The Birthers And The GOP: A Shotgun Wedding

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, there’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.

“Before I got back to Michigan before the break, we’ll go through it, so that we’re versed in it,” Hoekstra said recently. “Just like anything else, if you see a hot issue … it’s sort of like, ‘Let me go take a look at this and see what the status is.’”

Hoekstra believes there’s no “compelling case” questioning Obama’s origins. But after talking to Castle about his town hall, he knows that he’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.

“You 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 don’t have time to deal with wild conspiracy theories,” he says.

That’s the approach House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana takes.

“On that issue, I’m pretty distinctive that the president is from Hawaii,” he said. “I just don’t know where he’s coming from on health care.”

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.

“Absolutely,” says California resident Orly Taitz, the Russian-born attorney/dentist who has become a kind of ringleader for the movement. “It is a very important issue, one that politicians should have taken up a long time ago.”


Taitz says that until Obama is removed from office, America’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 Posey’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 “Birthers’ bill” 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

  • Aaron

    “..the Russian-born attorney/dentist..”

    Um.. Wow that’s a lot of school.. This is the sound of someone stable and trustworthy. Really.

  • Mike A.

    Isn’t she also a realtor?

  • Doug Mataconis

    Yes, she’s a lawyer/dentist/realtor. Jon Stewart had fun with that last week.

    Although it’s worth noting that the law school she went to was a correspondence school that is not ABA-accredited and only recognized in the State of California.

  • Trescml

    One of the problems with a political party that gets smaller and smaller is that fringe groups become a more powerful voice. The trick is how to co-op the issue into a bigger cause (get back the White House). So far the Republican party is struggling to do this but it needs to quickly before more people become alienated by such a ludicrous claim.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Its the Ron Paul people. Their endless ranting about birth-certificate conspiracies, or the Builderbergers, or tax revolts or 9/11 or what have you – poison any of their legitimate arguments on fiscal responsibility and economics.

  • dmf

    ayers’ advice is a huge mistake. and this is why this is a classic “rock and a hard place”. if you’re asked about the president’s resident status, and you dodge the question, you look like cheney’s progeny on larry king, who just came off as perhaps not agreeing with them, but certainly fanning the flames and appreciating them.

    it’s time for reasonable people (like rep. trent franks) to just stand up and say, point blank, of course he’s a citizen, next question.

  • dmf

    ‘sides. one could make an equally valid (by which i mean, not) case that mccain didn’t have the status to be prez either. since the law passed in 1937 granting canal zone citizens natural born status was 11 months after mccain’s birth…

    so what do we do!?

    make sarah palin president.

  • kranky kritter

    I don’t think these birthers are as big a problem for the GOP as progressives are eager to believe. Unless someone can document otherwise, I’m going to assume that they are a pretty small and especially nutty group that has managed to capture the attention and imagination of parts of the media and of many progressive-minded bloggers.

    One problem of the 21st century is how the internet helps to foster the growth of such moist, dark, fertile cyber-cloisters of whackos. A little air, a little sun, a little bleach in the form of reason and information, and they’ll dry up and wither. When you find some mold under the kitchen sink, you don’t panic, you don’t call the epa, you handle it with simple effective treatment.


    Obama’s citizenship has in fact been established beyond a reasonable doubt in every relevant and actionable legal sense.

  • Jacob.Donklephant

    The trick: What do you say?

    They could try this.

    Or even, “Please sit down and shut up! The adults are talking about important things.”

  • Jim S


    If they were that insignificant in the eyes of the GOP would the video of Republican House members running away from the question or tap dancing around a straight answer exist? I don’t think so.

  • Chris

    KK, it’s hard to tell how significant they are in reality, but on the internet, they’re everywhere. They are definitely significant online.

  • Joshua

    The $64M question for the GOP is what Sarah Palin will do with respect to the Birthers. If she really is serious about running in 2012, at some point she’s going to have to call them out, then smack them down hard. The sooner, the better.

  • Chris

    Most likely she’ll join them.

  • kranky kritter

    If they were that insignificant in the eyes of the GOP would the video of Republican House members running away from the question or tap dancing around a straight answer exist? I don’t think so.

    How many GOP members are there in total? Of how many is there video of them “running?”

    I heard yesterday that the house voted 378-0 in favor of a statement proclaiming Obama was born in Hawaii. Given this, I will ask you again how significant you think the birthers are in the GOP’s eyes. In your response, please account for the ZERO votes against the resolution.