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Tilting at Windmills

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July 27, 2009

THEY DON'T DESERVE ENCOURAGEMENT.... There's a Politico item today on Republican lawmakers being forced to deal with fringe conspiracy theorists who insist the president wasn't born in the United States, reality notwithstanding. Apparently, for GOP officials, this has become something of a nuisance -- they can't hold a town-hall meeting without having to endure questions from these nutty activists.

It's become more relevant to lawmakers now, in part because some in the media keep publicizing the lunacy, and in part because lawmakers will be heading home soon for their August recess, when they'll likely have to confront this stupidity. Many are apparently preparing their answers now.

At least one U.S. senator, however, is sounding a sympathetic note about the Birthers.

Sen. Jim Inhofe has also tried to find the elusive middle ground.

"They have a point," he said of the birthers. "I don't discourage it. ... But I'm going to pursue defeating [Obama] on things that I think are very destructive to America."

That's not "middle ground." That's just ridiculous.

There should be a clear and distinct line between fringe lunatics and the beliefs of U.S. senators. That Inhofe thinks Birthers "have a point" suggests that line is blurring in unhealthy ways.

Steve Benen 10:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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"a clear and distinct line between fringe lunatics and the beliefs of U.S. senators"

In all fairness, Inhofe has always been a fringe lunatic.

Posted by: Stu on July 27, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

It will be amusing to see Inhofe and others wade through the intellectual cesspool in which many of their supporters wade, especially since these 'leaders' have historically, greedily, and manipulatively riled up said swimmers over the years, while simultaneously attaining and maintaining some semblance of reality in Congress.

Reap what you sow and all that. But in the larger context I remain apprehensive as an American how we in the reality-based community are to deal with these (what appear to be) growing mobs of people who apparently have no desire to rise above their lot, and to engage in growing this country. Such folks will continue, I fear, to cling to their 'God Guns and Gays' call-to-arms (literally), with their minds solidified into a congealed muck of hatred and ignorance. How does one educate those who refuse to be educated?

Posted by: terraformer on July 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder what the results of a role call vote on evolution would be.

Posted by: john sherman on July 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

It's not just a Politico "item", it's their front-page story today. Kind of ridiculous.

Any of you caught this Orly Taitz woman on teevee? She's one of the birther ringleaders, who's basically your consummate wingnut. She's Russian born, and apparently is a lawyer/dentist/real-estate agent. She's like a real-life, walking SNL skit.

Posted by: Comrade Jake on July 27, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

The old line between fringe lunatics and the beliefs of U.S. senators and Inhofe argument .

Posted by: FRP on July 27, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Inhofe may or may not be a Birther, but he is definitely a lunatic. Unfortunately, he is a senator instead on the fringe.

Posted by: qwerty on July 27, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

This is why it's vital for the media and the political establishment to focus attention on the birther nonsense. I mean, liberals think conservatives are stupid and/or evil on general principle...but this birther business is a symptom of something much more abnormal and dangerous. And I'm talkin' early 1930s Germany dangerous.


Posted by: MBunge on July 27, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

except for Ka-Ching, the Politico cynics are bag o'hammers thick.

they have encouraged what has been evident for me for sometime, that the lunatic right is the middle ground these days.

Politico hacks deserve a just and angry god on their asses... pity he's been a republican, too, for a long time.

Posted by: neill on July 27, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Inhofe thinks Birthers "have a point"

But they DO-it's under their tin foil hats. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 27, 2009 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

The point is to call into question every aspect of Obama. Why would Inhofe not agree with that?

Posted by: mlm on July 27, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

New national sport

Show up at republican town halls across America and try to out-loon the loons:

"Senator Inhofe, I am anti-vaccine birther who was alive back in 1969 when LBJ faked the moon mission and started poisoning Americans with fluoridated water... and I am as mad as hell..."

Posted by: koreyel on July 27, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Poor sweet Republican lawmakers, unfairly burdened by pesky questions from the loony tunes who elected them; utterly unable to bring themselves to tell the loony tunes that they're wrong and to pipe the hell down. Did any public servants ever suffer so much?

Posted by: shortstop on July 27, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is a son, born of an American citizen. That makes him an American Citizen by birth. Period.

Posted by: Tigershark on July 27, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I guess the best hope we have is that the lies Republican elected officials have to tell to keep their foot soldiers in line will become so outrageous and embarrassing that many of them will quit rather than put up with that aspect of the job. Somehow, I don't think Inhofe is going to be at the head of that procession out of town if it ever happens.

Posted by: Shalimar on July 27, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I fully agree with shortstop@11.01a and koreyel@10.57a. I hope those Republican town-hall meetings are filled to the rafters with "Birthers".

Let the Republican office-holders deal with them!

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on July 27, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I can't decide which is the 'ultimate comment' on Birther madness -- that Ann Coulter thinks they are crazy, or that several Freepers have blasted her for being too swayed by the liberal democratic media. "Ann Coulter is turning into another Peggy Noonan. It's very sad." is perhaps the mildest comment she got for it.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on July 27, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Orly Taitz got her law degree from a correspondence school, which means that Inhofe and Sessions would probably recommend her for the Supreme Court.

Posted by: bluestatedon on July 27, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Ann Coulter is turning into another Peggy Noonan. It's very sad."

And this has been another installment of, "Hilarious if it weren't so terrifying."

Posted by: inkadu on July 27, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Please, Kate Smith, come back and reprise "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain", but, change it to "When the Loons Come Over the Mountain". Oh, they're already there.

Hmmm - Inhofe, Largent, J.C. Watts, Oral Roberts - When was the water spiked in Tulsa destroying any intelligent life?

Posted by: berttheclock on July 27, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Lets just call a spade a spade. The birthers are a bunch of racists who hate the thought of having a black president. Since they can't use race diectly they have focused on birth. If this were 40 years ago, half of them would belong to the KKK. Hell, I'd be willing to bet that a quarter of them probably still do.

Posted by: Liam J on July 27, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The birthers are also the same type of folks who were convinced during the '90s that Bill Clinton was in cahoots with the U.N. to overthrow the U.S. government and impose a "new world order." There were even rumors that flatbed trains carrying black tanks were traveling through Virginia on their way to militarily take over the government in D.C.

I believe you can't ignore the claptrap these people spew, but not because it's possible to change their minds. You need to counter it to make sure that "normal" but simply underinformed Americans don't swallow it. God knows there are plenty in that category, so it's a big job that requires constant effort.

Posted by: bluestatedon on July 27, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

It's not just race that is driving the birthers. They don't have problems with blacks in office per se (as long as people like Powell and Steele "know their place") but it's the whole Kenyan (read "black") father and American (read "white") mother that has them in a lather. This is, to them, an unnatural pairing and, thus, an unnatural offspring no matter what documents, newspapers, or the governor of Hawaii say.

Posted by: jeff on July 27, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

What has shocked me is that what you would consider the sane, educated, intellectual right-wingers (i.e. wrong but articulate) STILL argue the birther fables.

"If there's anything to this story, Obama would be finished, except for the cover-up of the liberal media."

Notice the clever disclaimer -- "if there's anything to this story -- it should be thoroughly investigated." But, even if true the truth will never come out because of the liberal media conspiracy that shields Obama.

The birther movement is NOT some fringe movement -- it's the Republican party base. ALL OF IT!

Even the ones who could be intellectually convinced that there's nothing to it still won't dismiss it because "how can we know the truth with the lies and distortions of the liberal media?"

This is what made me realize there's just no reality basis at all for Republicans. Even the smartest and most well educated don't believe in anything like a consensus reality that contradicts their beliefs.

The best of them are "Good Germans" and the rest are Brown Shirts!

Posted by: Cugel on July 27, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

The notion of "middle ground" on this is nonsense. Every Republican member of Congress should have publicly stated that there is absolutely no merit to the Birther assertions and that they want no part of it. Their failure to do so is shameful. In the case of Inhofe and some of the more lunatic members of the House, it's just plain nasty political posturing; in the case of most, it's just cowardice.

As I recall, pretty much every Democratic member of Congress publicly took the position in 2001 that the Supreme Court's determination in Bush v. Gore was determinative and that Bush was the lawfully elected President, period, full stop. They didn't introduce bills to limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction in similar future cases or take any other public actions to question the legitimacy of Bush.

The responsible members of the Democratic Party will willing to put the 2001 election behind them (at least in terms of the legitimacy), but apparently the word "reciprocity" isn't in the contemporary Republican Party's dictionary.

Posted by: drf on July 27, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

There should be a clear and distinct line between fringe lunatics and the beliefs of U.S. senators.

Yeah. There should be.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 27, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered if the elected officials in the Republican party understand what they've done by courting the least common denominator or if they're true believers.

I can't help but hope that somewhere in Inhofe's empty spaces the thought, 'What have we wrought?' echos incessantly.

The GOP would be nothing more than a dark chapter in a history textbook were it not for the Democrats' utter inability to accomplish. The scariest thing in the world is knowing Palin, birthers, and the bitter racist core of the Republican party could regain power because Evan Bayh, Max Baucus, and several others are bought and paid for.

They're collectively the kinds of people who make me wish I believed in hell.

Posted by: doubtful on July 27, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is a son, born of an American citizen. That makes him an American Citizen by birth. Period.

If were only as simple as that. Focusing on the Birthers is not a mistake exactly, but one result is that they just start tightening their story line.

They don't get this out of nowhere, there really is obsolete legislation which if coupled with material in an 1758 French treatise and a belief that Obama was born in Kenya to a woman who had not yet reached her 19th birthday that 'proves' Obama is not a 'natural born citizen'. And if you follow this logic you can then find reasons why Obama's mother and grandparents would have motivation to insert birth announcements into the Honolulu papers and to file an affidavit for a Certificate of Live Birth..

Now you can show that the legislation doesn't apply to this case, and point out that for a group that goes ballistic at the though of a Supreme Court justice even mentioning foreign taking an unofficial 18th century French political treatise as definitive when settling this particular point of Constitutional Law is somewhere between inconsistent and raving lunacy. You can then follow up by pointing out that the logistics of air travel in 1961 made it vanishingly unlikely that Obama Sr could get his wife to Kenya and his wife and baby back and me and others have made sporadic attempts since November to do exactly that. You can show the weakness of every link in the logical chain. But is is just not as easy as "Obama's mother was an American citizen". Birthers don't dispute that, instead they have built an elaborate superstructure around and above that fact to show that it doesn't matter.

Your common-sense argument is only convincing to people that have common-sense, whch in turn are people who mostly only laugh when they hear Birthers to start with. Try that on a Birther and before you know it you will be talking about how Sun Yat-Sen's affidavit from March 1904 proves Obama wasn't born in Honolulu in 1961. I shit you not that is actually part of the Birther conversation.

Birthers have a lot in common with Young Earthers (creationists who believe the Earth is 6000 years old), they find confirmation of their theory everywhere they look. I had one claim that the absolute lack of any documentary evidence of a 1961 trip to Kenya was in fact proof of how deep the conspiracy runs. What do you do with a mentality like that?

Posted by: Bruce Webb on July 27, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK


Those are not "fringe lunatics" to the modern conservative Republicans. After the last eight years of catering to the extremists of the right wing and purging the moderates, the Republican Party has proven that it cannot govern. Neither can Hispanics or African-Americans trust them.

The result is that Independent voters have become resistant to voting for Republicans, while more and more voters report that they identify as Democrats. So what voters are left for the conservative Republicans to go after? Just the right-wing lunatic fringe. That's all. To the Republicans those aren't fringe lunatics. The Republicans have no other pool of voters to go after!

That's what Dave Neiwert describes in his excellent book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

The Republican Party has taken over many of the extremist right-wing language and issues and elected politicians like Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Ron Paul to carry those issues to the voters.

It's the only trick they have left to play.

Posted by: Rick B on July 27, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Inhofe's nephew did McCain's campaign media/advertising. Fringe my ass.


Posted by: grinning cat on July 27, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

DRF @12:04 states that "The responsible members of the Democratic Party were willing to put the 2001 election behind them (at least in terms of legitimacy)..."

I call bullshit on this! The Supreme Court selected Bush and the Corporate Media seconded that action!

1. Gore Won The National Popular Vote By Over A Half Million (AP)

2. More Florida Voters Voted For Gore Than For Bush (SPT, CT)

3. The Supreme Court Selected Bush, 5-4. (Supreme Court)

4. The Supreme Court's Alternate Plan Was To Recount All Florida Votes. (Supreme Court)

5. A Recount Of All Florida Votes Would Have Gore Winning By Over 100 Votes. (NYT, WP)


Like most things tied to the Bush Criminal Enterprise, the Corporate Media admirably performed their assigned functions as rethugnican echo chamber and message amplifier.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on July 27, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

This birther dust-up reminds me of an old bible passage that goes something like "that which ye sow, so shall ye reap." The noise machine has been whipping up their "base" with fact optional lunacy for years now. Remember little Anne Coulter's best seller calling liberals traitors? What about Rush Limbaugh's show just about every day? How about Lou Dobbs constant anti-immigrant drumbeat? Crazy is what the noise machine does and does best. After years of the noise machine turned up to 11, what do the Republicans expect--rational thought and reasonable discourse?

I agree that we should encourage the birthers to show up at Republican town halls across the nation. Force elected Republicans to deal with their "base."

Let the birthers shrike the Republican party from mostly irrelevant, but to totally irrelevant.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 27, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Glenn Beck is all miffed at how his "ACORN stole the election!' argument doesn't get a quarter the attention the Birthers do.

Posted by: 2Manchu on July 27, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the Republicans have a built-in structural advantage. They are the automatic default party in many states and congressional districts (albeit mostly in the South). They get millions of dollars for Presidential campaigns, primary position on ballots and coverage of their national conventions.

They will get a spot on the stage at Presidential and Senatorial and Congressional debates. The binary nature of our system (since it's winner-take-all, and a third party can't gain traction) means that there will be Democrats and Republicans. And Republicans will get a baseline of 40% of the vote -- there will always be a sizable disgusted percentage who will not vote Democratic, but will stay home so as to not support the Republican.

And now the Republican party -- with all its default advantage -- is pwned by the most extreme elements.

One can hope Palin is thinking of starting her own "America Independence" party, but that would be too much win to hope for.

Posted by: zmulls on July 27, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

That's not "middle ground." That's just ridiculous.

Yes, "ridiculous" is probably the word that best describes Senator Moron, er, I mean Inhofe.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 27, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

The Birther's imperviousness to reason and evidence may seem like a fringe phenomenon but it's really nothing more unusual than the mainstream psychology of the Conservative Movement as a whole.

The same mindset that leads "Birthers" to stubbornly dispute the citizenship of President Obama, is also evident in those who insist that Intelligent Design -- or Creationism -- is a perfectly good alternative to the theory of evolution.

What is at work in both instances is the creation of imaginary frameworks that allow their adherents to live in more comfortable alternative realities. Just like the woman in the famous youtube video who screams "I want my country back!!!" these Birthers" refuse to accept the president's citizenship, no matter how much documentation is presented, because doing so allows them to deny that America is a changed country that just elected a black man named Hussain as president.

Likewise, those who promote Intelligent Design as an equally valid explanation of the universe do so in part because they long for an uncomplicated rural traditionalism that rejects the complexities and diversities of the modern world.

Those within the Religious Right who have turned the public schools into a battleground over Intelligent Design and evolution refuse to accept that America is publicly secular, however observant its citizens may be in their private lives.

Creationism, then, is just a proxy for the discomfort they feel in living in this modern, secular culture, just as denying Obama's citizenship serves as a proxy for traditionalist Borthers who hate the idea that White Christian America needs to move over to make room for others.

Posted by: Ted Frier on July 27, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

it would be a mighty specious argument (pretty much ridiculous on the face of it) that placed Sen. Jim inhofe outside the lunatic fringe. That inhofe would give credence to lunatic wingnut fringe phantasmagorical drool is no surprise at all - he is after all, one of them.

Posted by: pluege on July 27, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

... and who says that the Birthers are Republicans ?
Did they look at the registration cards ? .. their long form birth certificates ? .. their web sites ?

Posted by: Neo on July 27, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

These people are nuts. Anyone who blindly believes a politician simply on his word alone, without asking for confirmation, that is. Lots of "citizens" out there who don't know a damn thing about their country and its history. Won't even consider the possibility of foul play - won't even consider it? The naivete amongst so many is utterly frightening. Pretty easy to fool a fool.

Posted by: Goodside on July 27, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I have one word for the birthers....lithium

Posted by: Jeni W on July 27, 2009 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Where did these ridiculus birthers come from Mars, or under a rock. This is a perfect example of racism at work in the U.S. I dislike lies being told on our first black president Barack Obama. He was born right here in the U.S and has a birth certificate to prove it. I hope people with any common sense ingnore these racist birthers.

Posted by: Lucy on July 27, 2009 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Where did these ridiculus birthers come from Mars, or under a rock?"

I've been wondering that, too.
Let's check their birth certificates!

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