YKW pointed me to Eugene robinson's latest in the Washington Post.
Trying to analyze the "birther" phenomenon would mean taking it seriously, and taking it seriously would be like arguing about the color of unicorns. About all that can be said is that a bunch of lost, confused and frightened people have decided to seek refuge in conspiratorial make-believe. I hope they're harmless. And I hope they seek help.I think the harmlessness hope is misplaced. Where have we seen something like this before? Hmmmm. Whitewater, anyone? Remember how it just happened to come out when Clinton was working on, what was it? Oh yeah, health care reform.
What we are seeing here is classic misdirection, the magicians' trick. Look over here at this shiny object so that you don't see what the other hand is doing. We can distract everyone from real issues if only we drum up enough of a sideshow to demand attention. It is what I call the "cage and frame" strategy. If there is an entire set of issues you want out of public discourse, put them in a cage. Let out one that you will put all of your energy into, screaming and shouting and engaging in as vocal a debate as possible. People will see this vociferous back and forth and assume that it means that there is an open fair debate on all issues. The opposition has to make a choice. Confront you and suck all the oxygen in the room away from the substantive concerns they really want to talk about, or lose the battle at which point you pick another issue and win a war of intellectual attrition.
Remember the Swiftboat attacks on John Kerry? Democrats learned that no matter how stupid and demonstrably false conservative claims are, the media will run and run and run with them out of fear of being labeled "liberal media elites" and people will begin to believe them. So, you have to fight, but then you lose because you are stuck slugging it out over something innane.
Is it harmless? No. This is no less absurd than Whitewater or Swiftboat, but perhaps because of the debacle in Iraq and the tragedy of Katrina, maybe because of the ugliness at Palin rallies during the election, there is negative blowback on the GOP this time. But sustaining the hits may prove to be the cost of doing business in derailing a proposal that will challenge heartless insurance companies and help hurting Americans.
UPDATE: Josh at TPM says something similar about the teabagger thugs showing up at health care town halls:
From my Republican pal under deep cover ...
"I'm surprised that it's your Republican pal that has to make this point: The precedent on the anti-health care protests isn't Bush's Social Security town hall meetings. The real precedent is the "Brooks Brothers riot" during the 2000 recount. The point is to create disorder, but get the media to cast blame on the underlying issue and NOT the protesters.
That's what happened during Florida: The "blame" was on the "chaos" created by the "unfair" counting methods brought on by Al Gore's call for "selective" counting. No blame was focused on the young GOP activists upsetting the process.
THAT seems to me to be the comparison that Obama supporters should be on the lookout for this summer.
You can say this came from a Republican friend -- but not by name. ;-)"