The Birthers And The GOP: A Shotgun Wedding
Yesterday’s Politico had a front-page story about the difficulties that the “birther” movement is beginning to pose for the GOP:
When lawmakers return home for recess in August, they can expect to hear tough questions from constituents on the economy, health care and government spending.
But Republicans are preparing for something else: the birthers.
As GOP Rep. Mike Castle learned the hard way back home in Delaware this month, thereâ€™s no easy way to deal with the small but vocal crowd of right-wing activists who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
Castle’s town hall, of course, descended into chaos after a woman, later identified as a frequent local talk show caller dubbed “Crazy Eileen”, whipped the assembled crowd into a frenzy demanding answers about Obama’s eligibility to be President, and his experience is not going un-noticed by other members of Congress:
Having seen his colleague Castle come under attack, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) is taking no chances.
â€œBefore I got back to Michigan before the break, weâ€™ll go through it, so that weâ€™re versed in it,â€ Hoekstra said recently. â€œJust like anything else, if you see a hot issue … itâ€™s sort of like, â€˜Let me go take a look at this and see what the status is.â€™â€
Hoekstra believes thereâ€™s no â€œcompelling caseâ€ questioning Obamaâ€™s origins. But after talking to Castle about his town hall, he knows that heâ€™d better be ready with an answer.
The trick: What do you say?
Republican pollster Whit Ayers says that a member confronted with birther questions should immediately pivot the conversation back to big issues.
â€œYou simply indicate that in a country where our fiscal policy is driving us toward bankruptcy, where we are wrestling with major issues of health care reform and fighting two wars for our safety, you donâ€™t have time to deal with wild conspiracy theories,â€ he says.
Thatâ€™s the approach House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana takes.
â€œOn that issue, Iâ€™m pretty distinctive that the president is from Hawaii,â€ he said. â€œI just donâ€™t know where heâ€™s coming from on health care.â€
It’s a smart response for the normal people in the audience, but if Crazy Eileen is any indication of how your average birther would behave at a town meeting, I doubt it’s going to work with the die-hards, especially since the Queen Bee is encouraging them to attend the meetings and bring the issue up:
[B]irthers say members should expect more of the same in the coming weeks.
â€œAbsolutely,â€ says California resident Orly Taitz, the Russian-born attorney/dentist who has become a kind of ringleader for the movement. â€œIt is a very important issue, one that politicians should have taken up a long time ago.â€
Taitz says that until Obama is removed from office, Americaâ€™s other problems cannot be addressed. The fact that a few members of Congress have taken up her cause, with 10 Republicans signing onto Floria Republican Rep. Bill Poseyâ€™s legislation to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, has only encouraged her to buckle down in the fight.
As Taitz sees it, Campbell, who represents her congressional district in Southern California, was moved to co-sponsor the â€œBirthersâ€™ billâ€ for fear of people like her.
And that, I think, is why merely ignoring the birthers to the point where Congressmen, candidates, and the Chairman of the RNC are too dense to realize they’ve befriended the Birther Queen Bee on Facebook isn’t going to work. Neither is running away when the question is asked. And, trying to deflect their questions won’t work when you’re dealing with obsessed, single-minded, zealots. Anything other than outright, emphatic, rejection of their meritless claims and their calls for desertion by members of the military will be taken by them as a sign of encouragement, and will only serve to divert energy that should otherwise be utilized re-making the Republican Party into an entity truly capable of beating Barack Obama in 2012 (and, no, it isn’t there yet).
Originally posted at Below The Beltway