Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Question for Conservatives

How would you like the real candidates -- Romney, Pawlenty, Barbour -- to deal with birthers and the other kooks out there on the campaign trail? Do you mind if they give evasive or dog whistling answers instead of straightforward truthful answers? Or do you think this stuff is all mostly overblown?


  1. Romney and Pawlenty have dealt with the birther issue well. But even low level cultural warfare annoys me. (Romney’s knocks against the Obama family for liking organic vegetables… Not only is it really lame, but subtle cues like this turn off swing voters.)

  2. T-Paw has made a birther joke. And I would have preferred if Romney hadn't simply said that "I believe" Obama was born here. Stating it as a belief rather than a fact gives birthers some wiggle room for legitimacy. So I think T-Paw's and Romney's handling of the issue was adequate, but could have been better. Apparently, every GOP candidate lacks the courage to state outright that the birthers are full of it.

  3. Agree with Kylopod - but I'm going to postulate that Romney handled it the best he's going to, and T-Paw will likely shy away from any more jokes and follow Romney's lead. From here on out the answer is always going to be "Let's just move on to the real issues."

    I don't really call it lack of courage though. You could say it's evasive, but really they're just smart enough to know birthers hurt the Republican brand with Independents. Directly confronting birthers puts more negative attention on the GOP than letting them be.

  4. Kylopod: Their rejection of Birtherism seems completely unequivocal to me:

    "Directly confronting birthers puts more negative attention on the GOP than letting them be."

    This is exactly why the GOP nominee will not be the anti-birther gadfly the Democrats seem to expect.

  5. Here's what Romney said:

    "I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office," Romney told CNBC's Larry Kudlow the day after he formally announced that he’s exploring a run for the White House. "The man needs to be taken out of office but his citizenship isn't the reason why."

    I believe the Holocaust happened. Really, I do. I believe humans walked on the moon. I believe Bush didn't know in advance about 9/11. I really, really, really, really believe it.

    You don't see the problem? None of these things are a matter of belief, but of objective reality. When you say you "believe" something, that leaves open the possibility that you respect other beliefs. Romney never once indicates that birtherism is an unfounded, crackpot idea. He personally rejects birtherism, but he doesn't question its legitimacy. He does not, as the headline suggests, tell the birthers, "Barack Obama was born here. Period." There's no "period" in his remarks, no insistence that his belief is factual reality rather than simply personal preference.

    Now let's look at what T-Paw said:

    I, for one, do not believe that we should be raising that issue in the sense that I think President Obama was born in the United States. CNN reported that they saw the birth certificate at one point. I saw a newscast where they reported that. So, I question his policies.... I don't play into that.

    This is an improvement over Romney's answer. Unlike Romney, T-Paw offers a reason for accepting Obama's birthplace: CNN reported that they saw the birth certificate. But this is an appeal to authority, not evidence. And it's an authority that most rank-and-file conservatives do not consider very credible (ever seen the bumper sticker, "CNN Lies"?). It's kind of like how we would react if Fox reported they'd found the missing WMDs in Iraq. T-Paw doesn't explain the real reason why we should accept Obama's natural-born citizenship: Obama has in fact released the only birth record Hawaii may legally disclose to the public.

    Not for a moment do I think either Romney or T-Paw harbor any real doubts about Obama's eligiblity. I'm sure that in private, both of them roll their eyes at the birthers. But publicly, they have been unable to state the obvious point that birtherism is bullshit. Instead, they simply say they believe in Obama. The statement does double duty, allowing them to escape being labeled as cranks while avoiding offending the actual cranks who constitute most of the GOP primary electorate. And you, like the Politico headline, fall for it, hook, line, and sinker.

  6. Kylopod: Again, calling birtherism "bullshit" will only draw attention to the matter and make the GOP look bad. You really can't see that?

    As to their specific choice of wording: give me a break. If they used the different wording you suggest no one would notice or care.


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