Last night I criticized the Beltway conventional wisdom about the Obama birthers -- namely, that they're starting to become a problem for the GOP. I wrote:
The Beltway always agrees not to hold the nutball theories of Republican voters against Republican pols -- presumably because they're seen as "heartland" theories, and it wouldn't do to talk trash about Joe Sixpack.
So, yeah, non-crazy Republicans will have to find a way to sidestep birther questions at town-hall meetings. But that's a problem they'll solve...
Now I see from Salon's Joan Walsh that Liz Cheney -- who is evil but not crazy -- has road-tested one method of solving precisely that problem:
... Tuesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," rising GOP shill/star Liz Cheney refused to denounce the "Birthers" ... Instead, Cheney defended the Birthers by blaming Obama for their rage.
... After King showed video of the crazy birther who disrupted a meeting with poor GOP Rep. Mike Castle, ... King gave Cheney a chance to distance herself from them. But Cheney demurred, telling King the Birther movement exists because "People are uncomfortable with a president who is reluctant to defend the nation overseas."
... [James] Carville called her on it, accurately: "She refuses to say, 'This is ludicrous,' because she actually wants to encourage these people to believe this."
... Politico's Ben Smith [subsequently] asked Liz Cheney if she wanted to clarify her remarks. Cheney emailed this statement:
I don't have any question about Barack Obama's right to be President of the United States.
My concern is with his policies. I am deeply troubled about the path he is taking this country down -- massively expanding the size of government, weakening our national defenses, increasing taxes on all Americans and nationalizing health care. These are dangerous policies for the nation.
Cheney basically proved Carville right: By refusing to denounce the Birthers on CNN, then issuing a mealy-mouthed statement that she doesn't question Obama's right to be president, Cheney has it both ways: She curries favor with the Birthers and but affirms her basic sanity (if not integrity) to the Beltway media....
There it is. Simple, no? Make the birthers' complaints somehow reflect badly on Obama himself, to keep the base fired up, then issue a pro forma denial of the birther idea, to assuage the Village. It's the Liz Cheney Birther Two-Step! Any Republican can learn to do it! (Though most Republican officeholders will probably exercise caution and do the two parts one right after the other.)
For the foreseeable future, this, or some variation on it, is the tack every non-lunatic Republican is going to take if pressed on the issue, while more and more GOP crazies actually join the birther movement. This is only going to get worse -- but it's not going to be hung around any A-lister's neck.