Birther Madness In The Republican Party

Anderson Cooper interviews Montana State Representative Bob Wagner who refuses to admit that he knows either that President Obama was born in America or even that being born in America makes someone a citizen:

Stupefyingly, Representative Wagner is representative of more than 50% of likely Republican primary voters:

Birthers make a majority among those voters who say they’re likely to participate in a Republican primary next year. 51% say they don’t think Barack Obama was born in the United States to just 28% who firmly believe that he was and 21% who are unsure. The GOP birther majority is a new development. The last time PPP tested this question nationally, in August of 2009, only 44% of Republicans said they thought Obama was born outside the country while 36% said that he definitely was born in the United States. If anything birtherism is on the rise.

And, also, guess which prominent Republican 83% of these birthers have a favorable opinion of?

A 51% majority of national GOP primary voters erroneously think President Obama was not born in the U.S. 28% know that he was. With the latter, Palin’s favorability rating is 41-52—other than Ron Paul, the only candidate these voters view negatively. But with birthers, she has a soaring 83-12, far higher than for any of the others.

While the potential power of this sizable block of Republicans explains the tendency of Republican leaders to avoid standing up to birthers, it certainly does not forgive their irresponsible refusal to do so, as William Saleton writes:

That’s four straight interviews in which the country’s three top Republicans—the speaker of the House and the GOP leaders in each chamber—have refused to condemn the spreading of lies about Obama’s faith and citizenship. These three men are confident enough in the personhood of fetuses to support banning abortion. They’re confident enough in the efficacy and justice of the U.S. health care system to block funding of the Affordable Care Act. They’re confident enough in Wall Street, despite the recklessness and bailouts of the last three years, to press for repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. But ask them whether Obama is a Muslim or was born in the United States, and suddenly they’re too humble to impose their beliefs on others. They can only describe “the facts as I understand them.” They can only speak “for me.” They can only “listen to the American people,” not “tell them what to think.”

These men aren’t leaders. They’re followers. To lead a party, much less a country, you have to be able to say no. You have to stand up to liars, lunatics, and dupes on your party’s fringe.

Below are the videos of the top Republican leaders Saletan criticizes refusing to outright denounce the views of birthers:

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But the most compelling case that Obama actually is a Muslim was most powerfully made, ironically, by Keith Olbermann of all people:

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All article links via the indispensable Andrew Sullivan (whose newly recovered health and obvious reinvigoration, I also want to happily note).

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