Tennessee lieutenant governor goes Birther

Ron Ramsey says he doesn't know whether President Obama is a U.S. citizen

Published February 2, 2010 8:40PM (EST)

Hey, politicians: Let Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey be a lesson to you. If you're about to say something terminally stupid, and before you do so you have enough presence of mind to pause and realize it's stupid and that your advisors are going to kill you for saying it, maybe you should, you know, just not continue.

Ramsey keeps it too real for that, though. So when Maclin Davis, who's previously served as the attorney for the state GOP, started pressing his fellow Republican on the subject of President Obama's citizenship during a question-and-answer session on Tuesday, the lieutenant governor just went ahead and said the dumb thing he was thinking.

The ensuing exchange, with a big tip of the hat to the Nashville Scene:

Davis: Now since the Republicans control both houses of the Tennessee legislature, it seems to me that they might consider passing a state law that says in all future elections no candidate for president can be put on the ballot in Tennessee unless they produce positive proof they are a native-born citizen. If we had one like that a few years ago, we'd be a whole lot better off today. Is there any chance that you would consider that?

Ramsey: ... I suppose that every state could individually do that.

Davis: It seems like it would be really good if somebody would file a suit against our present president to get back all the money he's been paid as president on the grounds he's not a legitimate president since he's not a native-born citizen. The great preponderance of the evidence is he's not a citizen. ...

Ramsey: ... I've got a tableful of advisers sitting over there and they'll probably start cringing right about now when I start talking about some of this stuff right here. ... I'm going to tell you something. I don't know whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States or not. I don't know what the whole deal is there. But I'm going to tell you something. When you walk out on the street down, people don't really care about this issue. I'm all about winning elections, not as Republicans in this nation but also as Republicans in this state of Tennessee. We need to be about creating jobs. We need to be talking about how we're the best in education. We need to be talking about how we are small business people We need to be talking about how we're fiscal conservatives and we know how to balance the budget and Democrats don't. When we get off on sidelines like that, that's when people close their ears and don't listen. I'm not saying you're not right, Mack, I'm not saying you're not right. But that's not how you win elections. We need to prove that Republicans are leaders and that we're going to stand up.

Update: NashvillePost.com's PostPolitics got comment from Brad Todd, an advisor to Ramsey about the remarks. Asked, "How does Ramsey answer the charge that by claiming 'not to know' whether Obama is a citizen he is encouraging and/or pandering to the ‘birther’ movement," Todd responded:

You can’t be serious.

That’s totally taking his answer out of context.

The state of Hawaii has already answered that in no uncertain terms and [Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey] made it clear in his remarks that conservatives need to focus our efforts only on POLICY differences with this administration - job creation, spending, and the over-reach of government in this Administration.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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