Nathan Deal: Exhibit A of Why Birtherism Isn't a Career Killer

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 11 2010 11:14 AM

Nathan Deal: Exhibit A of Why Birtherism Isn't a Career Killer

Former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) has come from behind to win Georgia's GOP primary for governor, he starts the general election in a dead heat with former Gov. Roy Barnes (D-Ga.). There are plenty of angles to look at here, and the one you'll hear the most about is probably the defeat of Karen Handel after Sarah Palin endorsed her, campaigned for her, and dubbed her a Mama Grizzly. Mike Huckabee, who won Georgia's 2008 GOP presidential primary, and Newt Gingrich, who worked with Deal in the House, both went with the non-grizzly, and he won.

Here's the stranger angle, though. In the House, Deal was possibly the Republican most responsive to the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. I say "responsive" because Deal's response shifted over time. In 2009, he told video reporter Mike Stark that he had "no idea" where Obama was born. Later, he maintained that he believed the president was born here while becoming the first congressman to officially request to see Obama's birth certificate.

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It's interesting that this is happening in Georgia, because eight years ago former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) gave an interview to Pacifica radio in which she speculated that the Bush administration knew more about 9/11 than it was letting on. "What did this administration know and when did it know it," said McKinney, "about theevents of September 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn theinnocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?"

McKinney was bounced from office in the Democratic primary, although a fluke returned her to office in 2004 before she lost again in 2006. The point: Dipping a toe into the 9/11 fever swamp cost McKinney her job. Dipping a toe into the birtherism fever swamp didn't stop Deal from winning a statewide primary.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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