I beat up on the folks at the Daily Beast a lot for their left-of-center commentary, so it’s only fair to give ‘em some credit when credit’s due. Today, Wingnuts author John Avlon offers a surprising history of Birtherism’s conservative liberal origins:
But there’s an inconvenient truth liberals are going to have to confront: The Birthers began not on the right, but on the left.
Investigations for my new book, Wingnuts, revealed that the Birther conspiracy theory was first concocted by renegade members of the original Obama haters, Party Unity My Ass, known more commonly by their acronym, the PUMAs. They were a splinter group of hard-core Hillary Clinton supporters who did not want to give up the ghost after the bitter 50-state Bataan Death March to the 2008 Democratic nomination.
In the early summer of ’08, message boards on sites like PUMAParty.com began lighting up with the ultimate reversal-of-fortune fantasy—that their party’s nomination could be overturned on constitutional grounds. “Obama May Be Illegal to Be Elected President!” read one representative e-mail: “This came from a USNA [U.S. Naval Academy] alumnus. It’ll be interesting to see how the media handle this…WRITE TO YOUR LOCAL newspaper editors etc. Keep this out there everyday possible. Also write to the DNC too!”
Avlon goes on to describe the exploits of longtime Clinton fan Linda Starr, revealing how it was she who brought prominent loon-lawyer Phillip Berg into play. The rest of the whole sordid, stupid affair, as they say, is history.
Refreshingly, Avlon refrains from implicating the Right as a whole in the Birther crusade, correctly laying the blame at the feet of WorldNetDaily and other fringe conservatives, even giving Andrew Breitbart credit for recently standing up to WND’s Joseph Farah on the issue (which is more than can be said for certain “conservative” bloggers).
I think the point can be taken even further, though: I submit that the broader Left doesn’t want the issue to die. As NewsReal and many other blogs have been endlessly documenting, the Left’s primary defense against any and all criticism is to smear their opponents as racist and conspiratorial extremists—and insisting that Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya fits both qualities to a T.
Indeed, a few weeks ago we learned that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee distributed a memo to candidates urging them to prod their Republican challengers into taking a stand on Obama’s citizenship, and Obama himself has condescendingly lectured his opponents that they can “question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship.”
Rooting out true extremists and bad behavior in our midst is an important mission for principled conservatives, but we should never get so wrapped up in self-reflection or proving our own innocence that we assume all of the Left’s outrage is sincere, or we lose sight of the fact that whatever the Right’s failings may be, we still occupy the moral high ground in the battle for America’s heart and soul.