The money line is Buchanan asserting that she did the smart thing politically since Birthers are, after all, a chunk of the GOP base and all she really defended was their right to ask questions. Ace made a similar point today: Politics is politics, so if you have to toss a small bone to your fringies now and then to keep them focused on your broader agenda, so be it. Eh, I don’t buy it. I agree that being snotty to your fringies is dumb and likely to lose you votes, but there are ways to tactfully disagree with them. E.g., “It’s great to see the public intent on holding the president to the letter of the Constitution, but I think the certificate of live birth satisfies the natural-born requirement.” She’s not going to lose anyone’s vote with a polite rejection like that (except maybe Alan Keyes’s), especially since no other GOP candidate will end up endorsing Birtherism. She might, however, lose votes for having given the answer she did, especially if she wins the nomination and Democrats start pitching to centrists by calling her a crank. Why play to the base when she, more than any other Republican, already has the base — and Birthers — in her hip pocket? It’s moderates she needs, not “true conservatives.”

If this is a smart political move, then conceivably it’d also be a smart political move and nothing for the right to get exercised over if, say, Biden or Al Gore or some other top Democrat started head-patting Trig Truthers like Sullivan. The issue ultimately goes to her credibility, so in theory the more doubt they can sow about who Trig’s mother really is, the more discredited she’ll be. And yet, no liberal of any greater prominence than Crazy Andy himself ever touts the Trig Truth crap, mainly because (a) the science is, to any rational person, settled, and (b) they’d stand to lose more politically by encouraging the theory than they’d gain. Remember when Maurice Hinchey went on MSNBC a few days ago and asserted that Bush deliberately let Bin Laden escape? Even a Bush-hating nutroots hero like David Shuster instantly flipped out on him. Conspiracies simply don’t play well in the mainstream, even on the DNC’s pet channel. (Well, before 8 p.m., at least.)

The key point isn’t whether voters have the right to ask questions but whether a question is fair after a certain amount of evidence has been provided. That’s where Palin got in trouble last night, I think. Of course Truthers have the right to be skeptical about 9/11, but does anyone think it’s fair that they still are? Where you come down on the Birtherism debate depends on whether you think that level of evidence has been reached yet, and Palin’s initial comments to Humphreys — it’s a “fair question,” it’s “fair game,” potentially something worth raising in a debate — made it sound like she didn’t. Calling it a “stupid conspiracy” later on Facebook clarified that she did. Controversy over, let’s hope.