Dispatches from the Creation Wars

As much as conservatives like Ann Coulter like to pretend that it’s Democrats who are bringing all the attention to the birther movement, Michelle Goldberg pretty much shreds that absurd claim at the Daily Beast.

Increasingly, conservatives are trying to replace one conspiracy theory with another, accusing liberals of spreading birtherism in order to discredit their ideological foes. “Every conservative outlet has already shot down this rumor,” Ann Coulter claimed on Fox this month, blaming “liberal cable stations” for keeping it alive. Even Michele Bachmann recently made an abrupt turnabout on the issue, declaring it a settled question.

But then reality rears its ugly head:

The list of prominent conservatives who have winked at birtherism is long. Earlier this month, Rush Limbaugh said, “We’ve got somebody about whom there are legitimate citizenship questions here, serving as president.” In March, Mike Huckabee said Obama grew up in Kenya and thus probably sympathized with the Mau Mau Rebellion against the British, though he later tried to pretend that he’d simply gotten Kenya and Indonesia mixed up. Sean Hannity has continually raised questions about Obama’s birth certificate. Michele Bachmann said that, running for president, “I think the first thing I would do in the first debate is offer my birth certificate so we can get that off the table.”

And, not surprisingly, many conservatives have taken their leaders at their word. A New York Times/CBS poll released Thursday shows that only 32 percent of Republican voters believe Obama was born in the United States. The numbers are even worse in Iowa, a hugely important state in the primaries. There, a Public Policy Polling survey recently found that only 26 percent of Republicans believe that the president was born in this country; 48 percent say he wasn’t, and the remaining 26 percent aren’t sure…

But it was the Drudge Report, not liberal cable stations, that was hyping Corsi’s work Thursday with an “exclusive” titled, “Book to Reveal Obama’s True Identity?” Nor was it liberals who’ve made Corsi a star of the Tea Party circuit. And it certainly wasn’t the left that made the Arizona legislature pass a bill requiring presidential candidates to produce long-form birth certificates, or, failing that, two or more other documents such as hospital birth records and circumcision papers. While Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says he’ll sign similar legislation if it gets to him. Birther bills are pending in a number of other states, including Oklahoma, Texas and Indiana. In Indiana, the bill would put governor Mitch Daniels, a likely presidential candidate, in a tough position, forcing him to choose between catering to the Republican base and preserving his reputation for sanity.

Are liberals laughing at all of this and encouraging more coverage of it? Absolutely. They would be foolish not to. But birtherism is a conservative problem, not a liberal one.