TOPEKA – It was all over but the shouting.
After the State Objections Board somewhat clumsily disposed Monday of a Manhattan Republican’s claim that President Barack Obama shouldn’t qualify to be on Kansas ballots, advocates for and against Obama verbally clashed inside and outside of Memorial Hall, which houses the offices of Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
Orly Taitz, a California lawyer who is a nationally recognized leader in the movement challenging Obama’s citizenship, made her pitch to anyone who would listen that Obama isn’t a citizen.
Obama supporters and a few people with signs indicating they’re part of the Occupy movement, meanwhile, said Kansas made a big mistake by even entertaining such a thoroughly debunked idea and they chastised the lawyer while reporters tried to interview her.
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Taitz tried to ignore the protesters.
A state police officer bumped the arguing advocates as far out as he could – to the sidewalk, where the exchange continued while TV reporters tried again to tape interviews over the quips of other activists.
“You have the right to speak out,” a state trooper said. “But we can’t be confrontational.”
But on it went as cameras rolled, security guards stood cross-armed and advocates ripped each other in nonviolent activism.
“This is too much publicity for this ignorance,” said Sanra Lassiter of Topeka. “We don’t want to be involved. So take it back to California!”
She said those challenging Obama’s citizenship seem to have a racist agenda.
The media circus continued for about a half-hour before dwindling to five protesters.
So ended a strange chapter that put Kansas in the national spotlight for a few days.
“It was clear that all of Obama’s thugs were under the marching orders to yell and scream and not let me speak,” Taitz wrote on her blog later in the day. “As I was giving the interviews they formed a half circle behind me, about 20 men, most of them african [sic] American men, who were yelling, screaming, hackling [sic]. I thought in a minute they would beat me up.”
An Eagle reporter saw nothing indicating violence from either side. A state trooper said he didn’t plan to file any complaints or cases.
The Objections Board – made up of Kobach, Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer – let the issue of Obama’s qualifications linger last week when it declined to rule on an objection brought by Joe Montgomery, a communications coordinator in Kansas State University’s school of veterinary medicine. Montgomery contended that Obama shouldn’t qualify for the ballot because his father wasn’t born in the United States. Obama’s mother was born in Kansas.
Kobach said Thursday that since Obama’s campaign didn’t provide more than a page and a half rebuttal, the state would seek certified copies of Obama’s birth certificate from his birth state of Hawaii.
But Montgomery withdrew his challenge Friday after news of Kansas’ delayed decision made national news — primarily because challenges to Obama’s citizenship have been debunked for years — and led to a series of angry phone calls and messages.
When the board regrouped Monday, Schmidt and Colyer were absent. Colyer was with patients, the governor’s office said. Schmidt was sick.
Colyer’s surrogate, chief of staff Mark Dugan, promptly called for the board to overrule Montgomery’s objection and adjourn.
But Kobach said the board had to at least say a word or two about the documents it requested and provide some public record of how the matter was disposed. Dugan interrupted and pressed to file the documents to the official record and end the meeting.
Kobach got overruled when Schmidt’s surrogate, John Campbell, backed up Dugan.
Kobach read a note from Hawaii that said Obama’s birth certificate is the real deal. And he explained that Montgomery had withdrawn and that the board didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on the issue.
So the board moved to accept the documents and adjourn.
That’s when Taitz jumped in, with Kobach’s approval.
Dugan asked if that was in order, and Campbell said the board didn’t have jurisdiction.
“This is a matter of national security,” Taitz said, interrupting all three officials. “And you cannot be playing games and not letting an attorney speak.”
Kobach and Taitz argued about she should be able to speak since Taitz didn’t file an objection and the time to do so had passed. Taitz said the board is sitting on evidence showing “flagrant forgery” in Obama’s documents.
Taitz, who immigrated to the United States from Israel in 1987, pressed on, saying Montgomery withdrew his objection under duress. Then Kobach finally put an end to it, saying Taitz can file a lawsuit challenging Montgomery’s withdrawal or Obama’s candidacy. “We’re out of time for a new objection,” he said.
The meeting ended. The shouting began as Topeka resident T.J. Gaughan yelled at Kobach as he walked out of the auditorium where the meeting was held.
“You’re a phony baloney, Kobach,” he said. “You’re full of it.”
Kobach brushed it off and walked back toward his office.
He said Kansas now has information from the Hawaii Department of Health certifying that Obama’s birth certificate posted on the White House website is the same as what’s logged in Hawaii.
“That, for me, settles the issue,” he said.
He downplayed the idea that Kansas’ reputation took a hit because of the board’s delay, saying the board is quasi-judicial and needed to get records, no matter how strong or weak the objection was.
Kobach said the board needed more information, despite documents posted to the White House site and cases in other states.
“I have no doubts now,” he said.