The Birther Question

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Over the weekend David Gregory asked Speaker Boehner, as he has previously asked Majority Leader Cantor, whether he would “stand up” to the birthers’ “ignorance” beyond saying that he believes Obama to be a Christian and a citizen. I am fairly certain that these Republican leaders are not trying to advance birtherism surreptitiously. They just don’t want to have to say that a large portion of the Republican base is evil or crazy. And they resent the fact that they’re asked these questions when Nancy Pelosi was never asked if she thought Cindy Sheehan was a nut (for example).

But isn’t there a simple solution here? Some of the birthers clearly are crazy. But the millions of Americans who think Obama is a Muslim, for example, are just misinformed, misled by his name, aspects of his background, and the enigmatic profile he has cultivated. So why not say something like this? “David, I have already said that I think questioning Obama’s religion and citizenship is deeply misguided. I disagree with it. It’s no part of my critique of Obama’s administration. I don’t think everyone who holds these views is malicious or nuts. A lot of people hold a lot of mistaken views. You know, back in 2008, a lot of Americans thought Obama was a moderate!”