Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 24, 2011

IT WASN'T A TRICK QUESTION.... One of the easiest questions House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) faced on "Meet the Press" also happened to be the one he seemed most reluctant to answer.

Host David Gregory described it as a "leadership moment" for Cantor, and posed the question this way: "There are elements of this country who question the president's citizenship, who think that his birth certificate is inauthentic. Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?"

The appropriate answer would have been, "Of course." Instead, Cantor laughed, and replied, "David, you know, I mean, a lot of that has been an, an issue sort of generated by not only the media, but others in the country. Most Americans really are beyond that."

So, Gregory asked again. "Right," the host said. "Is somebody bringing that up just engaging in crazy talk?" Cantor again hedged, saying it's not "nice" to "call anyone crazy."

But Gregory didn't say anyone is "crazy," he asked about whether a ridiculous conspiracy theory deserves to be characterized as "crazy." The host pressed further, asking, "Is it a legitimate or an illegitimate issue?" Cantor once again was evasive, saying, "I don't think it's an issue that we need to address at all."

After some more back and forth, Cantor eventually said, "I think the president's a citizen of the United States." That's nice, and Gregory seemed satisfied, but it's worth emphasizing that the "birther" nonsense isn't focused on whether the president is a citizen, but rather, whether he's a natural-born citizen. Cantor seemed to be answering the question, but he really wasn't.

The Majority Leader clearly didn't want to talk about this, so the host explained why he was asking: "I think a lot of people, Leader, would say that a leader's job is to shut some of this down. You know as well as I do, there are some elements on the right who believe two things about this president: He actively is trying to undermine the American way and wants to deny individuals their freedom. Do you reject those beliefs?"

Cantor didn't answer directly, but was willing to concede, "Let me tell you, David, I believe this president wants what's best for this country. It's just how he feels we should get there, that there are honest policy differences."

The fact that it took quite a bit of cajoling to get to this answer says a great deal about Eric Cantor's judgment, and his fear of upsetting some of the more hysterical conservatives he counts on for support.

As for his willingness to blame "the media" and "others" for the birther madness, this is a cheap cop-out. Cantor may not want to admit it on national television, but this garbage comes from his party and its base. Cantor had an opportunity to show some class and leadership, denouncing the nonsense. For whatever reason, he was exceedingly reluctant to do so.

So much for his "leadership moment."

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

I, for one, am willing to stand up and say that it is crazy talk to suggest that Cantor is still beating his wife.

'Cause he's gay, of course.

Posted by: bignose on January 24, 2011 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

cantor knows...

what many americans know..

the gop is the nutty party...

he is afraid to talk about..

birthers..implanted microchips..fema camps.

the list of nutty right wing conspiracies is hearly endless..

perception is reality..

and the perception is that the gop is nutty..

bachmann, beck, gohmert, broun, palin...

etc...etc..

the perception raised its profile when gifford's was shot..

many people assumed..the nut job was conservative..

why?

perception is reality..

enjoy gop...you earned it !

Posted by: mr. irony on January 24, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Cantor is afraid of offending his base. It's that simple. And his base has been infested by the lunatic fringe.

Posted by: mlm on January 24, 2011 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

But he is showing leadership... for a bunch of nuts.

Posted by: pol on January 24, 2011 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Wacky wingnut wows world with waffling ways.

Film at 11.

Did we expect any different?

Posted by: JPS on January 24, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Echoing those above, one does not 'refudiate' their base, GuanoNutz as they may be. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 24, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

All I heard about this over the weekend was the headline, "Cantor believes Obama is a citizen." Which is ridiculous in itself, that this would be a headline. (If only because, as far as newswriters are concerned, Cantor's answer would've been a story regardless of how he answered.)

Posted by: Grumpy on January 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

It says a lot about Gregory's grasp of the issue that he failed to clue into Cantor's non-admission admission.

Posted by: square1 on January 24, 2011 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

As for his willingness to blame "the media" and "others" for the birther madness, this is a cheap cop-out.

I blame the media.

They're not pushing the story, but they're not doing much to put it to bed either. Crazy people are going to say crazy things. Malicious liars are going to tell malicious lies. But responsible journalists should shun such people and when giving them air time is unavoidable, journalists should ridicule their idiotic ideas.

Posted by: SteveT on January 24, 2011 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

You have to remember one thing about Cantor -- he is incredibly, deeply, woefully stupid.

His stupidity is really summed up in this Hardball question in which he insists Congress, the only political body with the right to declare war, actually has no constitutional role in declaring war. (Skip to 1:25 if you'd like.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38xWuAjg0BA

Don't let the glasses confuse you. He is an idiot. He lacks a fifth grader's understanding of American government, and the fact that he's in a position of power in this country now is truly frightening.

Posted by: TR on January 24, 2011 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Its moot.

But i think there are some states that have basically passed laws requiring the release of "the long form bith certificate" in order for President Obama to run in 2012.

Do I remember that right?

That is where it will get interesting.

Posted by: a different joe on January 24, 2011 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Heh. This is funny:

http://crooksandliars.com/bluegal/open-thread-571

Posted by: TR on January 24, 2011 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

I saw this when it was broadcast on Sunday morning and just about spit out my coffee.

I'm not sure how he can rationalize that in a way that allows him to sleep at night.

What a tool.

Posted by: Rochester on January 24, 2011 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

That them there's some leader!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 24, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not especially interested in the media's - and it should be noted, mainly NBC's - interest in dragging out the "birther" embarrassment, but I'll take the larger point Benen's driving at: I don't think the Gregory interview with Cantor went well, it spoke to his limitations, and we'll see if he gets feedback and improves. I think Cantor coasted into this new role as Majority Leader and hasn't really stepped up his performance, and that's not going to work.

It was probably fine that Cantor spoke in vaguenesses and conservative bromides back when he was Whip - that, after all is a position about getting your own people to tow the party line - but Majority Leader is a more forward facing role and "leadership" is about articulating not just platitudes, but some sense of why you think what you're thinking. That's not Cantor's strength, and it shows. It would help, too, if he had a demeanor other than "Faux Southern cheerful", which rings false outside of the region.

Cantor's young, and I think he's been moved up too far and too fast... which is certainly a recipe for a long, hard fall. I tend to think he's bright enough to avoid disaster, but Benen's right that his mealy mouthed answers on Meet the Press did him no favors (I imagine that Christiane Amanpour, who's shaping up to be the real destroyer among Sunday hosts, would eviscerate him on specific issues). He's trying too hard to say nothing, alienate no one... and it shows. And if he doesn't adjust his presentation, then he's probably doomed. But I wouldn't count him out, just yet.

Posted by: weboy on January 24, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

A man who has done but one day's honest work would not have answered such a line of open and transparent questions as Eric Cantor did on January 23rd, 2011, for all to see!

A man who lies so poorly should not be called Leader! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 24, 2011 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

a different joe - sort of. a bill was introduced into the Arizona state legislature, and it passed one house. It was shelved last April, however. I believe it was proposed in Georgia as well, but I couldn't find any references just now.

The key for the GOP, as Cantor showed in his tap-dancing answer, is that they must continue to exploit the fear and anger in their base that votes for them while not actually doing anything to upset the independents or the money types like the Koch brothers who actually give the marching orders.

Gregory is an idiot to let those answers go by. He is the perfect example of a lazy, oblivious villager.

Posted by: Rathskeller on January 24, 2011 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Rathskeller, I thought it was one of Gregory's better performances. He actually pressed Cantor a little, just a little mind you, but he actually asked follow up questions. He needs to be careful or Comcast will fire his ass.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 24, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Cantor laughed, and replied, "David, you know, I mean, a lot of that has been an, an issue sort of generated by not only the media, but others in the country. Most Americans really are beyond that."

What Cantor fails to say, of course,is that included in those "others" is a contingent of 11 or more United States Congressmen who've signed onto the birther bill, and who he's now the majority leader of.

Posted by: Oh my on January 24, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

His answers were very politically correct. Funny how white male Republicans use PC when it helps them, because they bitch about it when it doesn't.

Posted by: Skip on January 24, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

But if Cantor came out and said that he believed Obama was a natural born citizen of the USA, then the GOP wouldn't be able to use the issue in 2012 to fire up the loonies and drive them to the voting booths.

Posted by: josef on January 24, 2011 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Don't blame Cantor. Remember: he's perpetually confused!

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Why should Cantor come out and say that that Obama is a natural-born citizen? He probably isn't. If he was, he would have a proper birth certificate. Nothing against Obama, he's doing a decent job under difficult circumstances. But my reading of the facts is that, most probably, he was born in Kenya.

What Cantor should have said is this: It doesn't matter. So what if Obama isn't a natural-born citizen? He was raised by an American mother, partly in the United States, and he's a native English speaker, and he's an American. Same deal for John McCain, who was born in Panama and arguably is also ineligible for the presidency. But McCain is obviously a native American by upbringing and outlook, so it's just a technicality. What the Constitution is saying is that someone like Schwarzenegger (nothing personally against Schwarzenegger, just citing an example) is not eligible.

Second, he's the president. The time to raise this objection was before his election. What, is the Supreme Court going to throw Obama out on a technicality? That would cause a constitutional crisis. It's a technicality, let it go.

Again, nothing against Obama. But is Cantor supposed to pretend that facts aren't facts because he doesn't want to cause a crisis? Maybe he is supposed to do that - its arguably part of his job, to avoid unnecessary crises. But he walked it back as far as he could without outright saying something he probably doesn't believe.

Posted by: Floyd Alvis Cooper on January 24, 2011 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Watch Cantor's eyes during the crucial moment when he finally "concedes" - he will not look at Dancing Dave, cuz he is lying.

Posted by: RevDave on January 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

But my reading of the facts is that, most probably, he was born in Kenya.***********

Really? You going with that??? Really? There are newspaper announcements of his birth in the US of A. There are multiple announcements that have been located from papers in 1961. Wow. You are quite the reality denier and conspiracy theorist my friend. You realize, of course, what you are suggesting. In related news, how many UFO abductions have you been privy to?

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on January 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone else notice Cantor's eye's shifting as he tried to fabricate the right answer on this? It would be funny if he weren't in a position of power.

Posted by: Gorobei on January 24, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Cantor seemed to be answering the question, but he really wasn't.

And yet David Gregory "seemed satisfied" with the answer.

And yet this idiot is allowed to pose as a journalist on national TV.

Memo to the Washington Press Corpse: When a politician refuses -- three times, yet! -- to answer a direct question, that's your story.

Dimwits.

Posted by: Gregory (not the doofus with the news show) on January 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Faux Southern cheerful", which rings false outside of the region.

It rings false inside the region, too, FWIW.

Posted by: PC on January 24, 2011 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

I can't get a copy of my original birth certificate. I get a birth certificate, but not a copy of my original one. Seeing that Hawaii is not in the dark ages, as most of the repubs and all of the teabaggers are, I don't expect Obama to get a copy of his original either, but just for arguments sake, I want to see the original copy of everyone's birth certificate that is claiming Obama was born in Kenya or was not born in the United States.

Posted by: Schtick on January 24, 2011 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that the media is to blame for this birther nonsense is laughable on its face, considering there are active members of the Republican Party who are pushing birther bills in the United States Congress.

Posted by: Sam on January 24, 2011 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

And just what "facts" have you been reading Floyd Alvis Cooper? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

his fear of upsetting some of the more hysterical conservatives he counts on for support.

Can we stop calling these people "conservatives"? They are not conservatives, they are radical right wing revolutionaries. Or, to put it in one word: fascists. There was another country 79 years ago that thought they were voting for "conservatives" who found out that just because a political movement calls themselves "conservative" doesn't mean they are.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 24, 2011 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

And even at the end, Cantor hedges and says "I think the president's a citizen of the United States."

Does he also "think" the earth revolves around the earth? Does he "think" water is wet? Does he "think" grass is green?

Ridiculous.

Posted by: Sasha on January 24, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

"...Cantor had an opportunity to show some class and leadership,..."

Two qualities totally lacking in this flunkie. Just look up Cantor's rhetoric and it will become obvious how stupid he really is completely lacking class or integrity. Leadership- ha! Not from a waterboy like Cantor

Posted by: bjobotts on January 24, 2011 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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