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May. 17 2010 - 3:13 pm | 602 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

Jonah Goldberg and the National Review fan the flames of Birtherism

Some Monday mornings you wake up and you want to go back to bed. By the time the afternoon rolls around, that feeling will metastasize should you stumble upon a Jonah Goldberg blog post. And then you just wish that conservative media’s least coherent pundit would contract some kind of fungal infection on his knuckles that would keep him away from a keyboard for a few weeks while he let the anti-fungal cream do its work.

For instance:

As I wrote last year, I find it amazing that the “Birthers” are considered more dangerous and evil than the “Truthers.” The Birthers believe that an ambitious man who travelled a lot as a kid has concealed the circumstances of his birth so he could be eligible for the presidency. I don’t think they’ve made their case. And, frankly, I’m not sure I’d want them to at this point. Aside from the horror of a Biden presidency, I for one don’t yearn for a constitutional crisis. And while I am sure there are more elaborate and crazier versions of Birtherism, the basic allegation isn’t that crazy, at least in the abstract.

via Birthers v. Truthers, Again – Jonah Goldberg – The Corner on National Review Online.

Well, no Jonah, it actually is that crazy. Accusing a sitting president of deliberately misleading the world of his national origin in order to rise to the presidency requires an assumption that the fairly-elected man who sits before you has a level of mendacity not seen in office since the likes of Richard Nixon.

Normal people don’t start out with the assumption that a fairly-elected president is a criminal. The people who start out with the assumption that a fairly-elected president is a criminal tend to be mentally unhinged. Alternatively, they are so obsessed with challenging a sitting president’s political narrative that they construct one of their own in a process that is something like the opposite of fan fiction. It’s sort of like if Jonah were to sit down and instead of writing ‘Liberal Fascism,’ he started keeping a blog where Darth Vader and the Empire are the good guys and Luke, Leia, and Chewie want to send your grandmother to a death panel presided over by Ewoks.  It’s that crazy.

Of course, Jonah knows that his own readership is composed largely of this kind of observer of American politics who thinks everyone on the political left is part of a political conspiracy that ends in either mass conversion to Islam or Chairman Mao Little Red Book rallies (or both, for the extra-confused). And he’s catering to them. Take, for instance, last August, I discovered that on a column of Jonah’s on the LA Times website, someone in the Democratic establishment had the sense to sell Google Ads for ‘FightTheSmears.com’ against what he had written. People who wanted to fight back against Birtherism were going to the places where they knew Birther-inclined Americans might be found – on a landing page on the LA Times website for Jonah Goldberg’s column.

Jonah then prattles on about how much more dangerous the 9/11 Truth Movement is than Birtherism. Of course, he does without considering the fair Venn diagram that would show overlap between Birthers and Truthers. Moreover, if a truther walks in the room, a Democrat will run screaming out of it. Here are some famous sitting Republican Members of Congress who have espoused Birther perspectives, and have not been asked to turn in their complimentary portraits of Ronald Reagan supplied by the RNC.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Charles Boustany:

And then there’s this old saw from Rep. Jean Schmidt:

You won’t find Democratic Members of Congress agreeing that there are questions about the 9/11 attacks the months after they occurred. Instead you found all but one of them voting in lockstep to authorize force against al Qaida in Afghanistan and beyond.

Jonah is giving a nudge and a wink to the people who are birthers, the people who read the garbage he recycles for the National Review and the papers that syndicate him – “hey, you guys aren’t that crazy, and you’re nothing like the truthers, who must all be leftists because I said so.”

If he’s going to keep winking and nudging, maybe that fungal infection on his knuckles could spread to his eyelids and elbows, too? Faster, please, as his colleague Michael Ledeen would say about bombing Iran.


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  1. collapse expand

    Mr. Roston,

    This is a classic “have your cake and eat it too” opinion piece. He can support the birthers by saying; “the basic allegation isn’t that crazy, at least in the abstract” while not actually endorsing it. He is right BTW, there are people who were not born in the United State and are illegible to be president, they are called immigrants. The problem is that it is well documented that Mr. Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States. So while “in the abstract” Mr. Obama could be an immigrant, “in actual fact” in fact the opposite is true. It is also possible, “in the abstract”, for the sun to rise in the west and set in east, it actually happens that way on some other planets. However, “in actual fact” it opposite is true.

    This is a fascinating line of reason if you think about it for a bit. For example, it is equally possible, “in the abstract”, that Mr. Goldberg was the true assassin of John Kennedy in Dallas in November of 1963. I am certainly not saying that he was but I would be interested in seeing him prove he was not. In doing this, I could then give support to the long standing theory that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone and was in fact a fall-guy for Jonah Goldberg, the Chicago Mob, and the CIA without actually saying that I agree with that theory.

  2. collapse expand

    I’m not saying that the Birthers aren’t cray-cray, but this:

    Accusing a sitting president of deliberately misleading the world of his national origin in order to rise to the presidency requires an assumption that the fairly-elected man who sits before you has a level of mendacity not seen in office since the likes of Richard Nixon.

    doesn’t prove as much as you seem to think it does. Richard Nixon was elected to two terms, remember, and even at the height of the Watergate scandal, his approval rating never fell below George W. Bush’s.

    So, basically what you’re saying is, to believe the Birther nonsense is to say that Americans elected a president only slightly less dishonest and mendacious than one they elected, twice. Not very convincing. No, to believe in the Birther nonsense is to believe that a white single mother would, at great personal expense and trouble, do a lot of things that make absolutely no sense except in the vanishing chance her child might have been elected President.

    It would be like my parents, in 1980, opening a savings account specifically so that I could buy an iPad 30 years later – well in advance of even the idea that such a thing could exist.

    • collapse expand

      Well put. I wasn’t loving the Nixon analogy, but sometimes in blogging you just can’t chew over your similes and metaphors too long.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Ah, I apologize. There’s nothing worse than when some yabbo comes in and directs a criticism right at the part of your writing that you already knew was the weakest. Good post, I liked it. Frankly I don’t know how to decide if Birtherism is crazier than Trutherism; all I need to know is, neither one is true.

        For what it’s worth, though, Birtherism makes a specific positive claim – the President is a citizen of Kenya, not of the United States – whereas the Truthers generally make a general, negative claim – the official story of 9/11, as determined by the 9/11 Commission, is likely wrong in many aspects, perhaps on purpose. The second claim seems less crazy, I guess. On the other hand, specific Truther claims that “9/11 was an inside job” and the like are pretty crazy.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          I’m with you. Both are pretty nuts. Both have some dark motivations – birtherism has some deep racist roots, and the number of truthers convinced that it was an Israeli operation shows that there is an anti-semitic animus that drives truthers in plenty of instances.

          It’s interesting though – the birther thing first popped up in ‘04 when Alan Keyes ran for Senate against Obama. The GOP’s own implosion in Illinois allowed someone who appeared to be operating in the mainstream to introduce that talk back then.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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