Anyone want to take odds on this? Via ThinkProgress, news surfaces that Georgia Rep. (and noted wingnut) Paul Broun revealed under questioning during a radio interview on Thursday that he does not know whether Barack Obama is either a citizen of the United States or a Christian (although Broun says he does know that Obama is a socialist). The exchange took place on Sirius XM between Broun and Sirius host Pete Dominick (You can listen to the relevant portion at YouTube). In it, Broun said:
DOMINICK: The President and the Democrats are gonna pass a bill that’s going to kill jobs, increase premiums, and wreck health care in the country.
REP. PAUL BROUN: Absolutely.
DOMINICK: Do you think President Obama’s a socialist?
REP. PAUL BROUN: (pause) I know he is. In fact, if you look at his own writings, he said when he was in college, he leaned to Marxist tendencies, and Marxist professors, he joined Marxist clubs. You look at who he’s put in his administration; they’re avowed socialists.
DOMINICK: But you think he’s an American citizen and a Christian?
REP. PAUL BROUN: Well, I’m not going to get involved in that, it – it – it’s – what…I’m talking about healthcare.
DOMINICK: You can’t say he’s an American citizen?
REP. PAUL BROUN: Well, listen, uh…
DOMINICK: (interrupts) You can’t say the President’s an American citizen?
REP. PAUL BROUN: I don’t know.
DOMINICK: You don’t know? And is he a Christian?
REP. PAUL BROUN: I don’t know that. Only…I’m a Christian, but only me and the Lord know that for sure, so…
DOMINICK: (interrupts) Congressman, thank you so much for your time…
Plenty of other outlets have already jumped on this story, including Alan Colmes’ Liberaland and Politico – as well they should, for obvious reasons. When a member of a very exclusive (not to mention very powerful) body – the United States congress – supports or endorses or even refuses to condemn or disavow views which are not merely objectionable but clearly and demonstrably fly in the face of established fact, that should most certainly be news, every time. And I say that not as a liberal partisan only about Republicans; if there are liberals or Democrats out there with notably false views who continue to cling to and promote (and base legislation upon) those views even after it’s been widely demonstrated that the views are factually false, I want to know about that, too – and I’d be just as eager to get that person out of a position of power and influence within the congress.
The reason I’m piling on here is because Erick Erickson, the leader of one of the best-known conservative websites in existence, RedState, recently made a big, showy to-do about banishing “birfers,” as he calls them (an intentional misspelling of “birthers,” the informal and slightly derogatory term for those who believe that Obama is not a US citizen, isn’t qualified to be President and was likely born in another country – usually Kenya), from his site altogether. In his fanfare of trumpets-style announcement of his decision, Erickson broke out his “admin” stick, decreeing that ”Birfers and Truthers are not welcome here. Period. End of Story.” But Erickson also waxed philosophical. After the above no-shades-of-gray denunciation and banishment of “birfers” (as well as the 9/11 “truthers”), Erickson declared he wanted to “expand on that a bit.” In doing so, Erickson opined that:
The tea party movement is in danger of getting a bad reputation for allowing birfers and truthers to share the stage. At the National Tea Party, Joseph Farah treated the birfer issue as legitimate. In Texas, tea party activists have rallied to Debra Medina who, just yesterday, refused to definitely dismiss the 9/11 truther conspiracy as crackpot nonsense. If a candidate cannot do that, we cannot help that candidate. It’s that simple.
This being RedState, of course, Erickson couldn’t just leave it at that, feeling compelled to run through the usual gamut of charges that Hillary Clinton partisans started the “Obama’s not a citizen” conspiracy rumors and that “the most vocal truthers live in Hollywood and voted for Obama,” while conveniently neglecting to point out that the main reason he’d even come to the decision to ban the birthers and truthers from RedState was that so many of them – more birthers than truthers, but some of both – literally form the vast bulk of the far-right, racist teabagger movement. Erickson’s at least smart enough to not want to allow his web site to get completely marginalized as a kook-zone, and he knows that the birther meme has been pretty well pegged in all of the mainstream media outlets (not just Maddow and Olbermann) as outright lunacy. So he quite correctly – if perhaps cynically – distances himself from the lunatic fellow-travelers of Orly Taitz.
It will be interesting to see to what extent Erickson is willing to put his money where his considerable mouth is. It’s one thing to get a finger-in-the-wind sense of which way the winds of political toxicity are blowing. And he’s correct to have identified the Taitz-derived birther movement as one such spot. Anyone professing birtherism too loudly – or, at this point, even simply refusing to denounce it – may be in for a rough or even career-ending time. It’s just a nutty – and almost certainly racist – notion, at this point. But it’s one thing to loftily proclaim, as Erickson did in his post, that if “you really want to debate whether or not Barack Obama is an American citizen eligible to be President, RedState is not a place for you,” and quite another to actually distance oneself – and one’s web site – in practice from people who do believe thusly. This recent revelation of Rep. Paul Broun’s will be an interesting litmus test of whether Erickson’s denunciation and repudiation of so-cal
led “birferism” is merely for show and to escape public excoriation and damage to his own reputation and that of his blog, or whether he truly finds the thought of such individuals’ hands on the levers of power in Washington to be a repugnant idea, a non-starter.
Erickson has been, since 2007, an elected member of the Macon, GA city council, which means that the area he serves is not in Broun’s district. Nevertheless, Broun’s district is not all that far from Erickson’s place of residence and the town he himself represents – they are within the same state, after all – so it will be interesting indeed to see what Erickson has to say (if anything) about this admission by Broun. If Erickson falls back upon a weaselly “well, what I said was that I would not allow such people here at RedState, and I shall live up to that promise, although to my knowledge, Rep. Broun has never attempted to comment at our site,” we will know that Erickson’s diatribe against the “birfers” was mostly for show. Likewise, if Erickson chooses to say nothing at all on the matter, it would probably be a safe-ish bet to conclude the same. If Erickson comes out proactively and makes a public statement condemning a US congressman from his own home state (and general political leanings), like one would assume he was doing when he wrote his RedState “banishment” post, then we will be able to credit Erickson with the courage of his convictions.
Truthfully, I don’t really have any expectations one way or the other. Ideologues like Erickson are often rather easy to peg: they do tend to stand on principle over expediency, and thus it might very well turn out that Erickson denounces Broun for his remarks, and works to support an opponent to him in a GOP primary – or even supports a Democrat against the obviously out-to-lunch Broun. But Erickson’s increasingly been playing the big-time Washington game, too, as his blog’s influence has grown over the years. It would also not surprise me to see him try to get away with not addressing this at all, or making some mush-mouthed excuse that “at least he’s still better than a Democrat” or similar. It’ll be interesting to see whether Erickson does possess the courage of his convictions. I’m eager to see what comes of this (if anything), and I will keep you all updated.