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Monday, July 27, 2009

The GOP's Birther Problem

This is fun. James Inhofe sides with the birthers, then -- less than an hour later -- has to withdraw his support. It all starts with a Politico piece where Inhofe says that the conspiracy nuts "have a point" and he doesn't "discourage them."

This doesn't seem to have flown very well, since his office clarified later. Inhofe spokesperson Jared Young emailed Greg Sargent a new quote:

The point that they make is the Constitutional mandate that the U.S. President be a natural born citizen, and the White House has not done a very good job of dispelling the concerns of these citizens. My focus is on issues where I can make a difference to stop the liberal agenda being pushed by President Obama.

That's 12:28 east coast. Is Obama a citizen or not -- who knows? He won't say. But, according to Inhofe, it's clear that this is all Obama's fault, because he "not done a very good job of dispelling the concerns" of crazy people who simply won't be convinced by any evidence at all. Somewhere in America, a local health department isn't doing a very good job of convincing someone they don't have an alien microchip in their head -- so what? It's hard to convince crazy people to stop being crazy. Resisting reality is a symptom of the disorder.

But the larger point is that he refuses to be pinned down on whether or not he thinks the President's a citizen.

So Sargent pushed. Does Sen. Inhofe believe that the birthers are right? "No. His focus is on issues," Jared answered later. That was 1:24. If you can't actually straddle the issue, I guess you can jump back and forth across it or dance around it.

Republicans continue to try to have their cake and eat it too here. They're so down right now that they can't afford to lose the birthers by stating the plain truth. But they can't afford to turn the less insane voters off by joining in the birther crusade. So they try to have it both ways -- don't "discourage" the birthers, but don't join them either. As a result, the issue is festering within the GOP, with the birther phenomenom spreading.

In short, the people who think that Barack Obama is an illegal alien are becoming a politically powerful embarrassment. By refusing to nip this in the bud, the party risks being seen by the politically uncommitted (i.e., swing voters) as the home of whackos.

Good luck with that.

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