By Daniel Luban
The editors of National Review appear to have made a tactical decision that the “birthers” — those who allege that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii, thereby questioning his U.S. citizenship and legitimacy as president — were serving only to discredit the right in the eyes of the general public. On Tuesday, the magazine published an editorial denouncing the birthers and attempting to put the whole controversy to rest once and for all.
However, the magazine’s own Andy McCarthy didn’t seem to get the memo. On Thursday, he published a long article taking issue with NR’s editorial. While conceding the craziness of the allegation that Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate was a fake, McCarthy raised a host of new allegations against the president. These include, in no particular order: that Obama was secretly adopted by his mother’s second husband; that he was a secret Muslim in his youth (although McCarthy concedes that he is now a “professed” Christian); that he was (and remains) an Indonesian citizen; that he made a “mysterious” trip to Pakistan in his youth; that he intervened in the 2006 Kenyan election in an attempt to install “a Marxist now known to have made a secret agreement with Islamists to convert Kenya to sharia law”; finally, that his pitching abilities mark him as “something less than Sandy Koufax.”
Perhaps sensing that McCarthy’s allegations were likely to further discredit Obama’s opponents, National Review Online‘s Kevin Williamson felt compelled to step in, writing that he was “not much in love with Brother Andy’s piece” and accusing McCarthy of throwing in his lot with “kooks” engaging in “intemperate, paranoid, hysterical speculation.” This marks the third time in recent months that McCarthy’s NRO colleagues have been forced to reprimand him for paranoid conspiracy-mongering about Obama: first, for his October 2008 suggestion that Bill Ayers was the real author of Dreams From My Father, and more recently for his accusation that Obama’s cautious response to the post-election protests in Iran was motivated by a deep ideological sympathy for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.
It is somewhat remarkable that McCarthy remains one of the right’s go-to commentators on legal issues relating to the “war on terror.” Coming on the heels of Frank Gaffney’s recent op-ed suggesting that Obama remains a secret Muslim, McCarthy’s latest opus is a reminder that the National Review editors might have a hard time purging their movement of anti-Obama kooks. By all indications, a significant number of far-from-marginal right-wing figures have been terminally unhinged by Obama, and getting rid of the birthers is likely to be more difficult than simply ignoring a few obscure bloggers.