Birthers Are People, Too, and They Have Feelings

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 14 2011 1:09 PM

Birthers Are People, Too, and They Have Feelings

Two birther posts on Budget Day? Sure, why not. I think Will Saletan says something correct here, reacting to interviews in which Republican leaders didn't issue outright condemnations of birtherism:

That's four straight interviews in which the country's three top Republicans—the speaker of the House and the GOP leaders in each chamber—have refused to condemn the spreading of lies about Obama's faith and citizenship. These three men are confident enough in the personhood of fetuses to support banning abortion. They're confident enough in the efficacy and justice of the U.S. health care system to block funding of the Affordable Care Act. They're confident enough in Wall Street, despite the recklessness and bailouts of the last three years, to press for repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. But ask them whether Obama is a Muslim or was born in the U.S., and suddenly they're too humble to impose their beliefs on others. They can only describe "the facts as I understand them." They can only speak "for me." They can only "listen to the American people," not "tell them what to think."

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I'd make a direct comparison about conspiracy theories. Say a politician is asked something like "some people say the US government plotted the 9/11 attacks. Should we have a new investigation?" The answer will not be "It really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe." Anything less than a "no" answer risks political oblivion.

That's not the case with the birther question, or the Muslim question.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.