With former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who was ahead in polls of GOP hopefuls now either seriously injured politically or facing bigger obstacles now due to his having given clemency to a prisoner who later became a cop killer, all eyes are now turning to former Alaska governor and best selling author Sarah Palin. Will she continue to consolidate her talk radio political culture Republican constituency but also start to reach out to rope in independent voters, center-right Democrats and other Americans looking for a plain-talking but throughful politician focused on issues rather than tossing out red meat to partisans? The answer is now in:
She is..or really isn’t…depending on where you are ideologically and whether you accept a clarification she apparently felt she had to make later when she found herself praised by birthers and defined as now an official birther by others who might not even be her political enemies.
At first glance, Palin is tossing red meat to partisans — tossing it way out there, in the Twlight Zone, way beyond the nation’s political center. Yesterday she seemingly came out to be…a birther…who feels making President Barack Obama’s birth certificate a campaign issue is a valid one. The Politico reports (go to the link since they also have the video) of Palin’s response to conservative talk show host Rusty Humphries when asked about whether she’d make it a campaign issue if she ran. The Politico reports:
“I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers,” she replied.
“Do you think it’s a fair question to be looking at?” Humphries persisted.
“I think it’s a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records — all of that is fair game,” Palin said. “The McCain-Palin campaign didn’t do a good enough job in that area.”
McCain’s campaign counsel has said the campaign did look into the birth certificate question and, like every other serious examination, dismissed it.
And so Palin seemed to brand herself as a NEW kind of mainstream Presidential wannabe: one whose voice about her maybe-campaign to come -seemingly signaled that it was going to be the voice of a female Rod Serling, or someone featured in a Rod Serling written episode. MORE:
Palin suggested that the questions were fair play because of “the weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn’t my real son — ‘You need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he’s your kid,’ which we have done.”
“Maybe we can reverse that,” she said, returning to Obama’s birth certificate, describing the type of thinking involved with a word that isn’t clear in the audio.
But wait! Was that accurate? Then came her Facebook clarification:
Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask… which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.
This is a notable quote for several reasons:
A CROSS SECTION OF SOME MORE OPINION:
When someone “goes birther”, that means they have given up their last thread attaching themselves to reality, and flinging themselves into full-on wingnut mode. You can usually tell when someone has gone birther because they literally start spouting nonsense about how Obama’s birth certificate isn’t real, though many think they’re clever and employ euphemism to give themselves plausible deniability. Until yesterday, most of the sane world would note that Sarah Palin wasn’t a full-blown lunatic because she still hadn’t gone birther. Well, that day has now come.
Well, the best way not to get tagged as a Birther is to refrain from saying that people are “rightfully making it an issue” and that the only reason that she would avoid doing that herself is because “there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers.” It’s the same thing as Truthers saying that all they’re doing is “asking questions.” The answers have already been provided; they just reject them because they’re married to their conspiracies.
I think Palin just discovered the First Rule of Blogs: Don’t feed the trolls.
Her careful elevation of a foundational conspiracy theory used by extremists to demonize the President as being everything from an illegitimate imposter to high office to a secret radical Jihadist Trojan horse warrants unequivocal condemnation and study from across the political spectrum—just as the horrendous anti-Bush 9/11 truthers do.
If you think that these detrimental wacky theories don’t have traction in this troubled decade of ours look at some recent polling numbers, or alternatively read the comments section that will invariably appear below this post. In a September analysis Public Policy Polling stated, “Is extremism becoming mainstream in 21st century American politics? Our latest national poll would seem to say yes- 35% [of] voters in the country either think that Barack Obama was not born in the United States or that George W. Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur so that we could go to war in the Middle East.”
Both sides of the political spectrum offer a disturbing picture. One quarter of Democrats think President Bush let 9/11 happen so he could go to war, while a plurality, 42% of Republicans believe the current president was not born in the United States. If that’s not bad enough 10% of voters say that President Obama is the “anti-Christ” with another 11% not sure. Its no wonder that various preachers have outrageously made headlines by publicly praying for the President’s death. President Bush fairs slightly better with only 8% conclusively saying he is in fact the anti-Christ, and another 11% unsure. And here I thought the anti-Christ had to be Gay and (partially) Jewish. If these Biblical “scholars” had thrown in “California resident” I would have advised Adam Lambert to turn down singing at any future Palin fundraisers.
–-Just One Minute covers the controversy and then runs the Palin Facebook clarificatin and writes:
Whatever. Just spell the name right.
[JG: Footnote. Except that doesn’t work well in politics if you truly have hopes of expanding your base constituency for yourself and your political party.]
Talk to any GOP strategist in DC and two things will make them roll their eyes: Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Birthers, the group that believes Pres. Obama was born in another country. Those two merged yesterday when Palin told a conservative radio host that questions about Obama’s birth certificate are “fair.”///
…We guarantee the NRCC, the NRSC and the RNC would much rather talk about the unemployment reports coming out this morning. And we’d bet heavily that most members sticking around the Capitol will be asked, again, what they think of Palin and the birther movement. Being knocked off-message is bad, but being forced to respond to the birthers is something GOPers very much don’t want.
Yes, that’s right. Sarah Palin is blowing the Birther dog whistle. You’ll never see a better demonstration of political cynicism mixed with blinding stupidity. Anyone still wondering why I want nothing to do with the right wing?
—Salon’s Alex Koppleman notes, as I did, that Palin’s Facebook post tries to paper over what she actually said on the air:
Of course, Palin’s original remarks went further than this. And “conspiracy-minded reporters and voters” have asked about Obama’s birth certificate too. The questions have been answered.
Ideally, this is the kind of inanity that would lead polite company to realize Sarah Palin isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and her credibility as a national figure would be permanently ruined. But this relates back to what we talked about earlier this week: among conservative Republicans, the nonsensical fringe has been mainstreamed. The line between GOP adults and GOP nutjobs has been blurred, if not erased altogether. (It’s more than likely the Republican base will be even more impressed with Palin now.)
Both sides of the aisle have their crazies, but only one side thinks their crazies are sane.
Update: On Facebook, Palin walks back the birther remarks, at least a little. She’s tough to understand sometimes.
I am not surprised former Governor of Alaska from small town America is going to stumble here and there. It is part of her common roots charm. America is fed up with fancy dressed, smooth talking, say anything politicians. Being imperfect will not destroy Palin’s relationship with America, because it is a core part of her relationship to American.
Not to mention that America will give her a lot of slack after the un-American crap thrown at her personally last year. The left, in their usual harsh clumsiness, provided her a huge shield of sympathy.
You can mark down Dec. 3, 2009 as the day Sarah Palin reached her kookiest extreme, at least until she outdoes herself again…You just gotta’ love Sarah Palin. She’s a neverending fountain of crazy. Hopefully it plays well in the 2012 G.O.P. primary because Democrats couldn’t get a sweeter gift than the former half-term governor of Alaska as the Republican nominee.
For more reaction from blogs go HERE.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.