Birther Pains

Bill Pascoe, veteran of two federal campaigns against Barack Obama, bemoans the rise of the Birthers:

I’ve held fire for the last several months as I’ve watched the so-called “Birther” movement gain steam.

At first it was amusing, like playing a drinking game — you know, like taking a shot every time Chris Matthews explains why he insists on pronouncing the former Vice President’s name “CHEE-knee.”

It’s not amusing anymore.

[…]

National Review Founder William F. Buckley, Jr., Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, conservative historian and philosopher Russell Kirk, and American Enterprise Institute President William Baroody took it upon themselves secretly to meet at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, where they decided Welch and the Birchers would have to be excommunicated from the Conservative Movement, lest their lunacy taint reasonable and responsible conservative political activity.

Were Buckley alive today, is there any doubt he would have the same response to the Birthers?

Obviously, as the editors of his flagship magazine have already divined, the answer is, “None whatsoever.”

Birthers, just as obviously, are simply the current most virulent strain of the Paranoid Style in American Politics, just as Birchers were in Hofstadter’s day. No evidence can dissuade them from their delusion, any more than Popular Mechanics could quell the Truthers.

But they have indeed passed beyond being an amusingly silly footnote to contemporary politics and have become a thorn in the paw of the responsible, reasonable Right. As such, it is incumbent upon us to expel them — noisily and unequivocally, lest the media continue to treat them as representing a genuine faction of the right wing.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama,
Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.

Comments

  1. Steve Plunk says:

    I’ve stated before that Pres. Obama is a legitimate president. Some still have questions regarding the birth certificate and the “transparent” White House is less than transparent about it so questions beget questions.

    What I’m now seeing is strange. Somehow a portion of the Right seems to think they can “expel” those with questions? Where does that power come from and what makes that a good idea?

    For years the Left has been dominated by wackos and conspiracy theorists as well as socialists and weirdos like Barney Frank. How did that work out for them, well they have the White House and both houses of Congress. Maybe being a little out there serves a purpose.

    There is no doubt the conservative movement is one of logic and reason. That gives us the high ground in most debates but that doesn’t give us the wins at the polls. Appeals to emotion works best these days. So before tossing out these people compare them to Code Pink and the like to see if they are really hurting the cause.

    When the Dems rid themselves of kooks we might then consider doing it ourselves. Until then let’s keep the big tent big.

  2. What is amazing to me about the whole birther phenomenon is the degree to which some elected officials and other spokespersons within the GOP sphere have found it so hard to simply say how silly the whole thing is.

    Granted, it is a relatively small number, but the fact that there are any whatsoever is problematic.

  3. Derrick says:

    There is no doubt the conservative movement is one of logic and reason. That gives us the high ground in most debates but that doesn’t give us the wins at the polls. Appeals to emotion works best these days. So before tossing out these people compare them to Code Pink and the like to see if they are really hurting the cause.

    This isn’t even remotely true, at least of current conservatives. You championed a war in Iraq because you were upset at 911. You supported Bush despite all of the evidence that he was failing as a President. You championed the Terri Shiavo legislation. Most of your movement is consumed by adoration for a politician who can’t even talk coherently. There ain’t a whole lot of logic and reasoning going on.

  4. Pug says:

    …lest the media continue to treat them as representing a genuine faction of the right wing.

    Don’t try to pin this one on the media. Unfortunately for conservatives and Republicans, the birthers are indeed “a genuine faction of the right wing”.

    That’s why elected GOP officials are so afraid to cross them. There is considerable doubt about the Modern Republican Party’s logic and reasoning.

  5. Dodd says:

    That’s why elected GOP officials are so afraid to cross them.

    Like whom? Name five.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    I’m just curious…how exactly is Barney Frank a “weirdo” and/or a “socialist”?

    Somehow a portion of the Right seems to think they can “expel” those with questions? Where does that power come from and what makes that a good idea?

    Oh you’re so right! How dare these people question the Birthers…why, the GOP leadership should embrace this movement! It’ll do such wonders for the party’s electoral chances…

    Until then let’s keep the big tent big.

    Ha! These days, it’s more like a pup tent…

  7. Jay Dubbs says:

    Having voted for Obama, I have enjoyed some laughs at the expense of the Birther Movement. But having recently found out that this puts me on the same side as Ann Coulter and the National Review, I may have to reassess my position.

    More seriously, my question would be this: what percentage of “birthers” think that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster? 50% 80% 95% Isn’t this the same demographic?

  8. What Derrick said.

    Republicans had an era of relative rationality, the years between the Nixon era and the final days of George H.W. Bush. But since then it’s been a whole lot of crazy. I think what’s going on now is that the more rational types have sidled out the GOP door and left a more distilled essence of looney behind.

    The Birthers are no longer a fringe. The GOP is majority fringe. It’s the rational Republicans who are the minority in what’s left of their party.

    It’s a mystery why rational Republicans choose to continue to pay their membership dues in the Crazy Club.

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    Derrick, I recall a majority of Congress of backing that same war you speak of not to mention a majority of American people. Today’s debate is not about the war, let it go man. Buckley types and the other conservatives Dodd speaks of are most definitely logical and reasonable.

    Dr. Taylor, was it surprising when leading Democrats didn’t speak out against Code Pink and their antics?

    Barney Frank allowed his lover to run a prostitution service out of his residence in D.C. and claimed ignorance. That’s weird. His behavior during the financial meltdown was weird as well.

    It’s funny how my rational arguments for keeping a fringe element within the party are met with less rational rebuttals by left leaners. These are not blatant racists but people wanting answers to unsatisfied questions. I guess it proves my point about emotions being a tool we should use on our side occasionally.

  10. Steve Plunk says:

    I should quickly note this comes at the same time current administration officials and members of Congress are talking of unprecedented investigations of Bush and Cheney. Who’s silly?

  11. Herb says:

    These are not blatant racists but people wanting answers to unsatisfied questions.

    Sorry, Steve, if these non-racist searchers of the truth still have unsatisfied questions, then they cannot be satisfied.

    We should not indulge those people.

    Also, this:

    There is no doubt the conservative movement is one of logic and reason.

    I had a similar reaction to that statement as Derrick. In other words, my reaction was WTF.

    Not only do I personally have a lot of doubt about the conservative movement’s loyalty to logic and reason, I have serious doubts that the “conservative movement” is all that conservative.

    I mean, my talk radio loving uncle complained about Barack Obama’s free spending stimulus plan….even as said uncle was filing for personal bankruptcy.

    My Dad would give me lectures about how people should be trusted to spend their own money…even after he foreclosed on his house.

    These guys are my family and I love them, and while they are definitely card-carrying members of the movement, they’re also most definitely NOT conservative.

    And neither are the birthers.

  12. Franklin says:

    Derrick, I recall a majority of Congress of backing that same war you speak of not to mention a majority of American people.

    If I recall correctly, the American people and probably most of Congress was fed information that was erroneous and known to be erroneous by some members of the Bush Administration.

    Today’s debate is not about the war, let it go man.

    What is today’s debate about, then? Barney Frank’s lover’s prostitution service? Let it go, man.

  13. anjin-san says:

    There is no doubt the conservative movement is was one of logic and reason.

    Fixed that for you.

  14. Gustopher says:

    But they have indeed passed beyond being an amusingly silly footnote to contemporary politics and have become a thorn in the paw of the responsible, reasonable Right. As such, it is incumbent upon us to expel them — noisily and unequivocally, lest the media continue to treat them as representing a genuine faction of the right wing.

    Good luck with that. The birthers are organized, vocal, and drown out rational thoughts with their incessant blathering.

    See, for instance, Conservapedia’s article on Barack Hussein Obama, America’s first illegal alien Muslim President.

    There is a wing of the conservative movement that is clearly insane, but they haven’t been ostracized and mocked by the mainstream conservative movement.

  15. sam says:

    @Dodd

    That’s why elected GOP officials are so afraid to cross them.

    Like whom? Name five.

    MSNBC ran a clip yesterday of a fellow from HuffPo who tried to get three Repub congress critters to assert that Obama was a natural-born US citizen. All three avoided the assertion. I’m pretty sure that he could have asked another three, at least, and gotten the same response, or lack of response. Of course, the House has gone on record as affirming that Obama was born in Hawaii, so we’ll have to see what happens back in the districts when the critters go home for the August recess.

    BTW, would Michelle Bachman (R-LoonyTunes), who’s crazier than a shithouse rat, count as two birthers?

  16. steve says:

    “There is no doubt the conservative movement is one of logic and reason. That gives us the high ground in most debates but that doesn’t give us the wins at the polls. ”

    Just to echo others, past tense is correct. If you look at the actual numbers, not just the rhetoric, what conservatives support is bigger government with bigger debt. On foreign policy, they support pre-emptive wars, managed incompetently. They support torture and alienation of our allies. They support loss of civil liberties. They support privatizing profits and socializing risks. Take away the talk. look at the numbers and see what they really support.

    Steve

  17. Pug says:

    Like whom? Name five.

    James “they have a point” Inhofe?

    The loon from Orange County Cal that has introduced a bill to make future candidates supply a birth certificate?

    James “this is important” DeMint?

    Michelle Bachmann objected to a voice vote, killing a resolution honoring Hawai’i as Obama’s birthplace on its 50th anniversary of statehood.

    Can you name even one elected Republican who has taken Dodd’s advice “to expel them — noisily and unequivocally…”?

  18. Dr. Taylor, was it surprising when leading Democrats didn’t speak out against Code Pink and their antics?

    Will I stipulate that politicians are often spineless and often kowtow to fringe elements in their coalition? Sure.

    However, what Dems did or did not do in past really doesn’t excuse or explain the fact some Rep members of Congress and some commentators are unwilling to simply say that the whole thing is silly and accept outright that Obama is a citizen.

    It certainly doesn’t excuse Lou Dobbs, G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh from stoking the flames on this. Or for members of Congress to say things like “there are legitimate questions” about his citizenship.

    And I don’t expect, btw, for leading Reps to go out of their way to denounce the birthers. My point is that it is stunning that anyone is willing to do anything other than laugh off the accusations that he isn’t a citizen when asked the question.

  19. Crust says:

    Dodd:

    Like whom? Name five [elected GOP officials who are so afraid to cross birthers].

    I’ll name eleven:

    Rep. Bill Posey [R-FL15]
    Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R-TN7]
    Rep. Dan Burton [R-IN5]
    Rep. John Campbell [R-CA48]
    Rep. John Carter [R-TX31]
    Rep. John Culberson [R-TX7]
    Rep. Louis Gohmert [R-TX1]
    Rep. Robert Goodlatte [R-VA6]
    Rep. Kenny Marchant [R-TX24]
    Rep. Randy Neugebauer [R-TX19]
    Rep. Ted Poe [R-TX2]

    Those are the sponsor and cosponsors of the birther bill in the House.

    Just to make it an even dozen, I’ll throw in Senator Inhofe. There are plenty more Republican congressmen who are loathe to cross the birthers.

  20. brainy435 says:

    Wow, I see the trolls are all atwitter. My favorite is the guy who says the government should run his dads finances ’cause can’t be trusted to.

    That hits on the larger disconnect: liberals have a problem understanding principles. The right thing to do is the right thing to do based on rational thought. If you have come to a rational conclusion that people should be free to make their own decisions, than that principle has nothing to do with whether or not you personally can live up to it. That’s why there is a double-standard: If a conservative says we should have the small government but passes a program increasing government spending that is used to denounce all conservatives since it is a betrayal of conservative principles. However if a liberal says she will run the most ethical congress ever and then takes no action to clean up even the most blatant corruption it doesn’t mean anything because there are no liberal principles to betray and everyone knows she just said what she had to to get elected.

  21. Brainy:

    First of all, God I love internet handles that announce your intellectual magnificence.

    Your argument is that conservatives have principles which they regularly ignore. And this is better than liberals who lack principles.

    It’s better to announce your unwavering beliefs and then completely betray them. Okay.

    Let’s try another way of looking at this. Maybe conservatives make up principles — small government, balanced budgets, individual liberty, high moral conduct — knowing that these are nothing but pabulum spoon-fed to the voters. In other words, not principles so much as election talking points.

    Perhaps by contrast the liberals state their principles in less rigid but ultimately more realistic terms: equal treatment under the law, tolerance, fairness, diplomacy. Those are in fact principles. And we generally work toward them. We’re pretty consistent on those. Much less so on some others.

    In order for us to be the hypocrites you guys are we’d have to proclaim that we are for equal treatment and then work actively to pass anti-gay legislation. Or say that we favor fairness and then support yet another tax cut for millionaires. Or call for bombing North Korea.

    And in fairness we do a bit of that. We definitely own a piece of the big hypocrisy pie. But nothing to equal the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of the GOP. In the last 8 years you worked feverishly to not only expand the size of government, but the powers of the executive. You started wars and began nation-building experiments. And your moralizing politicians ran around screwing anything with an orifice.

    We’ve seen what you guys did with 8 years. So far you’ve seen us for 6 months. Tell you what: give us just half the time we gave you, just 4 years. Let’s see if we manage to equal the staggering clusterf-ck you people inflicted on this nation with your “principles.”

  22. sam says:

    @brainy

    The right thing to do is the right thing to do based on rational thought.

    Dear brainy:

    If you’re as intelligent as your nom de comment implies, and you wield philosophical terms as if you understand what they mean, perhaps you’ll deign to supply us lesser mortals with an account of what constitutes “rational thought”. Here’s a argument:

    Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.

    Would you unpack that for us as an example of “rational thought”? We’d be in your debt.

  23. Steve Plunk says:

    So this has devolved into a bash the conservatives thread. Lovely. Conservatives are dumb, blah, blah, blah… Bush was bad, blah, blah, blah…

    Both side of the aisle have fringe elements that sometimes go too far. In this case is asking for documentation really that big of a deal? I mean a standard long form birth certificate with doctors name, hospital, and so forth would end it all so why not release it? Holding back only makes people want it more and fuels further speculation.

    This conspiracy theory is no different than those on the left. I suppose we could kick out those who think Roswell was a cover up and think Cuba has something to do with JFK’s assassination but like I said earlier we need those people even if they are slightly loopy.

    As for conservatives being logical and reasonable I stand my ground. Nothing posted rebuts that fact.

  24. sam says:

    @Plunk

    I mean a standard long form birth certificate with doctors name, hospital, and so forth would end it all so why not release it?

    Stay with it, Steve. I for one hope you guys go on and on with this. Oh, and

    Asked for more information about the short-form versus long-form birth documents, [Hawaii Department of Health spokeswoman Janice] Okubo said the Health Department “does not have a short-form or long-form certificate.”

    “The birth certificate form has been modified over the years and decades to conform to national standards and models,” she said.

    Okubo also emphasized the certification form “contains all the information needed by all federal government agencies for transactions requiring a birth certificate.”

    She added that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the state’s current certification of live birth “as an official birth certificate meeting all federal and other requirements.” [Source]

    But do continue.

  25. Crust says:

    Steve Plunk, did any Congressmen sponsor legislation to pander to advocates of the truther conspiracy or the Roswell conspiracy or whatever?

    Therein lies the difference. There will always be nutjobs of various stripes. But usually you don’t have a dozen or so Congressmen trying to suck up to them and more trying to equivocate so as not to offend the conspiracy theorists. For whatever reason, Republican congressmen are giving birthers a greater respect than is usual.

  26. brainy435 says:

    See, you make my point. You offer absolutely nothing by way of principles. Fairness and diplomacy. Good God, you genuinely don’t understand the concept.

    Conservatives believe in the very simple principles: small government, personal responsibility and liberty for all. Sometimes our leadership fails to meet those goals, especially lately, but then we aren’t at all happy with our leaders at the moment and that’s largely why. Sometimes we fail to meet these goals in our personal lives as well, but that doesn’t invalidate them. We have our principles because they have been determined to produce the most beneficial result for everyone. They have nothing to do with individuals. Your half-assed rejection of them is akin to saying you don’t believe that murder is bad since some people who think murder is bad kill people anyways. You haven’t actually thought about the issue and don’t really care to.

    You can’t point to a single principle you believe in. “Fairness,” “equality,” “tolerance” and “diplomacy” are pathetically juvenile attempts. They’re not “less rigid” principles, they’re mealy-mouthed platitudes you can redefine on a whim to justify doing whatever the hell you want to do. So you have vague notions of wanting to do something you “generally” try to live up to but can’t even manage that. Then you get on your high horse every time someone falls short in a genuine effort to do the right thing by claiming your superiority for not even bothering to try in the first place.

    The rest of you ignorant ranting aside, I liked “your moralizing politicians ran around screwing anything with an orifice.” Because liberals may screw around, lie under oath about it, illegally pay off mistresses and aides and run prostitution rings from their houses, but god love em they never explicitly said people shouldn’t do those things.

    You’ve had 6 months and already managed to make the supposed “clusterf-ck” exponentially worse. I don’t think we can afford 4 years of your unprincipled ideology running its unthinking course though every sector of society. As for “jaw-dropping hypocrisy” how has “the most ethical congress ever” turned out or President Obama overturning Bush’s policies because they were overreaches and criminal? Yeah, exactly. Jaw-dropping indeed.

  27. Dodd says:

    James “this is important” DeMint?

    Can you name even one elected Republican who has taken Dodd’s advice “to expel them — noisily and unequivocally…”?

    You mean like Jim DeMint?

    On Monday, however, the South Carolina Republican found himself defending Barack Obama from the fringier elements of his own political party: the conspiracy theorists who insist the president was not born in the United States.

    “I may have disagreements with [the president] on issues,” DeMint told the Huffington Post. “But he is my president, he deserves our respect, and we need forget that nonsense …

    “He is not only a citizen,” he added, “he is our president.”

    Michelle Bachmann objected to a voice vote, killing a resolution honoring Hawai’i as Obama’s birthplace on its 50th anniversary of statehood.

    Bachmann merely objected on the grounds there was no quorum. She voted Aye on the actual resolution.

    Maybe when you actually know what the people you named actually think we can revisit this.

  28. An Interested Party says:

    Wow, I see the trolls are all atwitter.

    Yes, indeed, brainy435…your comments are proof of that…

    As for conservatives being logical and reasonable I stand my ground. Nothing posted rebuts that fact.

    Nor has anything you’ve posted proven that “fact”…now, if you want to get down off your high horse, perhaps you could see that there are some logical and reasonable people who are conservative as well as some other logical and reasonable people who are liberal…just as there are kooks on both sides…oh, and by the way, if you truly think that the president is legitimate, why do you need to see anymore documentation of the president’s birth status? Unless, of course, you don’t really believe what you claim…

  29. brainy435 says:

    Oh, snap AIP. It must suck when you can’t refute an argument on its merits AND you run out of yo mamma jokes.

  30. brainy435 says:
  31. An Interested Party says:

    re: brainy435 | July 29, 2009 | 10:19 pm

    Oh please, what arguments? Your blathering that liberals supposedly don’t understand principles? That’s a bunch of bull…you see, one is quite capable of admitting that conservatives in power have not practiced what they preach AND that the president and the Democratic Congress have not lived up to the promises they made on the campaign trail…both the Democrats and the Republicans have been a disappointment in the governing department…also, both sides of the ideological divide have a certain set of principles that they claim and both sides often have trouble living up to these principles…trying to paint conservatives as the truly noble among us while not admitting that liberals also have principles is the real joke…

  32. brainy435 says:

    AIP, both parties have leaders that have not done what they said they would do on the campaign trail, true. But conservative said they would live up to conservative principles, ie small government, personal responsibility and liberty for all. For all the supposed outrage, not one liberal has mentioned anything that could be considered a principle that their leaders strayed from. Reynolds pathetic attempt fell far short, as I already explained and for all your anger you couldn’t name any either.

    It has nothing to do with being noble: conservatives are tied together with principles based on actual thought while liberals are tied together with little more than raw emotion. Conservatives have their shortcomings and our adherence to actual principles makes our “tent” smaller than it could be becuse we want all of our core principles followed. This makes our policy more consistent and rational, but our clout smaller. Liberals are ever-morphing bands of people connected by how they feel about issues. Their goals change all the time, but they encompass more people. Their policies are usually naieve and jumbled, but they have more clout.

    That’s why conservatives as a group are more founded in thought and consideration, despite all the angry denials from the liberals. And it goes to why liberal politicians can hold a view on what should be done about Iraq for years, vote for a war that is consistent with that view when it is popular and then the moment it is unpopular change their views 180 degrees, lie about it and actually maintain any credibility. How liberals felt about the issue changed and they had no underlying principle, such as personal responsibility, to keep them consistent.

  33. Dodd says:

    I’ll name eleven…. Just to make it an even dozen, I’ll throw in Senator Inhofe

    So you found 12 Congresscritters dumb enough to buy into Birtherism. That’s not really an accomplishment, considering the average intelligence of a Congresscritter is barely above pond scum.

    In any event, I fail to see how being a Birther themselves equates to those morons being afraid to cross them. Not even remotely the same thing. I know you all desperately want to believe that Birthers are an actual force the GOP has to tread lightlty around, but you’ll have to do better. You have to actually find one who isn’t one him/herself but is afraid of them. DeMint and Bachmann were suggested, but they don’t qualify. And the bill acknowledging Obama was born in Hawaii passed 378-0, so that won’t help you find any.

    Maybe if you look under your bed where the bogeyman lives…?

  34. Crust says:

    Thanks for the reply, Dodd. So you’re saying that those dozen GOP Congressmen aren’t pandering to Birthers, they actually are Birthers? And that’s supposed to help your argument that the Birthers aren’t a real faction in the GOP?

    In other news, according to a recent poll only a plurality (not a strict majority) of Republicans believe Obama was born in the United States (42-28).

  35. Dodd says:

    Is there something confusing about my call to expel the Birthers from the coalition?!?

    The question was to name five who were afraid of the Birthers. So far, none such have been named, you just keep dancing around trying to justify your own desire to believe these nutbags represent the right wing.

    Well, I don’t want them associated with us any more, nor do I want the whole movement painted with their lunacy. The fact that a handful of Congresscritters buy into it doesn’t make their nonsense a legitimate “faction” of the right. If every fringe notion that a dozen Congresscritters accept is to be the standard for what constitutes a real “faction,” I’m thinking I can find some pretty wacky factions on the left.