Bradley Smith, a well known Washington conservative intellectual and former FEC Commissioner, has been out in front of the MSM lately, appearing on Hardball and other cable programs and also contributing frequently to POLITICO. I know from our many mutual friends in the Federalist Society that Brad is a top notch thinker and certainly not remotely in the same class as the tea party know-nothings. All the more reason I was disturbed to read his recent post on POLITICO arguing that the continuing influence of the “birthers” was not the result of his own party’s unwillingness to confront them, but, in a some contorted way, the fault of “the left” who want to “keep the issue alive.”
We do not want to “keep the issue alive.” It is a non-issue. It is a waste of everyone’s time. We on the left have dismissed it as such. It is the right that keeps it alive, by refusing to shut the conversation down as William F. Buckley shut down the John Birchers in an earlier era. What Smith is saying now is another rhetorical run for cover: Rather than use his position as a spokesperson for the responsible right to denounce the birthers and move on, he tries to blame their presence and influence on the left. As I point out in my response, when my old boss Frank Luntz had a Fox News focus group of Iowa Republicans veer off into secret-muslim birther-land last week, he was hardly functioning as a tool of the left “keeping the issue alive.” If you watch the video, it’s telling that not only does Frank seem genuinely disturbed by what he was hearing, but he tried to impress upon these people that the nonsense they were spouting would reflect not just on them personally but on Iowans and on Republicans.