President Barack Obama sat down with MSNBC’s Brian Williams on Sunday for an interview. One great takeaway from the Obama interview is that the president is clearly affronted that many of his fellow Americans think he is a foreigner and a Muslim.
Instead of blaming the usual fever swamps of political insanity that seem to afflict every president, Obama seemed to think that there is a real conspiracy, one to defame him. So, in effect, the president of the United States is a conspiracy theorist himself on a pair of wacky conspiracy theories.
According to Politico:
” ‘I can’t spend all of my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead,’ quipped Obama, who took a deep breath to gather his thoughts when asked if the poll reflected his inability to communicate with voters.
” ‘The facts are the facts. We went through some of this during the campaign – there is a mechanism, a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly,’ said a visibly annoyed Obama, referring to ‘birthers,’ who have waged a guerrilla campaign questioning either the existence or the validity of his Hawaiian birth certificate.”
The president claimed not to be worried about either the birther phenomenon or the Muslim rumors. This means that clearly he is worried. Or at least annoyed.
The open annoyance of the current President with some of the lunatic fringe contrasts with the attitude taken by two of his predecessors with their own fringe enemies.
But Obama isn’t alone. Here’s a comparison of high-profile conspiracy theories that have annoyed recent presidencies:
President George W. Bush did not even deign to notice the “truther” movement, which maintains that somehow 9/11 was a made-up attack, secretly conducted by the Bush administration to justify wars in the Middle East and central Asia. The conspiracy theory, like the birther and secret Muslim theories, is so bizarre and outside the realm of reality that debunking it has proved easy. Even so, Bush realized that true believers are never dissuaded and that even acknowledging the crack-pot theory gives it a certain validity.
President Bill Clinton, while he engaged in certain underhanded activities usually involving dangerous romantic liaisons, had to contend with some of his own conspiracy nutters. Clinton has been accused of arranging for the death of White House aide Vince Foster, who was found dead, the official story goes, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. While some of the forensic evidence has been in dispute, Ken Starr — no less a Clinton foe — looked into the matter and concluded, as did law enforcement, that the death of Foster was a suicide and not, as some maintained, a mob-style hit. Clinton, while doubtlessly annoyed at the stories, did not go on about them to reporters.
Obama is clearly making a mistake by even acknowledging his own lunatic fringe enemies. All that does is empower them. If he is bothered by the stories, the theory will go, there must be something to them. It’s best for him not to even comment. Conspiracy nuts are driven not so much by the need to take someone down but rather by the need for self-validation. And the president provided that which they crave above all else.