Monday, April 12, 2021


In the heyday of birtherism, some of the people who advanced the notion that Barack Obama wasn't born in America and was secretly a Muslim did it with a certain degree of deniability. Sure, there were pure birthers like Orly Taitz (and Donald Trump), but there were also people like House Speaker John Boehner -- now positioning himself as a foe of GOP conspiratorialism -- who didn't exactly say that Obama's origin story was a lie, but didn't repudiate it very forcefully:
On Meet The Press ... Boehner couldn't even bring himself to dismiss the idea:
MR. GREGORY: As the speaker of the House, as a leader, do you not think it's your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?

SPEAKER BOEHNER: David, it's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That's good enough for me. The president says he's a Christian. I accept him at his word.
Taking the president "at his word" that he's not a secret MOOZLEM is the favored formulation of Obama's political opponents for avoiding a direct question about his faith.... Boehner's statement is the exact same one Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made ..., that "The president says he's a Christian. I take him at his word."
Nobody doubts that Joe Biden was born in America. The right's favorite conspiracy theory about Biden is that he's so mentally impaired that he can't possibly be the real president. Hardcore mental-impairment truthers openly use words like "senile" and "dementia" in reference to Biden.

"Respectable" Republicans feel they can't do that -- but they can tiptoe around the issue, the way Senator John Cornyn does:

If you ask Cornyn point-blank whether he's implying that Biden has a mental impairment, I'm sure he'll angrily insist that you're putting words in his mouth. He's just asking questions about Biden's ... sense of engagement with the job. After all, belligerent tweets are practically mandatory for a president, aren't they? (They actually do seem to be mandatory for GOP officeholders.) Cornyn is just asking questions.

I'm sure this is a trial balloon. On behalf of the party mainstream, Cornyn, I assume, is testing how far a Republican can push this talking point without seeming to push it. Others will follow.

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