Said Mitt Romney at a campaign stop today in Michigan — "this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born." Video at the link.
I'm seeing some charges that this was a "birther" joke and even that it was racist. I guess it hit a nerve.
Anyway, it's obviously not racist. In fact, it's more racist to call it racist. To see it as racist, you have to have a background belief that to think of someone as a natural-born citizen is to think of him as white. Who thinks that?!
And it's also not "birther" to say what Romney said. A birther is someone who thinks or isn't sure that Obama was born in one of the United States. But the joke doesn't depend on the listener being a birther. You simply have to understand that people had enough questions about where Obama was born that they wanted to see the proof. People don't have those questions about Romney, so no one ever asked him to prove it. That's all Romney said.
Now, we could look more deeply into why people had these questions about Obama. These questions certainly weren't because Obama is black (or half-black). The questions were because his father was not an American citizen, because his mother — and young Obama — lived for a substantial amount of time outside of the United States, and because — to some people at least — Obama hasn't seemed sufficiently American. (He doesn't identify with American exceptionalism, he sat still for "God damn America" sermons, and so forth.)
Romney is saying — in so many words — I'm more truly and fundamentally American than Barack Obama. And the implication is: I want you to think about the ways that Obama hasn't fully embraced American values of freedom, capitalism, etc. etc.
Of course, you don't have to be born in America to have those values. I imagine Ted Cruz has those values, and he was born in Canada. He might make a great Senator from Texas soon, but he can never be President. We don't need to see his birth certificate, because it's no secret. He's not qualified to be President, and it's no disparagement of him to say that. But notably — and pay attention now, because this should help with understanding Romney's joke — no one running against Cruz would make a joke about his being born outside of the United States. Romney's (implicit) joke about Obama works not because of where he was actually born, but because of much more substantive ideas about commitment to foundational American values.
ADDED: Instapundit agrees with me and adds that the press will miss this point and, thinking the joke hurts Romney, will "spread the idea further than Romney could on his own." He also prints email from a reader saying "Why does Ann Althouse assume Ted Cruz is not eligible to be President just because he was born in Calgary? Both of his parents were American at the time of his birth, and his mother was American by birth." I didn't mean to be the first Ted Cruz birther! I agree that if both your parents are American citizens and you are therefore an American citizen at birth, that's good enough for the constitutional requirement.