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Overnight Open Thread Truth or Consequences? (genghis) | Main | SFC Jared Monti To Receive Medal of Honor
August 01, 2009

Andy McCarthy: You Know, Demanding Obama's Birth Certficate Isn't So Crazy

Something I agree with, incidentally.

McCarthy concludes that we should have the long-form because we should have the long-form; information, after all, has generally been regarded as a public good, except when it comes to Barry Hussein Soetero nee Obama.

He specifically does not expect the long form to demonstrate anything other than that he was born in Hawaii. While he suspects the long form would show he was adopted by Lolo Soetero and became an Indonesian citizen, he doesn't suggest that that has any operative effect on his qualifications for the presidency. (Bear in mind that while children can enter contracts, they are minors and can't be held to contracts -- a child can walk away from a contract he signed without penalty. What Soetero might have done as a minor is without legal relevance; a minor can't renounce his citizenship. Or, he may, but it doesn't have legal effect unless he affirms it as an adult.)

He does make a compelling case about what we all know: Barry Soetero has lied about his background in ways big and small, strategic and gratuitous, and the media has shown absolutely no interest at all in discovering the truth of the thing. Too focused on Sarah Palin's supposed belief that dinosaur bones are a hoax buried in the ground by the Jews in the 1920s* and too busy "vetting" the private citizen Joe the Plumber.

I agree with all of this. I agree with the frustration of most conservatives about Soetero's refusal to provide a document, and the media's refusal to ask for it. (Note that the media recently asked about the issue, but did not ask "Why don't you release the document?;" instead the question was "What can you say to these people to change their mind?" and "Isn't the release of the document pointless?" -- the latter a case of leading a friendly witness, of course.)

But, at the end of the day, like McCarthy, I think that while this is all interesting stuff and information that ought to be publicly available, it will not be the Magic Button that resets the country to November 4, 2008.

I think conservatives are setting themselves up for the same type of unending heartbreak they experienced under Clinton. In the Clinton years, when the internet was new and people were just discovering Drudge and Free Republic, there was always some new scandal or conspiracy that was going to take Clinton down -- this time. And I am specifically referring to post-Lewinsky scandals and non-scandals; everyone remembers, I'm sure, the DNA test that would prove Clinton fathered an illegitimate black kid while married to Hillary.

I personally bought into a few of these, and, even if I didn't buy into them, I sure had my rooting interest in the matter. I didn't buy into Mena or the infamous Death List, or the "murder' of Vince Foster. I definitely did buy into the Vince-Foster's-safe-illegally-cleansed-after-his-death theory, and his lying about never having been warned about Chinese espionage. (On that last one, I barely remember the details now, but he specifically denied ever being warned about Chinese espionage when asked about why he approved those missile deals; the late Tim Russert made then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson squirm like a worm on a hook, proving Clinton had in fact been warned about shortly before making the deal. Richardson kept trying to make some kind of nonsensical semantic distinction between "warned" and.... "warned.")

And it was heartbreak after heartbreak as each of these internet-based "scandals" spread like wildfire and got us all excited and made us think This time, maybe we've got this rascally rabbit, and all for naught.

And even worse than that heart-crushing roller-coaster effect was the fact that many of us -- me, included -- took our eyes off the ball. Presidents are not usually dislodged by scandal. They are dislodged by routine, mundane, boring political action, signing people up to vote, making good arguments, bringing people around to your side.

Investing so much time, effort, and emotional and intellectual energy into magic bullets comes directly at the expense of doing stuff that actually works to dislodge a president from office.

In the end, while Ken Starr certainly did great damage to Clinton, neither he nor the Republican Impeachment Managers drove Clinton from office. Only the Constitution's bar on a third term did.

And it wasn't scandal, really, that sunk Al Gore. It was the conventional politicking of George W. Bush. Sure, the nation had scandal fatigue and that contributed to the win. But in the end it came down to normal stuff -- ads, fundraising, Karl Rove's amazing turnout efforts, elections -- and not the latest Judicial Watch FOIA request or the latest rumor about Mena airport.

Some commenters may wonder why I'm so antagonistic to the birthplace conspiracy theories. I can only say I've personally been down this road before, and I remember being awfully disappointed again and again.

And, in addition, while I was eagerly scanning Drudge and Free Republic for the latest DEVELOPING HARD scandal, you know what I wasn't doing? Doing anything useful to actually get Republicans elected.

Anyway, that's my sense of it. McCarthy's article is good, and certainly provides great reading, especially for those who desperately want that long-form birth certificate, but in the end it will be conventional politicking that drives Obama out of office -- or, alas, the constitutional bar to a third term.

I just don't think pursuing unlikely conspiracy theories makes us seem like a particularly serious party. I think it makes us seem a bit frivolous, and a bit wild-eyed, concerned chiefly with grabbing political power by any means necessary and not so much about sound policy or governance.

And I think it only takes one odd-sounding belief to turn a persuadable, gettable voter against us, and make him think, "Well, Obama's a wild-eyed liberal, but these guys over here are every bit as wild-eyed and extremist, so who cares, really."

There's a certain amount of intellectual and psychological "buy in" necessary for one to join a party. I have concerns about making that buy-in too steep, of making the entry costs too high.

* Joke from the brilliant Arrested Development.

Subterranean Birthplace Blues: Kensington wrote:

I just don't see why it has to be either/or. Let the Birthers do what they want. If they come up with something, it tars Obama.

I had wanted to discuss this in an update, but Kensington prodded me into answering first in a comment.

Here's my reply:

I agree, BUT...

I think there are two sorts of scandal-mongering -- subterranean and overt.

Subterranean stuff is win-win, because it keeps partisans pretty angry and animates them to vote.

As a conservative I could care less WHY people vote against Obama and the Dems. I don't care if they vote against him based on a completely unfair reason. I just want them to vote against him.

My problem is when it stops being subterranean and becomes overt. Because what happens then is that elected Representatives - people who's words are scrutinized -- begin to get questions and pressure about it, and it becomes a WEDGE ISSUE, and the worst kind of wedge issue, a wedge issue inflicted by our own team -- an own goal.

A wedge issue is defined as a painful topic to discuss because one part of the party -- the core -- wants or believes on thing and another part of the party -- the moderates, plus unaffiliateds who lean our way but aren't committed to us -- wants or believes another thing.

Wedge issues are critical in politics. Both parties spend most of their time trying to cause problems by separating the other party's core from its moderates and leaners.

And what is happening now is that this seems to becoming a wedge issue, where great conservatives, true blue stand-up guys, like Jim DeMint are going to be pressured into saying stuff that hurts us, OR the base will think he's a "RINO" for refusing to.

That is my fear.

I don't care what people THINK. I worry what they will end up DOING. And if this particular belief winds up hurting our best spokesmen like DeMint, then it's nothing but bad.

The Democrats, by the way, had an issue with the Truthers. On one hand, they wanted to encourage the Truthers into believing George W. Bush set us up the bomb.

On the other hand, they had to avoid committing themselves to that proposition, at least in public.

Ron Paul, too.

So it's this little dance. They offer vague sounds of support, but try to make sure their words are not so explicit as to be capable of being used against them.

The Democrats got away with this -- both Kerry and Edwards courted the Truthers by offering soft support -- because the media, of course, is solidly on their side, and refused to make an issue out of their pandering to Truthers. The stories were buried.

Conservatives, I assure you, will not be so fortunate. The media recognized Trutherism as a wedge issue for Democrats and therefore sought to make it go away.

They recognize Birth-Certificate Theorizing as a wedge issue for conservatives. That is why they are playing the story up, coincidentally just at the low point of Barry Obama's presidency. Certainly not because they think it hurts Obama, but rather because they know it hurts his opponents.

So while I didn't mind a bit of birth-certificate stuff previously, seeing it as merely some useful (if mistaken) passion-stoking, I now worry that what is going to happen is that our best spokesmen are going to be pressured into either endorsing the theory, and thus reducing their credibility with the public, or refuting the theory, and thus reducing their credibility with conservatives who buy into this.

Lose-lose -- that's the whole point of a wedge issue. No matter which side you take, you wind up losing support.

digg this
posted by Ace at 12:26 PM

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