Genuine humor needed in 2012 election

“I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said.

Romney spoke these words on Aug. 24 in Michigan to the fervor of a crowd, but to the chagrin of many viewers at home. The joke makes reference to the birther movement, a group consumed by the idea that President Barack Obama does not have a valid birth certificate and wasn’t born in the U.S.

This idea casts a shadow of fraudulence on his presidency.

Mitt Romney has stated on many occasions that he believes the president was born in the U.S. It was only a joke, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said, meant to insert “levity” into the campaign stop near the place of Romney’s birth.

However, Romney has made two critical errors by joking about this sensitive issue. First, his joke mocks the political misfortune of another person, which does not bode well for Romney’s construction of a sensitive and diplomatic image. After all, laughing at others’ misfortunes just makes you look like a jerk.

Second, he has unwittingly given needless authority to the birther movement.

Romney’s choice of humor says a lot about who he is. By making such a joke, Romney has validated the notion that it is OK to mock the president as illegitimate or “un-American.” He should apologize.

Some of you see this as one of many unapologetic barbs passed back and forth on the campaign trail. Everyone on both sides is so tightly wound that a public apology would provide a surprise that might ease the tension. The surprise would be bigger and more pleasant from Romney.

After Romney’s apology, Obama should make a campaign stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was born. There, he should publicly accept the apology and then proceed to repeat Romney’s joke verbatim, obviously adjusting the variables to match his situation. At the very end, he should hold up a copy of the Aug. 4, 1961, newspaper that announced the president’s birth and with a big grin on his face, he should repeat the last line of Romney’s joke: “They know that this is the place that I was born and raised.”

This tactic would not only be useful in eliminating the birther movement once and for all, but it would also interject huge amount of laughter into the campaign, allowing everyone to finally calm down.

I hope the candidates take my advice to bring more genuine humor into the campaign. Obama has a head start on the humor: He created a fit of laughter in Florida when he met a young boy from Hawaii and asked him for his birth certificate.

Humor is not Romney’s strong suit. I once saw him try to sing a few bars from “Who Let the Dogs Out?” He should stick to economics.

Romney still has a lot of work to do.

 

Contact the columnist at colton.gavin@asu.eduor follow the columnist at @coltongavin