Sarah Palin: Birther
Ben Smith catches Sarah Palin indulging Rusty Humphries, a conservative radio host given to obsessing about the citizenship of President Obama, in some speculation about the commander-in-chief’s birth certificate yesterday. Just so there’s no confusion, here’s the transcript:
HUMPHRIES: One of the questions Jason asks is would you make the birth certificate an issue if you ran?
PALIN: 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 there are enough members of the electorate that still want answers.
HUMPHRIES: Do you think it’s a fair question to be looking at?
PALIN: I think it’s a fair question just like I think past associations and past voting records. All of that is fair game. You know, I’ve got to tell you too, I think our campaign, the McCain-Palin campaign didn’t do a good enough job in that area. We didn’t call out Obama and some of his associates on their records and what their beliefs were, and perhaps what their future plans were, and I don’t think that was fair to voters to not have done our job as candidates and a campaign to bring to light a lot of things that now we’re seeing manifest in the administration.
HUMPHRIES: I mean, truly if your past is fair game and your kids are fair game, certainly Obama’s past should be. I mean, we want to treat men and women equally, right?
PALIN: Hey, you know, that’s a great point. And that weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn’t my real son, and a lot of people that went “Well, you need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he’s your kid,” which we have done, but yeah, so maybe we can reverse that, and use the same [inaudible] thinking on the other one.
So, to recap: Palin, prompted only to talk about “the birth certificate,” realizes that she’s being asked about President Obama’s proof of citizenship. She says the public is “rightfully” making it an issue, that it’s a “fair question,” and that it’s fair game — and because some people have questioned whether Trig Palin is really her son, it’s fair to “reverse that” and ask questions about the president’s birth certificate.
The way I always look at birther questions and answers is: How would they read if they covered another conspiracy theory? Imagine a politician being asked, say, if he/she would “make the real story of 9/11 an issue.” If the politician answered anything but no, it would be a scandal. If he/she said “I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue,” I think it would be interpreted as a flat-out endorsement of the “truthers.” Look, for example, at the mini-uproar that happened after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was ambushed by truthers with cameras who asked leading questions about the “families’” desire for a new 9/11 investigation. Indulging a conspiracy theory that casts doubts on the legitimacy of the president is not something serious politicians do.
Another angle here is what it reveals about Palin’s character. She has spoken and written angrily for more than a year about the people she calls “Trig Truthers,” anyone who questions whether Trig Palin is her son. The lesson she’s taken from the experience is not that conspiracy theories are out of bounds. It’s that if they are going to be conspiracy theories about her, there might as well be conspiracy theories about her political enemies.