Tuesday, July 28, 2009

That Settles That

The House voted 378-0 to pass a resolution honoring Hawai’i on its 50th anniversary of statehood… and also as the birthplace of President Obama.

The resolution was an attempt by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) to both honor his state and get the birthers in the House, including Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), to get them on the record as to whether or not they really believe that the president was born somewhere else; Kenya, Indonesia, or Rigel IV. In a nod to sanity, all of co-sponsors of Mr. Posey’s bill that requires the presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship voted for the resolution.

So, that should put an end to all this birther nonsense, right?

Not a chance. Once conspiracy theorists get hold of something, they never let it go. The more proof you provide, the more they believe the conspiracy: your proof is just proof of the depth of the conspiracy. In this particular case, the birthers are incapable of accepting the idea that a black man with a foreign-sounding name could possibly be elected president, so they come up with this thoroughly ridiculous plot. That’s why White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t even try to answer the question; no matter what he said, it would just be further proof of the vast conspiracy.

The danger for the GOP is that they are afraid of alienating some of their staunchest supporters who buy into this crap, so they do this little dance of “Well, there are still questions, y’know.” No, they’re aren’t, unless you’ve completely taken leave of your senses.

Conservative commentators have been hedging around the issue, too, trying not to give credence to the tin-foil-hat brigade, but finding it hard to resist. Some of them hauled out the old false-equivalency argument by citing some of the loonier stories that got out about George W. Bush when he was president, including the “Truth about 9/11” which was that the United States was actually behind the attack in order to get us into the war against Al-Qaeda. The difference there is that there was not one member of the House or Senate who hesitated to label the theory as completely nuts or indulged in saying something like, “Well, as far as I know….” Nice try.

The birthers may have reached and passed their peak, though, thanks to the scrutiny, the derisive laughter, and the backlash from the overkill on the part of the wingnuts in the mainstream media like Lou Dobbs. According to a report from Media Matters, Mr. Dobbs’ efforts to keep raising questions about the president’s legitimacy took the movement out from the shadows of right-wing chain e-mails and rumor-mongering onto the cable systems of America where everybody could see what a steaming pile of bullshit it was. So rather than get the country behind him, Mr. Dobbs provoked the raging ire of people on both the left and the right and reduced him to little more than just a target for mockery.

The birther movement will never go away entirely, but at least it’s been reduced to doing little more than continue to provide entertainment for some and discomfort for others as it lurks out there like a lost episode of The X-Files on the grassy knoll of the flat earth.