Wingnut Watch: What Now for the Birthers?

By / 4.27.2011

When I started doing this column back in February, I had this to say about the parameters of “wingnuttery” I considered sufficiently legitimate to address:

I’m not interested in conducting a carnival sideshow that cherry-picks and mocks radical conservatives who do not have any actual political power. I won’t follow the birthers and the white supremacists, won’t indulge in Nazi analogies, and won’t assume that every raving from the lips of Glenn Beck has been internalized as marching orders by Republican politicians. The degree of craziness in the conservative mainstream right now is large enough that exaggeration is unnecessary as well as unfair.

Guess I didn’t know how crazy “the crazy” could get, what with birtherism being a source of constant debate among all sorts of conservatives, and the signature issue of the guy currently leading most polls of Republicans to serve as their 2012 presidential candidate. But worse yet, today’s news indicates the evil genie of right-wing conspiracy theory will just move on to other toxic delusions about Barack Obama.

The White House got hold of and released the “long-form birth certificate” for the president that birthers have been claiming does not exist or has been destroyed or whisked away to one of those FEMA concentration camps or something.

Case closed, right? Well, the font of birtherism, the online publication WorldNetDaily, has “other questions” that remain about the circumstances of the president’s birth and upbringing. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is taking credit for forcing the White House to “resolve” the made-up “controversy.” Worse yet, he’s already moving on to other crazy conspiracy theories, notably the fable that Obama’s first book, Dreams From My Father, was actually written by ex-Weatherman William Ayers. This complete fabrication was emphatically endorsed by Trump on Sean Hannity’s show over a week ago. It’s a sign of the times that hardly anyone even noticed. And in an indication that this could be the next hallucinatory item to migrate from the fever swamps to “respectable” conservative opinion, Sarah Palin’s had this comment on Fox last night:

I think the media is loving this, because they want to make to make birthers, as they call people who are just curious about the president of the United States and his background and his associations and his consistency with what he says today versus what he said in both the memoirs that he wrote or Bill Ayers or whomever wrote.

I’m reasonably sure she was not just trying to be funny.

Conventional conservatives have a real obligation to stomp out this new/old forest fire of lies and lunacy before it spreads. The racial implications alone of the black-man-needs-white-radical-to-write-book meme are toxic enough to merit some active intervention instead of the sort of indulgent aren’t-they-cute attitude of Republicans towards birthers.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the main development among conservative activists during the last week has been a steadily hardening position on a debt limit increase, with sentiment roughly divided between those claiming a delay in the measure would not alarm financial markets, and those arguing that the sky will fall if Congress does not enact Paul Ryan’s budget or something like it directly. Suffusing both points of view is the conviction that the administration and Senate Democrats will eventually cave and give them much of what they want if the play chicken on the debt limit. Underneath the surface is almost certainly the legitimate concern that 2012 voters will not give the GOP the decimation of Medicare and Medicaid that they are demanding in negotiations, though conservatives can now point to at least one poll (from Gallup) showing that if the Ryan and Obama positions on the budget are described in vague enough terms, opinion polarizes by party like it does on everything else.

The emerging party line on the ontological necessity of pushing Ryan-style “reforms” through come hell or high water was probably best expressed by John McCain’s top 2008 economic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, in National Review:

Entitlement reform is in the House budget because entitlement reforms have to be central to any plan. The large entitlement programs — Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare — are running red ink right now and are the major source of the growing debt that harms economic growth. The federal budget cannot come into balance and stay in balance unless the entitlement programs are reformed. Entitlement reform is an obligation for anyone who seeks to lead America to a more prosperous, responsible, and secure future.

All righty then. What’s left to negotiate? How much of a tax cut for “wealth producers” we need to wash down those benefit cuts?