Palin Goes Birther
Well, the best way not to get tagged as a Birther is to refrain from saying that people are “rightfully making it an issue” and that the only reason that she would avoid doing that herself is because “there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers.” It’s the same thing as Truthers saying that all they’re doing is “asking questions.” The answers have already been provided; they just reject them because they’re married to their conspiracies.
I think Palin just discovered the First Rule of Blogs: Don’t feed the trolls.
I’m sorry, I can’t take my eyes off this Sarah Palin story. Particularly since all my sports teams have decided to lose in hideous fashion lately, I have no escapist entertainments left except her. And it was very hard not to notice Palin jumping snowshoes-first into the birther controversy in recent days, which provided a great many solid laughs.
The ex-governor was asked in a radio interview if she would make Barack Obama’ s birth status an issue in the next campaign (were she to run) and her answer subtly endorsed the whole campaign. This isn’t the funny part, but it’s a necessary plot element, so hold on:
Would you make [Obama's long form] birth certificate an issue if you ran?
I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue ’cause I think there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers.
Do you think it’s a fair question to be looking at?
I think it’s a fair question, just like I think past associations and past voting record — all of that is fair game. You know, I’ve got to tell you, too: I think our campaign, the McCain/Palin campaign didn’t do a good enough job in that area. We didn’t call out Obama and some of his associates on their records and what their beliefs were and perhaps what their future plans were. And I don’t think that that was fair to voters to not have done our jobs as candidates and as a campaign to bring to light a lot of the things that now we’re seeing made manifest in the administration.
First of all, it’s amusing that Palin thinks she didn’t do a good enough job attacking Obama’s past associations. I can just imagine her pacing back and forth at night, poring over the 9,000 times she mentioned Bill Ayers last fall and thinking, “I was too subtle!” Secondly, it’s mildly funny that she seems genuinely to think that she’s not endorsing birther theories with this “I’d make it an issue if other people weren’t doing it for me” answer. But the really funny part comes later on in the interview:
I mean, truly, if your past is fair game and your kids are fair game, certainly Obama’s past should be. I mean, we want to treat men and women equally, right?
Hey, you know, that’s a great point, in that weird conspiracy-theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn’t my real son. And a lot of people say, “Well you need to produce his birth certificate! You need to prove that he’s your kid!” Which we have done. But yeah, so maybe we could reverse that and use the same [unintelligible]-type thinking on them.
She later clarified this point on her Facebook page — emphasis here is mine:
Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask… which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.
Wasn’t Andrew Sullivan the only reporter really dogging Palin on the Trig question?
What’s funny about this is the way that, in what passes for Palin’s mind, any reporter who goes after her is “left.” Although this may not be an error. A lot of people are going to harp on the fact that Sullivan isn’t “left,” but upon thinking about it, it seems to me those people will be missing the point about how this word’s meaning has evolved.
The term “left” goes back to the days of the French revolution and originally referred to the seating arrangements in the French parliament, where the anti-Monarchists and the radicals sat to on left side of the National Assembly. It went on to refer to radical anti-authoritarian politics of many stripes — socialists, Marxists, anarchists, secularists, labor movements, etc.
In the modern United States, “left” doesn’t have any concrete meaning that I can see, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what it means – it’s like pornography, people know it when they see it.
In 2004, on the Dean campaign plane, after seeing reporters throw the words “left” and “liberal” with Dean in a way that I didn’t really understand given the governor’s history, I polled the press corps on what its definition of “left” was. I got very few answers. While it was well understood that Howard Dean was “left” (and not just “left” but “too left” to win the White House, according to many reporters) no one could really say which of his policy ideas qualified him for that title.
In the end it was pretty clear to me anyway that “left” was basically a shorthand term for “pointy-headed weenie dissident.” Except for his stance on the war, Dean’s policies were much less traditionally “liberal” than, say, those of John Kerry — but Kerry made up for it by being much more full of shit than Dean.
Kerry was willing to say anything to get elected; he was willing to toe the Democratic Party’s absurdly vacillating non-stance on the war (We like war in general, we’re not wimps, but Bush should have invaded on a Tuesday, not a Thursday!), he nearly killed himself trying to give the press goofy photo-ops of the candidate playing manly sports like football and baseball, and was even willing to pose in a duck-hunting costume carrying a rifle.
Kerry’s willingness to jump through all the usual idiotic hoops set out for him by the political media made him less “left” among those in the press corps than an economic centrist governor from Vermont who was openly critical of the media’s war coverage and did not even have a Nerf ball on his plane. Which is normal and somehow made sense to all of us. If you scratch the surface of “left” you’ll find that it has a lot more to do with attitudes and cultural markers relative to the bourgeois norm than it does to do with political beliefs, ideas about the role of government, taxes, and so on.
It’s much easier to figure out who’s “left” and who isn’t using cultural litmus tests than it is using position papers. What’s the left position on monetary policy? I have no idea. What’s the left’s position on American Idol? Easy: it rolls its eyes.
Getting back to the present, even though Andrew Sullivan is a Republican, it’s not hard to see why Sarah Palin lumps him in with the left. Sullivan is gay, has probably been to a non-Christian bookstore more than once in the past six months, uses multi-syllabic words, is a member of the media and, most importantly, hates Sarah Palin. It may sound like a mistake to say that it was reporters “on the left” who harped on the whole Trig business, but it’s not a mistake if she’s using the word “left” in the sense of “Godless east-coast intellectual watcher of subtitled movies who disagrees with me,” which is where we’ve allowed this word to go.
Anyway, the kicker in all of this is that we now have a left-right controversy that has nothing to do with either the left or the right. What we have here is the nutty Birther movement dueling with a mostly imaginary Trig-conspiracy movement that the Birthers believe comes from the left, or at least their idea of left, anyway. This battle will be hard-fought, prolonged, and ridiculous, sort of like that fight sequence in Naked Gun where Leslie Nielsen struggles with the pillow thrown in his face. I imagine this will also be a good preview of the kind of thing that will pass for “left-right debate” in 2012. God, I love politics in this country!