Dave Weigel has been covering the Tea Party Convention in Nashville for the Washington Independent, and earlier today walked into an unplanned but heated debate between World Net Daily’s Joseph Farah and Andrew Breitbart. Farah claimed that the Tea Party movement was partially fueled on the notion that Barack Obama isn’t really a native-born citizen of the US. When WND reporter Chelsea Schilling asked Breitbart- to comment on Farah’s speech, he criticized the attack and said the Tea Party movement would do better to focus on substance. Weigel asked Farah for a response, which led Farah to start an argument:
I told Farah that his speech was getting negative attention already, and that Breitbart, who’d taken the stage after him, had criticized the “birther” parts of the speech. Farah shook his head and walked over to Breitbart in what seemed like an attempt to debunk my question.
“Andrew is my friend,” said Farah. “He has the right to disagree, and he has the right to say anything to a socialist newspaper that he wants. And if he wants to criticize his friend to you, and he’s dumb enough to do that…”
Breitbart raised his eyebrows. “I’m dumb to do what?”
“Criticize your friend to this socialist newspaper.”
“I was talking to her,” said Breitbart, pointing to Schilling. “I was talking to you. And I was saying that I disagreed on the birther stuff.”
“OK, well, did you know that Dave Weigel from The Washington Independent was”–
“I was talking to her,” said Breitbart. “She was asking me if I thought it was was to bring it up, and I said, no. We have a lot of strong arguments to be making, and that is a primary argument. That is an argument for the primaries that did not take hold. The arguments that these people right here are making are substantive arguments. The elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts were all won not on birther, but on substance. And to apply to this group of people the concept that they’re all obsessed with the birth certificate, when it’s not a winning issue–”
“It is a winning issue!”
“It’s not a winning issue.”
I know Dave a little from a few meetings at events that he’s covered, and whether or not he’s “socialist” — I’d say center-left having read his work, but usually very fair — it didn’t make any difference to whom Breitbart spoke. If Breitbart was rebutting Farah’s argument, then Farah needs to address the argument, not question Breitbart’s motives in choosing Dave, which isn’t what Breitbart did. He was challenging the birth-certificate issue to Farah’s own WND reporter, and Farah leaped to an incorrect conclusion.
Moreover, Breitbart is entirely correct, and perhaps even understated the case. In the earlier exchange with Schilling, she said that her boss was asking Obama to prove something rather than disprove Birtherism, to which Breitbart responded, “When has a president ever been asked to prove his citizenship?” But in fact, Obama did do just that when he released the Certification of Live Birth in June 2008, in response to an entirely different question. That may have been the first time a Presidential candidate has ever done so, and the COLB is a document that could get Obama a passport, a driver’s license, and a Social Security number. It’s all the legal proof required. If that wasn’t enough, Obama’s political opponents found contemporaneous records of his birth in the Honolulu Advertiser from August 1961.
The wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts over the last three months did not come from people questioning Obama’s birthplace. They resulted from grassroots opposition to the Obama-Nancy Pelosi policy agenda. Scott Brown won the seat held by the Kennedys and their cronies for almost 60 years by pushing back hard against ObamaCare and the counterterrorism policies of the White House. If anything, the continued focus on Birtherism at these rallies undercuts the mainstream nature of the opposition to the Democratic agenda and allows the media to paint it as a paranoid mob obsessed with conspiracy theories. Not only is it not a winning issue, it will hang like an albatross around the necks of conservatives who tacitly or expressly link themselves to it.
The American public rejected the birth-certificate argument in November 2008. We now have much better and more rational arguments to make against Obama and his allies in Congress. Let’s stay focused on those issues, where we have much stronger footing with a disillusioned electorate.
Update: HA commenter Knucklehead says that Carl Cameron at Fox reported a few minutes ago that other Tea Party organizations will hold a presser later today to condemn Birtherism and distance themselves from it. That sounds like a healthy decision. Also, be sure to read the rest of the exchange between Breitbart and Farah in Weigel’s article; it actually went downhill from there.