Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 21, 2011

STATISTIC OF THE DAY.... A New York Times/CBS News poll released this morning doesn't exactly portray rank-and-file Republicans in a positive light.

[The poll] showed that Republicans who are considering making presidential bids will have to woo a party that largely identifies with the Tea Party movement -- more than half of Republican voters said they considered themselves Tea Party supporters -- and has questions about President Obama's origin of birth.

A plurality of Republican voters, 47 percent, said they believed Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was born in another country; 22 percent said they did not know where he was born, and 32 percent said they believed he was born in the United States.

I might be able to spin this into a less-depressing result, noting that many of these Republican voters aren't aware of the natural-born citizen language in the Constitution, and may not appreciate the extent to which they're buying into a ridiculous, arguably racist, conspiracy theory with no foundation in reality.

But frankly, the effort not to believe the worst about the GOP base is a tough sell. When 47% of Republicans, literally years after the birther garbage was debunked, believe the president was born in another country, it reinforces the notion that there's a deeply ugly strain of madness that runs through Republican politics.

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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ugly strain of madness? could that be racism?

Posted by: T2 on April 21, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

All true, but it was equally true in 2008, when Obama won handily. The people who voted for Obama in 2008 but stayed at home in 2010 are just as much of a problem for the system as the crazies of the Right, for they are the ones who handed the House to the GOP. How are we to understand them and what's to be done?

Posted by: davidp on April 21, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

And the current crop of Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves as they try to dance around the craziness of their own constituent's beliefs. There might be a handful...a dwindling handful of Republicans who are sane enough to say "this is over the top insane."

Posted by: whichwitch on April 21, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

It's not hard to see us as a nation of angry, selfish, and fat jerks. We're okay but the guy over there is the problem. So, we're now testing the limits of this noblest of human experiments by racializing class war in order to create even greater opportunities for this nation's wealthy.

I've stopped pretending. I've given up on niceness. Republicans are simply assholes.

Posted by: walt on April 21, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

IMO, they don't actually believe this ridiculous canard in the normal sense of the word. The huge not sure number illustrates this point. They are giving the tribal answer to the pollsters. Or they are just trying to piss off liberals.

The "not sures" know what the tribal answer is, and certainly know what it isn't, but they also know the tribal answer is a ridiculous canard. So they refuse to answer.

And, just by the way, before you start saying that this tribalism is limited to the GOP, look at how well the Democratic base has held up in support of Obama, despite his steady adoption of policies that are both bad and not at all what he promised during his campaign.

Posted by: jayackroyd on April 21, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

It's the "Other"-ness that has plagued Obama among "Real Americans" from the beginning. They don't even believe Hawaii is part of the country -- to them it's halfway around the world (got that part right, at least), populated exclusively by hula girls and surfers, where good people like them go on vacation to marvel at the foreignness. I remember some commentator on NPR criticizing Obama in 2008 for going on vacation to Hawaii because it was too "exotic" for a presidential candidate. It's his home, fer crissake!

Even if he claimed he was born in Kansas, where the matriarchal side of his family, who incidentally raised him, originated, he'd have a hard time convincing these people he was one of them. He just doesn't look or act like someone who'd live down the street on "Father Knows Best" or "Ozzie and Harriet." That's why Sammy Davis Jr. kissing Carroll O'Connor was such a big deal for them.

While the rest of the country has moved on with the years, embracing the social change that defines America to the rest of the world, these people are stuck in a time warp, encouraged by politicians like Boehner, who's said his major concern is "losing the America I grew up in," and the moneyed class who exploits them in order to turn back the economic clock to the Gilded Age.

Posted by: ericfree on April 21, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Ignorance is still ignorance, whether it's willful or not.

It's the fact that the President is a black man with a Muslim/African name.

They'd probably think Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was French or Canadian.

But a white guy's a white guy, so he's gotta be an American. Even if he was born in Panama, like McCain.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 21, 2011 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

How are we to understand them and what's to be done?

It's not hard to understand why people didn't show up. People voted for change-an end to the wars, an effective response to the recession, a health care system that doesn't threaten the bottom 8 or 9 income deciles with bankruptcy.

Some of those people who voted to throw the bums out in 2008 no doubt voted the same way again in 2010. At the moment, the US government-the president, the House and the Senate are not reflecting, in their policy-making, what people want. They are also implementing bad policies for bad reasons.

If Obama had chosen differently--if he had turned out to be a New Deal Liberal rather than a Third Way centrist, someone who welcomed the banksters hatred rather than their advice, then the 2010 election would have looked quite a bit different.

The problem is deep in the party, very seriously broken in the Senate, where there is a majority committed to the interests of crony capitalism. Until that gets fixedHow are we to understand them.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd on April 21, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

That commentator on NPR was Cokie Roberts.

Posted by: kd bart on April 21, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I'm often inclined to wonder why republicans continue to consume media outlets that mislead them and treat them like dumb asses. But then again, apparently there's a market for that stuff. This is Darwinism at work.

Posted by: rramos on April 21, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to un-brainwash the FoxInformed viewer. I have a theory though that many of these people answering these guestions on these polls, may say they will vote, but I think it is really way too much effort for them to stand in line on election day. I think the reliability of polls has dropped significantly in recent years. People like screwing around with pollsters, younger people are under-represented, and the emotion of the day drives a lot of people's responses. If you ask them if the country is moving in the right direction during say a BP Oil spill or in the midst of a heated battle between the two parties, your going to get very different responses than say, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, when the country is pulling together. There are just too many damn polls. We don't govern my referendum...do we?

Steve, you are the best blogger on the internet. Thanks.

Posted by: Extreme Liberal on April 21, 2011 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

There is madness there, but don't forget that we have Murdoch feeding lies through major media outlets and a Republican Party that is taking the cash from the likes of Koch and Scaife in payment for turning a blind eye to reality. It's a mass media movement driven by a few ultra-wealthy people that are, simply, evil.

Posted by: edb on April 21, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Since maybe Carter and certainly Clinton...

A Democratic president is by definition illegitimate. All that remains is to identify the reasons why.

If said Democratic president is black, well then that makes it even more intuitively obvious.

The Democrats are the party of problems, and the Thuglicans are the party of enemies.

Posted by: jTh on April 21, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

The republican inteligentia over at The Corner are working overtime to get rid of Trump and sweep this under the rug before the republican primaries, but they're getting some fierce pushback in the comments section. It's pretty fun reading, and instructive for anyone that like to assume good will on the part of birthers:

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/265319/brewer-bachmann-reject-birtherism-katrina-trinko

Fraternizing with foreign exchange students makes you suspect:

"We know he was part of a clique of foreign students at Occidental. He roomed with foreign students, had other foreign students as friends and took a summer vacation trip with his foreign student friends to India, Pakistan and Indonesia. Was this just a coincidence, or did Obama tell Occidental that he was an Indonesian national?"

The voter ID / birterism combo of poorly hidden racism:

"I guess people who are comfortable with no Obama birth certificate are also comfortable with Democrat insistance on voting without photo ID.
When people don't want to show their documentation, chances are they are not entirely on the level. What could be more simple?"

Travelling the world makes you suspect and unamerican:

"Obama has travelled the world, before he even had a job. He had travelled all over the Middle-East as soon as he graduated Occidental College, before going to Harvard and Columbia. He speaks Arabic, he had two Muslim Pakistani roommates at Occidental College."

It's perfectly o.k. to admit to birtherism being confused junk, but still want to go on a fishing expedition (someone page Kenneth Starr!):

"The document that Mr Obama has produced is perfectly sound evidence of his being a natural born American citizen. That should settle that.
What is of greater interest, though, is what could be on the missing birth certificate. Is his father listed as "unknown"? Or could it be that his religion is listed as...dare I ask..."Muslim"?"

My favorite, white presidential candidates are beyond questions real american citizens, half blacks should expect to be questioned and the burden is on them to prove their eligibility. No, it's no joke!

"In my mind, the burden of proof is on Obama. This has so rarely come up, because it has been apparent beyond question that most candidates meet the citizenship requirement. If Obama has his butt on his shoulders, because people raise an eyebrow at a child who spent his young life in Indonesia and has a Kenyan father, he needs to get over. It is natural to expect clarification, and he should accept the slight burden to definitively clarify."

The honesty of a conservative grassroot:

"The BC is just another method to raise doubts about the Kenyan Marxist Urkel.
Combined with $5 gallon gas, 10% unemployment, and 10% inflation, the goal is to leave the Jug-eared One in such a state that his only hopey-changey coalition for 2012 will be his AA's and the brain-dead latte liberals."

More conservative honesty - Hey swiftboating worked!!

"This could be a useful line of inquiry coming from Donald Trump or J. Corsi (hey, "swiftboating" worked!) -- but at this point it is kryptonite to any serious Republican candidate who hopes to do well on the national stage."

Posted by: Danny on April 21, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I would suggest everybody here sign up for Media matters Daily blast .http://mediamatters.org/ They watch Fox so you don't have to . When you read the crap they spout everyday it is no wonder people inside the Faux Nooze bubble respond the way they do . A sample from yesterday:

Conservative Media Mark Oil Spill Anniversary By Attacking Drilling Regulation

In the days leading up to the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, a disaster that killed 11 men and resulted in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, conservative media figures have complained about federal oversight of drilling and have called for a swift increase in domestic oil production. This comes as news reports note that Congress has yet to enact reforms recommended by the National Oil Spill Commission, that the agency tasked with minimizing risks from offshore drilling lacks the resources to do so effectively, and that a design flaw in the blowout preventers has not been fixed. Read More

Fox News Goes Full Birther

Following Donald Trump's lead, Fox News figures have recently embraced or promoted aspects of the birther conspiracy theory by falsely claiming that President Obama has not produced his birth certificate, or by hosting birthers to hype their discredited theories unchallenged. Read More

Fox & Friends Utterly Distorts Oil Subsidies To Attack NPR And Planned Parenthood

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy attacked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her comments about the U.S. government's large subsidies to oil companies, asking, "Why didn't she mention the big subsidies to NPR or Planned Parenthood?" In fact, NPR and Planned Parenthood--both nonprofits--receive miniscule amounts of federal money compared to the subsidies given to oil companies. Read More

Fox & Friends Grossly Misrepresents Obama's Town Hall Speech
During the April 20 broadcast of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts discussed President Obama's recent town hall speech, falsely accusing the president of blaming a 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse on "budget holdout[s]" and of linking Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget outline to homelessness, while also again falsely claiming that Obama "doesn't seem to want to cut" spending from the budget. Read More

Fox Uses White House Meeting On Immigration Reform To Insult Undocumented Immigrants And Border Security
On April 19, Fox News' supposedly "straight news" programs used a White House meeting on immigration reform to fearmonger about immigration, bash President Obama, and refer to undocumented immigrants as "illegals." Read More


Effin' Scary

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on April 21, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

As you sow, so shall you reap.

Posted by: Okie on April 21, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

In September 2009, Public Policy Polling asked "Do you think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?"

25% of Democrats said yes. An additional 12% said not sure.

Are you able to spin this into a "less-depressing result" noting that many Democrats may not appreciate the extent to which they're buying into a ridiculous conspiracy theory with no foundation in reality.

Or does such misunderstanding occur only in the other tribe?

Posted by: trident on April 21, 2011 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

@trident

That's a minority, not a majority - compare and marvel.

More importantly - where are the democratic presidential candidates that ran for office on any kind of truther platform? (Donald Trump, frontrunner in republican primary) What was the highest any democrat ran for on any kind of truther platform? (R, president) Was there other mainstream democrats willing to flirt with trutherism or make excuses for it's adherents (almost every republican officeholder or candidate, including presidential candidates).

What about the progressive intelligentia, were truther conspiracy theories or truther books by wellknown progressive opinion leaders peddled and pushed on the pages of leading progressive publications or blogs (Jerome Corsi, NRO).

How about you go away and do some research on real and false equivalency and then get back to us?

Posted by: Danny on April 21, 2011 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

@orwell

From the commentary section of NRO. Arguably racist or trivially non-racist?

"The BC is just another method to raise doubts about the Kenyan Marxist Urkel.
Combined with $5 gallon gas, 10% unemployment, and 10% inflation, the goal is to leave the Jug-eared One in such a state that his only hopey-changey coalition for 2012 will be his AA's and the brain-dead latte liberals."

"In my mind, the burden of proof is on Obama. This has so rarely come up, because it has been apparent beyond question that most candidates meet the citizenship requirement."

Posted by: Danny on April 21, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

@trident

Confessions of a "delighter" here: I never thought Bush knew about 9/11 in advance, but I was and remain sure that he and the Cheney and the rest of the thugs were delighted that the catastrophe had happened because it gave them license to do outrageous things they always wanted to do.

Birthers are similar in that they need to believe Obama is not an American because he's representative of a more racially and intellectually diverse America which they think should not be allowed to exist.

Posted by: janinsanfran on April 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

In 2006, Scripps Howard asked in a poll:

"There are also accusations being made following the 9/11 terrorist attack. One of these is: People in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted to United States to go to war in the Middle East."

When asked how likely this was, 51% of Democrats -- a majority -- said either it was "very likely", "somewhat likely" or "unsure."

What accounts for a significant number -- in this poll, a majority -- of Democrats entertaining this discredited proposition?

Posted by: trident on April 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Willful denial explains much of the current insanity. Beyond the Rethug delusion that all Democratic presidents are illegitimate, Rethugs brag that reality is what they say it is. Fox & Co, and there is lots of company, repeats simplistic truthiness over and over so that the undereducated, unsophisticated, gullible American electorate believes it, largely because they want to. The big lie works. It always has.

And it works all the better with a White House that has lost control of the message, er, doesn't have a message, and lets the opposition define all the issues. And that's before the 'birther' issue even surfaces. It all plays into the hands of corporate and wealthy interests so that another stooge like Reagan or the Bushes can be installed to do their bidding even more than Obama does. Obama has shown himself to be inept as a politician. He comes across as weak, ineffectual and constantly on the defensive. He concedes issues before the negotiations even begin, and then compromises more to get to his perception of 'bispartisanship'. What a phenomenal disappointment this man has turned out to be.

Posted by: rrk1 on April 21, 2011 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

@trident

You chose to be unresponsive when challenged only posting more blurb. I'm sure you realize why it would be unreasonable for you to expect us to spend a lot of time on research to challenge your blurbs while knowing you will spend no time nor energy whatsoever in forwarding a coherent, substantiated argument. So before I spend any more time on you should really respond to my post upthread, specifically about identifying any mainstream progressives pushing truther theories in the same way mainstream conservatives have.

Giving you the quite unwarranted benefit of assuming good faith we might note that you ought to provide what the actual breakdown was, for self identified democrats in terms of "very" and "somewhat" likely, or "don't know". There seem to be some knowledge to be gained there.

We could further note that the question wording - specifically "people in the federal government [...] took no action" that is quite open to interpretation. If I think it is somewhat likely that there was an islamist al qaeda plant working as a federal government employee at the time of the 9/11 attacks, could I answer "not sure" to this question? I think thats quite plausible...

Posted by: Danny on April 21, 2011 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Madness?
THIS! IS! RED STAAAAAAATE!!1!

Posted by: Wareq on April 21, 2011 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

lol, I'm not a birther but I love telling pollsters that I don't think Obama was born here, and that he's a muslim too.

Why? Because it is hilariously entertaining to watch you libs melt down and see your heads explode as you scream about how you have 'pronounced' the truth but have so little credibility that over a hundred million Americans just don't believe you.

Posted by: DaMav on April 21, 2011 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

@rrk1

President Obama is the most progressive President in my involvement of politics over the last 40 years. I suggest you google his accomplishments. It appears that you have bought into the talking points. FYI, NO major legislative has ever been instituted in its entirety at first blush, e.g. Social Security. Being a woman, had I been alive, chances are I would not have been eligible. President Obama may be a disappointment to you, but not to me. I look at HCR and see that 32 million more people are covered. SCHIP - millions of children covered; DADT; START Treaty; Equal Pay for Women; Financial Reform (yeah, I wish it could have been stronger) - but folks who are much more knowledgeable then I can speak to the President's accomplishments. Check it out (unless you want to hold on to your "I'm so disappointed" meme.

http://frank-schaeffer.blogspot.com/

Posted by: EnoughIsEnough on April 21, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

@DaMav

Because it is hilariously entertaining to watch you libs melt down and see your heads explode as you scream about how you have 'pronounced' the truth but have so little credibility that over a hundred million Americans just don't believe you

Has anyone really been far as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

>mfw

Posted by: Danny on April 21, 2011 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

@Danny

In responding to Mr. Benen's post about the poll results, I thought it worthwhile to note that Democratic poll respondents, sometimes in quite significant proportions, and at least once in the majority, endorsed the truther position, or replied that they were unsure of the truther claims.

You did not address that point -- why do so many Democrats have such a position.

Instead you asked where are the big name Democrats who have articulated that position. The answer is that few big name Democrats have articulated that position. (Kucinich is truther, but he had little chance of winning the nomination.)

So, that makes even more interesting the question: why do so many Democrats endorse such a position without the reinforcement of leading Democrats?

If Mr Benen had aimed his comments at the big names, there would be little to object to. Instead, Mr. Benen aims at the little people who have been disinformed, and attributes this state of affairs to the most tribe-pleasing explanation: the ignorance and racism of the other tribe.

If Mr. Benen contemplated that a large number of Ds are also woefully uninformed on important topics, it's a fair inference that he would not attribute the condition to the racism of evil of the Ds. He would instead have to reach for other explanations and, importantly, approaches to remedy the situation.

If however, the goal is simply crowd or tribe pleasing commentary, one doesn't need to consider cases where Ds show vast ignorance.

Posted by: trident on April 21, 2011 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

@trident

and at least once in the majority, endorsed the truther position, or replied that they were unsure of the truther claims.

Show us how this is not boardering on a flat out lie. "Very likely", "Somewhat likely" and "Not sure" are not options you're allowed to aggregate to claim a "maybe" majority. Break those answers down for us like anyone who's not a blatant huckster would do.

You did not address that point -- why do so many Democrats have such a position.

I adressed it: "We could further note that the question wording - specifically "people in the federal government [...] took no action" that is quite open to interpretation. If I think it is somewhat likely that there was an islamist al qaeda plant working as a federal government employee at the time of the 9/11 attacks, could I answer "not sure" to this question? I think thats quite plausible..".

Question wording and options provided are relevant, any pollster worth their buck would tell you that. Allowing for "Very likely", "Somewhat likely" and "Unsure" while asking if "People" in the federal government didn't take action - that's leaving a hell of a lot of room for all kinds of opinions. And you STILL haven't provided us with the actual breakdown of those three options. Why should we take you seriously when you are so obviously acting in bad faith?

So, that makes even more interesting the question: why do so many Democrats endorse such a position without the reinforcement of leading Democrats?

What do you find more worrying:

- That leading politicians - even presidential primary frontrunners - in one of the two available major parties in this country choose to lend credence to arguably racist and certainly conspiracy theory material, because that helps them win primaries.

OR

- On poll, out of many, from a small pollster, saying something (we're not sure exactly what because you won't give us the details).

Posted by: Danny on April 21, 2011 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

very likely 22.5%
somewhat likely 28.3%
unsure 3.2%

total of very likely, somewhat likely, unsure = 54%

Posted by: trident on April 21, 2011 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

@trident

So if I agree to do the last bit of homework for you, we get:

Very likely 22,5
Somewhat likely 28,3
Unsure 3.2
Not Likely 46 (Me filling in the blank for you)

To the question of: "People in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted to United States to go to war in the Middle East."

Now, there were slightly more than ~1 million people working for the federal government in september 2001. You will note that on it's face it's sufficient to entertain the possibility that there were two out of ~1 million employees that were in some way complicit in the 9/11 attacks, to choose "somewhat likely" or "very likely". Personally, I would still answer "not likely", as did in fact the plurality of respondents (46%, my calculation, since you wouldnt provide the breakdown).

IOW, It's a poorly formulated question with a very low bar for acceptance. It's not performed by any of the major national pollsters (Ohio state U), and the results online that claims a 4% MOE are not broken down by partisan ID, so when we do that the MOE is gonna be higher. (Perhaps you know by how much, since you seem to have access to the crosstabs?)

Now, in fairness, any or all of these issues may also apply to some "birther" polls as well. That is why no-one thinks birtherism is a huge problem on account of any one individual poll - but rather by aggregating multiple polls, the public statements and actions of conservative grassroots and members of the teaparty movements, how leading conservative intellectuals and opinion leaders have lent creedence to birtherism or birtherism related conspiracy theories, how one frontrunner for republican presidential candidate has come out of the closet as a birther, and the majority of candidates won't come out either for or against.

None of that is true w/r to democrats and trutherism. So what we have here seems to be pretty clearcut false equivalensy, don't you agree?

Side note: Weirdly enough, the partisan ID breakdown numbers you posted does not seem to be available anywhere on the internet. It is good form to assume good faith, so i'll do that. But perhaps you could post a link to the source of your information, as a courtesy?

Posted by: Danny on April 22, 2011 at 6:24 AM | PERMALINK
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