Republicans and conservatives opposed to a rapid increase in the size and scope of government should be heartened by the American public’s gradual turn away from Obamaism.
But when we need Republican and conservative leadership the most, when we need our leaders and thinkers to clearly differentiate their vision for the country from Barack Obama’s vision, many of our leaders have failed us. Instead of taking the opportunity presented to proclaim the conservative vision to the American people, some Republican leaders have opted to latch on to wild conspiracy theories promoted by the fringes of the Republican Party. Or, at the very least, some of our leaders have allowed such wild theories to fester by not proactively combating and denouncing them.
Just last month, for instance, Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan Administration Defense Department official and conservative intellectual, wrote in The Washington Times that Barack Obama might very well be a secret Muslim. “[T]here is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself,” Gaffney wrote. Among Gaffney’s “mounting evidence” was the fact that President Obama referred to the Koran as the “holy Koran” during his June speech in Cairo, Egypt.
But of course this was merely pandering on Obama’s part. It no more helps prove that President Obama is a secret Muslim than President Bush speaking in Spanish to a Latino audience proves he is a “secret Hispanic,” or President Obama wearing a yarmulke at a gathering of American Jews (as he has) proves he is “secretly Jewish.”
How much resonance such conspiracy theories have within the Republican Party is unclear, but a YouTube video put up last week of a town hall meeting held by Republican Congressman Mike Castle is worrisome. A lady pressed the Delaware Republican about why Obama has not produced his birth certificate and then loudly declared that Obama was in fact a citizen of Kenya, not the United States. “I want my country back,” she shouted in her rant at the befuddled congressman, who could only respond, responsibly, that President Obama was in fact an American citizen. It’s impossible to tell how many people in the audience agreed with the woman, but there were certainly enough of them to make some noise.
These “birthers,” as they have come to be known, allege that Obama is ineligible to be president because he was not born in the United States. Despite overwhelming proof that Obama is in fact native born – including an official birth certificate from the state of Hawaii – the birthers movement persists in claiming otherwise.
Why stop there? With equal plausibility, one might suggest that 48 years ago, a group of Islamists conspired to take over America by making Barack Obama president. Having the incredible foresight in the 1960s too see that a black man would be the obvious choice for president of the United States in 2008, their strategy would be to hide his foreign and Muslim identity by having his parents name him Barack Hussein Obama. Somehow, they knew this child would be smart and talented enough to get into elite colleges and become the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. The men behind this clever movement to take over America wisely encouraged a young Barack to take drugs in his youth and then to later write about his drug-taking days in a memoir because, presciently, they understood that writing about one’s drug-taking past is usually a successful presidential strategy.
That’s not all. Instead of having Obama be born in America, his mother’s native country, as most people trying to conduct a successful take over plot of America would do, they had Obama be born in Kenya. But in order to deceive the American people that Obama was an actual American citizen 47 years later, the men behind this plot made sure local Hawaiian newspapers published notices of Obama’s birth. The secret cabal behind Obama was also able to fool, evidently, the state of Hawaii.
One might go on and ask why someone who supposedly is a secret radical Islamist, determined to create a Sharia state in America, would add troops to Afghanistan to fight radical Islamists there; launch predator drone attacks against Islamist terrorists in Pakistan; and keep the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facilities open despite his campaign pledge to shut down the facility?
Yet another problem with the conspiracy theories is that they distract from more serious criticisms of the administration. I have written articles in opposition to Barack Obama’s policies and I will continue to do so as long as he pushes policies that I think are harmful. However, we have to have responsible leadership in the Republican Party that opposes Obama on the basis of principle and uses reasoned discourse, not idiotic falsities, to make its case.
Conservative commentators, leaders and thinkers have a responsibility to denounce idiocy put forward under the conservative banner. Republicans and conservatives have a real opportunity to take back the country in 2010 and 2012. But they aren’t going to do it by promoting outlandish conspiracies.