Would the Republican leaders of yesteryear have engaged in birtherism?

I find myself, for some reason I don’t quite understand, watching grainy, old footage of William F. Buckley this evening, instead of doing something that I might actually enjoy, like reading the motivational affirmations of Old Spice pitchman and rising action star Terry Crews. I think, subconsciously, the seed was planted earlier today, when I read what Rush Limbaugh had to say about Hurricane Isaac being a conspiracy perpetrated by the Obama administration in order to disrupt the Republican National Convention. I must have thought to myself, when I heard that, “Things couldn’t always have been like this,” and made a mental note to investigate it further. For whatever reason, tonight, after putting the kids to bed, I started searching for documentary footage of past Republican intellectuals, trying to prove to myself that there was in fact a time when leaders on the right wouldn’t have publicly engaged in the active perpetuation of conspiracy theories, like Romney did yesterday, when he referenced Obama’s birth certificate, and the kind of non-fact-based nonsense that we’re so used to seeing from Limbaugh and others today.

So, that’s how I think I came to spend my evening getting reacquainted with Buckley. I don’t know that I’ve gleaned anything incredible from the exercise thus far, but it’s been interesting. I’ve seen him threaten to beat up Gore Vidal, trade quips with Woody Allen, and summarily dismiss Noam Chomsky. I’ve seen him argue facts vehemently, and, one could argue, obnoxiously, but, as far as I can tell, he, at no point in any of these exchanges, left the shared reality of those with whom he was arguing. He was clearly a prick, but I don’t get the sense that he was lying. Or, to put it another way, my sense is that he would have been horrified if he’d been found to have said anything that couldn’t have been backed up. In other words, I don’t think he would have said, as a Romney staffer did yesterday, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” My sense is that it was important to him to be perceived as both correct and trustworthy.

At this point in the post, I should probably add that I’m not naive. I know about the “rat fucking” of the Nixon administration, and I know about the race-baiting perpetrated by Lee Atwater and the Republicans into the 80’s. I remember Willie Horton. I know that dirty tricks have been around forever, especially as they involve race, and that politicians have always lied and manipulated their way into power, on both sides, by exploiting wedge issues and taking advantage of the fearful and the poorly informed. Still, though, I have the sense that there used to be such a thing as a Republican intellectual – a leader who had an appreciation of history, a grasp of the facts (even if they were misused), and at least a grudging respect for the truth and the perception of integrity. And, with all that said, it pains me greatly to see things like the following clip from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a clear intellectual lightweight, trying to laugh off Romeny’s recent mention of Obama’s birth certificate as something other than an attempt to paint our black President as the “other”. If I were a real Republican, it would make me irate. Unfortunately, I don’t think real Republicans… in the mold of Eisenhower, or, for that matter, even Reagan… exist anymore.

It’s absolutely sickening and pathetic that this is what the people of America have allowed the Republican party to become… In 25 short years, we’ve gone from William F. Buckley, the Yale-educated founder of the National Review, to the likes of Reince Priebus and Newt Gignrich, the disgraced former Congressman who failed to earn tenure as a history professor at West Georgia University. It terrifies me to consider what the next 25 years might hold.

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  1. josh
    Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I think you give Buckley too much credit. 25 years ago he was an intellectual lightweight. Especially when compared to the likes of Chomsky. Chomsky is an intellectual with seminal contributions to multiple fields of thought. Buckley was what, an articulate tv commentator? Buckley looks like an intellectual now, only because the leaders of the modern conservative movement are unable to produce a rational thought. As always, the Onion pretty much sums it up: http://www.theonion.com/articles/things-that-shouldnt-be-said-in-modern-society-to,29336/

  2. samo
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    The Repubs of yesteryear are still around. They are just called Democrats now.

  3. anonymous
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I doubt he was trying to suggest that Buckley was brighter than Chomsky. I think he was just making the point that Republicans had at least attempted to be factual in their public statements.

  4. Edward
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Having Terry Crews in this post about presidential politics is appropriate as he played the President in Idiocracy.

  5. KKT
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Idiocracy was prophetic.

  6. Posted August 29, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I really do my best. I try to assume that there are conservatives out there can reasonably communicate to me why their ideas are good ideas. Sometimes, I get hints that they exist, like for example, when I read the slightly right but excellent magazine, the Economist (though British).

    I do my very best as I believe that most people try to come up with the best ideas given the information on hand. I understand how naive that assumption is.

    When I come out of the literary fog, however, what I find is a party and a movement obsessed with nothing but power. I’m reminded of a commenter here,Designated Republican. He didn’t seem to be interested in who the candidates were, just in what party wins what. It’s football politics, it’s cancerous and is already destroying the long term prospects of low and middle class Americans.

    Mostly,I’m left disappointed.

  7. Knox
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    It’s impossible to know what previous Republicans would have said and done if they’de been confronted with a black opponent whose father was from Kenya. The best comparison we have is Kennedy, who was a Catholic. I was not alive when he ran against Nixon, but my sense is that Nixon didn’t feed the public paranoia. I know that people were concerned that his loyalties would lie with the church, but I don’t think that Nixon threw fuel on the fire. I think, as you’ve said, that people valued their public integrity more.

  8. Knox
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    President Camacho!


  9. App
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    It’s funny how things happen by coincidence. I doubt when Mark posted this he’d given any thought to the fact that Crews was the President in Idiocracy. It was just a little aside. It tied in Beautifully though. It’s the end point that we’re headed toward.

  10. Posted August 29, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    In the past two days, I heard both Rick Santorum and Herman Cain repeat the charge that Obama eliminated the work requirement for welfare. When Cain’s interviewer pointed out that it was untrue, he answered that it wasn’t “technically true,” but that you could spend a lot of time debating what things are technically true.

  11. Eel
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Yes, you can argue as to whether or not WFB knew his shit, but I don’t think that anyone can deny that there’s been a shift when someone like Newt is seen as the intellectual leader of the party.

  12. Eel
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Also, let’s not forget that McCain got savaged by his own party when he stood up to a woman who called Obama a Muslim, explaining that he was a Christian and a good American. They saw that as weakness.

  13. mark k
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    ” I know about the race-baiting perpetrated by Lee Atwater and the Republicans into the 80′s.”
    You mean like what MSNBC did.

    Was this a misstake, I’m thinking not.

  14. dragon
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Glenn Beck-vs- The Facts:

    With the exception of black former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, MSNBC and Fox News covered and omitted the same exact speeches.

    Both networks aired the speeches by NH Senator Kelly Ayotte, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Ann Romney, and NJ Gov. Chris Christie.

    But for minority speakers, here’s a handy guide to how the rival networks broke down coverage:
    Mia Love: MNSBC was in commercial; Fox aired Shepard Smith‘s coverage of Hurricane Isaac from New Orleans.
    Brian Sandoval: MSNBC aired hurricane coverage; Fox’s Sean Hannity interviewed Rep. Eric Cantor.
    Ted Cruz: MSNBC cut to panel analysis of the convention; Fox went to commercial and returned with a Scott Walker interview.
    Artur Davis: MSNBC aired panel discussion, mentioned his speech 5 minutes in, but didn’t air it; Fox aired the entirety of the speech.
    Nikki Haley: both MSNBC and Fox News aired the speech.
    Lucé Vela Fortuño: MSNBC aired more roundtable discussion; Fox News cut away to discussion by Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.

    So with the exception of former Rep. Davis, MSNBC did not omit any speeches that Fox News did not also omit.
    But to accuse the cable network of purposely omitting minority speeches to further a “racist” narrative is just outright false when confronted with the facts. And assigning “purposeful” omission to MSNBC is especially wrong when they covered the speeches almost exactly the same way Fox did.

  15. Posted August 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink


  16. Bic Busman
    Posted August 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed tonight’s Republican Convention. It’s always nice to see happy, successful people applauding their success.

    The highlight, of course, was Paul Ryan, and three little words: “Took the bus.”

    In the middle of attacking the idea that government helps small business, he professed his deepest admiration for his mother who started her own small business and took the bus everyday…

    One can only assume that Mrs. Ryan owned her own bus and that government had no part in the success of the American entrepreneur candidate Ryan admires most.

  17. Arturo
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Mark K,

    Yes, they’ve been treating black participants very well at the convention. According to reports, some attendees ever threw free peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman.


  18. Meta
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    From Greg Sargent in the Washington Post.

    I didn’t expect this, but the epic dishonesty of Romney’s campaign is finally prompting something of a debate among media types about whether what we’re seeing here is unprecedented — and how to appropriately respond to it. This debate is focused partly on whether there’s a racial dimension to this attack. But it’s also about (as I noted here yesterday) what the media should do when one campaign has decided that there is literally no set of boundaries or standards it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of the core assertions at the heart of its entire argument.

    There seems to be a bit of a strain of media defeatism settling in about this. James Bennet, the editor of the Atlantic, wrote yesterday that he is glad to see news outlets calling Romney’s falsehoods out for what they are. But he wondered whether we are about to discover that the press is essentially impotent in the face of this level of deliberate dishonesty: “what if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?”

    I’m sympathetic to the question. Indeed, it goes to the heart of the Romney campaign’s gamble here, which is that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed in the face of the sheer scope and volume of mendacity it unleashes daily. At the same time, though, I have to agree with Atrios: When news orgs want to make a big stink about something, and keep that stink going for a good long while, they prove to be very capable of it indeed.

    As Steve Benen and James Fallows keep arguing, this poses a test for the news media. What would happen if a nontrivial number of articles and broadcasts about the welfare lie and other Romney falsehoods called out his dishonesty right in their headlines, prominently featuring unequivocal declarations (not mealy-mouthed he-said-she-said nonsense) that Romney is misleading people and has done so again and again and again, despite knowing the truth?

    Mark Kleiman suggests that horserace reporters begin clearly spelling out that Romney has “made a strategic decision to try to bury Obama under a blanket of false charges.” Would that be an exaggeration? No, it wouldn’t. What if newspapers devoted extensive front page pieces to dissecting Romney’s decision to continue basing entire ad campaigns on widely debunked claims, even as Romney advisers openly boast about the success of their dishonest ads and openly declare that they won’t be constrained by fact-checking?

    Could something like that begin to shift the dynamic a bit and make it harder for a campaign to keep lying at this pace? I don’t know, but it would be nice to find out.

    Read more:

  19. Smellytongues
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I found this article regarding the evolution of the Republican party voter and found it interesting:


    I thought others might like to read it as well. Be sure to read some of the comments, too.

  20. SparkleMotion
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Hate to tell everyone, but the moderates in both parties have been shouted down – not just the Repubs. And reading the comments on this website, I’d say you don’t have to venture far for proof.

  21. Edward
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    The Republican party actively perpetuates the idea that intelligent people are elitist. Knowledge doesn’t matter. What matters is belief. To be President you don’t have to know world history. You have to believe that God has chosen America, and that we’re the best country in the world.

  22. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    “You have to believe that God has chosen America”. That is certainly what they believe, strangely enough, there is not a single reference to the US in anyway in any of the 66 books of the Bible. In the unlikely event xtian metaphysics has anything like ontological priority, why would it utterly neglect to mention the Lord’s latter day chosen people anywhere, in anyway? None of the significant events of the Revelation of John occur in the US, nowhere is it mentioned even symbolically, which means that the US will be either totally irrelavant to prophecy, or will be utterly wiped away by the time of the Lord’s horrific return as the Lion of Judah. None of the politicians who claim to xtian would actually meet that description in anycase.

  23. Meta
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    See “A City on a Hill,” Thom. Reagan used it quite a bit. It’s a Biblical phrase, taken from the parable of Salt and Light in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his listeners, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” American politicians have always appropriated it. The following is from JFK.

    …I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider”, he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us”. Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less fantastic than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required…

    Reagan loved to invoke the image.


  24. Dan
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink


    Some lunatics believe this refers to the U.S. Frankly, anyone that thinks anything in the bible is more than children stories and fiction is batshit crazy imo.

    “When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.” Revelation 12:13-14”

  25. dragon
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

    Dan 7:25

    *missed by three minutes.

  26. Dan
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    very well done, dragon. But I am protected from you for a time, times, and half a time.

  27. kjc
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Clint Eastwood.

  28. dragon
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    If I knew what day it was, I would want you to make it my day, punk!

  29. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Those are clearly theologically unsound interpretations by people who want to read the US into the Bible in order to fire-up theologically illiterate conservative voters, I don’t think of Ronny “Iran Contra” Regan when I think of biblical exegesis. This of course is irrelavent, the US isn’t the ‘city on the hill’ especially now in postcompassion perpetual recession modernity, the US wasn’t ‘discovered’ until 1400 years after the last book of the Bible was written, and if any of the Bible’s charecters would walk around our racist technological totalitarianism, they would condemn it. Dr. J Vernon Magee’s position is the one I hold, one which I know is theologically sound, there is no mention of the US in any of the 66 books of the Bible.

  30. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Also it occured to me, Jesus’ parables were purely meant for public consumption and weren’t prophectic, the US couldn’t be the city on the hill. They were used by Jesus to teach people of ordinary intellect in the ancient world moral lessons, Jesus’ real teaching were taught to his apostles in private, who could preform the frightening magic Jesus could. This was the mark of an apostle, someone who was in Jesus’ crew and who could do bizarre and terrifying magic. This is recounted in the oldest gospel, the book of Mark, which was based on a book by a person named Mark who actually existed called “The Sayings of Jesus”, which was lost to the sands of time. The US isn’t in the Bible.

  31. Dan
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Of course it’s not in the bible. But there are lunatics all over that believe that Chernoble was mentioned in Revelation as part of the seven trumpets. Major wars being some of the other trumpets, etc.

    It’s all nonsense. The sad thing is that these people get to raise children, and instill these ridiculous beliefs in developing minds and brainwash them into their cult.

  32. Meta
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Rush has a new theory.

    “What if Ayman al-Zawahiri and other Al Qaeda leaders gave up Osama bin Laden for the express purpose of making Obama look good?” – Rush Limbaugh

    Read more:

  33. Meta
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Kansas is considering the removal of Obama from the ballot, as there’s not enough evidence that he was born in the United States.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an informal advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said on Thursday he and his fellow members of a state board were considering removing President Barack Obama from the Kansas ballot this November.

    Kobach is part of the State Objections Board along with Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, all Republicans. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that on Thursday the board agreed to consider whether to take Obama off the ballot because they said they lacked sufficient evidence about his birth certificate.

    “I don’t think it’s a frivolous objection,” Kobach said, according to the Capital-Journal. “I do think the factual record could be supplemented.”

    The board is looking at a complaint filed by Joe Montgomery, of Manhattan, Kan., who claimed the Obama is not a natural born U.S. citizen and so is ineligible to be president. The man appears to be part of a group of conspiracy theorists known as “birthers,” who deny Obama’s birth certificate is real.

    Read more:

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