Dave Weigl (Slate) and Ben Smith (Politico) had a "birthers vs truthers" segment on Bloggingheads yesterday. I haven't watched the segment and won't because I don't find that debate particularly interesting. The very nature of it seeks to create a false equivalence between the two groups when they are anything but.
While I find the truther "movement" distasteful, primarily based in ignorance and general stupidity, is doesn't even begin to compare to the sheer stupidity of the birther "movement" and it's reach across the entire conservative political spectrum.
The only concession I'll grant to truthers is that 9/11 was a complex event that would take a significant chunk of time to fully comprehend. Entire books have been written just to recount the facts, without delving into technical and political theories explaining why the buildings collapsed and why we were attacked in the first place. Skepticism that a plane hit the Pentagon (because of a lack of recognizable plane debris) doesn't take into account that the building is essentially a massive hardened bunker designed to survive multiple hits from air bombing campaigns. Suggestions that airplane fuel can't burn hot enough to melt steel doesn't account for the design of the World Trade Center which would fail completely even if the support structure only bent and sagged slightly, which was inevitable given that the impact force knocked most of the fireproofing off the steel support structure.
I wouldn't expect anyone to have this information floating around in the back of their mind, although I might expect them not to jump to wild conclusions without first trying to find that information. People are lazy and conspiracy theories are sexy. It's not a good excuse for being gullible, but it does explain why so many people believe fantasy over reality.
Birthers don't even have that excuse. The issue over President Obama's birth is simple. It doesn't require specialty knowledge in structural engineering, awareness of systemic intelligence failures, understanding of foreign sociopolitical history, or the free time and interest to find answers to critical questions (if a plane didn't hit the Pentagon, what happened to the missing plane, its crew, and the passengers?)
I won't go into detail to debunk the birther conspiracy theory here. That was successfully done years ago. What's striking about the two "movements" is how pervasive and powerful one is, while the other is relegated to the fringe with no power at all.
There are many birthers in Congress
There have been several attempts to get as many Republicans in Congress on record as possible about whether or not they believe President Obama is an American, born in Hawaii. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has said that birthers "have a point" and said he won't discourage their movement. In a clear example of pandering to a base of growing extremists, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) told a town hall crowd that Obama's father "was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven't seen any birth certificate."
Shelby walked it back with the press almost immediately after the town hall.
Representative Tim Murphy literally ran away from a Think Progress reporter to avoid answering the question, hiding in a store and pretending to look at pens for 20 minutes. In another video by TP, Thaddeus McCotter also refuses to answer whether he believes Obama was born in America or not. Cathy McMorris (R-WA), who according to Think Progress is vice-chair of the House Republican Conference, has said she'd like to see Obama's birth certificate. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb) actually asked Think Progress if they had proof that Obama was born in Hawaii.
Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) plays the game, saying he "can't swear on a stack of bibles" that Obama is a citizen, while simultaneously writing and introducing legislation in the House of Representatives that would require presidential candidates to submit their birth certificates. In a knock to brithers, the then-Democrat controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution celebrating the birthday of the statehood of Hawaii, acknowledging it as the birthplace of President Obama. Posey voted for that bill, but refuses to give up his birther legislation.
Posey's legislation had 12 co-sponsors, presumably all birthers, and all of them were Republicans (seven from Texas alone).
There are birther Presidential candidates
Donald Trump, who is leading the GOP field of 2012 hopefuls, is a birther. As is declared 2012 GOP candidate Herman Cain. Potential 2012 candidate Michelle Bachmann, a Tea Party luminary, has flirted with being a birther until a reporter stuck a copy of Obama's birth certificate directly in her face during an interview, and she finally declared "I guess it's over" almost three full years after the conspiracy had been debunked. Many other candidates past and present refuse to take a firm stance on the issue.
There are birther Governors
Governors Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) and Mary Fallin (R-Oklahoma) have both said they would sign birther bills.
Many states have introduced birther legislation
Arizona passed by wide margins a bill requiring candidates to provide their birth certificate in order to be placed on the AZ ballot. Governor Jan Brewer vetoed that bill but it's likely that the legislature can easily override the veto. As many as 12 states have birther legislation pending, including Oklahoma, Georgia, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Connecticut.
Many Republican voters are birthers
A New York Times/CBS poll found earlier this month that 25% of Americans believed Obama was born outside of the United States. That number jumped to 45% amongst Republicans only. Such polls have been common and consistent over the past two years.
Contrast all of that to this:
There are no truthers in Congress
Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) is the only truther I could find, and she's been out of Congress since 2007.
There are no truther Presidential candidates
There are no truther governors
There are no states with pending truther legislation
There are many truther voters
This is the only straw to grasp for people desperate to pretend that the truther and birther movements are equal. Polls have consistently shown a large number of truthers (20-30%) but they are relegated to the fringe, as they should be, powerless and voiceless. Birthers on the other hand hold enough power to put credible candidates on the ballot for the Presidency, to pass legislation in many states, and to control state governments from the governor's mansion.
This isn't a fair contenst, it's a slaughter. There's simply no comparing the two movements. Birthers exist in every level of state and federal government and posses enormous power to pursue their conspiracy theories through the force of law, while truthers are just crackpots cheering from the sidelines.
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