Thursday, April 21, 2011

Donald Trump and the Republican birthers

That the topic of this week's Scripps column with Ben Boychuk. I'm a little closer to the edge of vitriol this week than I usually like to be, but some topics elicit only contempt from me. And, uh, Trump isn't the target of my ire:
Here's the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats who embrace conspiracy-minded nonsense are chased from public life.

Republicans who do the same are vaulted into the front ranks of presidential contenders.

That's why Van Jones was rightly forced to resign from the Obama Administration in 2009; he'd signed a petition calling for an investigation of the government's secret involvement in the 9/11 attacks on America. His apparent belief in discredited "truther" theories destroyed Jones' credibility and made it impossible for him to serve the president effectively.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, wasn't on anyone's list of presidential candidates until he started giving interviews embracing "birther" nonsense and challenging President Barack Obama's citizenship. Now he tops the polls. And for good reason: Public Policy Polling's results show that only 38 percent of GOP primary voters would support a candidate who clearly states the truth -- that Barack Obama is a natural-born American citizen.

Rather than educate their supporters, cowardly Republican leaders have decided to avoid the topic. That's why House Speaker John Boehner answered questions about the topic in February with slippery language.

"It's not my job to tell the American people what to think," Boehner told NBC's David Gregory, and later added: "Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can't -- it's not my job to tell them."

Boehner, of course, does vigorously advocate for the ideas that his base supports. That's how he got his job. And that's why Trump is succeeding with his brand of birtherism -- because the GOP base loves it.

True: A year from now, Trump will probably be back to making TV shows.

But Republican voters will still be Republican voters -- apparently more willing to embrace birther lies than the truth. And that could mean trouble for all of us.
Ben sees both Trump and birtherism as passing fads. Read the column for his take.


emawkc said...

I remember that time when the person who came up with the paranoid "vast right-wing conspiracy" was chased from public life -- right into the top spot at the State Department.

Joel said...

To the extent that she was describing a movement of like-minded conservatives to bring President Clinton's presidency to a premature end ... uh, she was right. Not all paranoids are wrong. Birthers and truthers are, however, and we see how they're treated differently.

Rick Henderson said...

My take on the whole birther nonsense: It's nonsense, and a useless distraction. What I wonder is if there isn't something embarrassing but irrelevant on the actual birth certificate: That Barack Obama Sr.'s nationality was Kenyan, or that Barack Jr.'s religion was listed as Muslim.

Again, these are irrelevant. But they would fuel all sorts of questions about the president's "loyalties" or "patriotism" among people who are looking to pick a fight and would rather fixate on trivia than confront genuine concerns about his actual policies.

To the degree any Republicans commit any attention to this, shame on them.

And, as we've learned, there's a vast, left-wing conspiracy, too!