the healthy branch of the system.
Or maybe it's simply how Taitz understands the concept of truth that's at issue. Like most of us, only a lot more so, she grabs the facts that fit and discards the rest. An Internet poll showing that people distrust Obama must be true, but telephone polls showing otherwise don't count. Nor is she claiming that something is "true" as long as she only insinuates it, rather than asserts it outright. She sees no problem with her own behavior, nor a need to actually advance her case beyond suggestion. Overwhelming evidence marshaled against her is invariably tainted or corrupt, but even the most minor victories are vindications of her paranoia. A failure to agree with her is a failure to acknowledge the truth.
Like many of us, but a lot more so, she is oblivious to how she appears to the outside world. Her lack of irony allows her to march forward resolutely. Taitz called MSNBC host David Shuster "a brownshirt" (a slur that outraged Shuster, and which she repeated numerous times to me), and then complained to me that it was an outrage that she'd seen an image of her juxtaposed to a swastika online, because she'd lost relatives in the Holocaust.
Of course, in the end, like most other journalists, I would be found wanting too. My mortal sin was suggesting, at one juncture in our interview, that maybe, just maybe, she knows or suspects that some of the things she claims about Obama's birth aren't true. "You don't give a damn about truth!" she exclaimed, furious. "Whatever I say, you will just twist it." I think, to be fair, that her horror and her anger were genuine.