Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In the spring, when Donald Trump was riding high and we still hadn't seen President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Doug at Balloon Juice wondered aloud whether birtherism could ever go mainstream:

The corporate base won't want to embrace birtherism the way they've embraced global warming denialism, but the teatards might. If there’s no way to tamp down birtherism, then why not double down on birtherism? The Wall Street Journal editorial page could express doubts about authenticity of the records. Instapundit, Charles Krauthammer, and Marc Thiessen could heh-indeed the doubts, and bingo it's a real issue. Conor Friedersdorf could link to Dennis Prager's thoughtful concerns. Authenticity of records, view differ.

I don't see why we can't end up at least part way down this road.

Birtherism was supposed to be dead after Obama trumped Trump, but then Rick Perry brought it back -- first in a Parade interview, and now in an interview with John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times.

Q. Why did you choose to keep the birther issue alive?

A. It's a good issue to keep alive. You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. It's fun to poke him a little bit and say "Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate." I don't have a clue about where the president -- and what this birth certificate says. But it's also a great distraction. I'm not distracted by it.

Now, here's the thing: Perry said this on the day he announced his flat-tax plan. The story could have been "Perry steps all over his tax-plan release with embarrassing birther comments." But I'm over at Memeorandum looking at the print and online responses to both, and the tax plan is getting far more attention. It looks as if it's now more or less OK to talk birther, at least if you've just hired a lot of mainstream-GOP campaign hotshots for a campaign reboot and Steve Forbes is endorsing you and Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth think your tax plan is the bee's knees.

Or at least it's OK to talk birther if you seem like an A-lister and you discuss birtherism is a way that allows for the interpretation that you're not really taking it seriously. That's what we're told by Michael Brendan Dougherty of Business Insider, and he extends the can't-you-take-a-joke? interpretation, retroactively, to the vast majority of other birthers:

... some birthers -- the ones that look up typography on typewriters available in Hawaii -- are deadly serious about their wild theory. But a curious thing happens when you talk to most birthers: they smirk.

"I'm really not worried about the president’s birth certificate [but] it's fun to poke at him a little bit and say 'Hey, how about let's see your grades and your birth certificate'," Perry said to Harwood. That's the smirk. It's "fun." This is exactly the spirit in which most birtherism is offered.

In his interview with Parade magazine which revived this "issue," Perry tried taunting the president in a schoolyard style.
Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That's not a definitive, "Yes, I believe he..."
Well, I don't have a definitive answer, because he's never seen my birth certificate.

But you've seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?
We've seen this back in the playground. "I know you are but what am I."

So, see, it's all just harmless fun. It's never been more than that. And if you thought Orly Taitz and Jerome Corsi and Trump and that birther colonel who got court-martialed and received a six-month sentence and a forcible discharge that deprived him of his military pension were serious, well, you're just being a typical humorless liberal.

That, perhaps, is how birtherism goes mainstream.