Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A request for contrition

It's still too early to know what the effect of the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate will be on those who have been maintaining that he is foreign-born. To be sure, the hard core folks will continue to maintain a conspiracy. But I'm going to guess that the release will affect at least some of them, and that birthers now comprise somewhat less than 45% of Republicans. I have a small favor to ask of those who have now decided to accept empirical evidence: a modicum of contrition.

To be sure, we are all capable of making mistakes in political judgment. The hard left is just as prone to believing untrue things about their opponents as the hard right is. But the birther episode strikes me as something unusual in that adherents were making a very specific claim that was directly refutable by existing evidence. This wasn't like saying that Obama's too liberal or Bush is stupid. This was an empirical, falsifiable claim. And it was clearly falsified.

A vague parallel in my own life is that I spent much of 2007 trying to convince people that John Edwards was not a douchebag. And I turned out to be wrong about that. And I felt bad about it and sort of apologized to some friends. So I know it's hard.

But it seems to me that after spending several years trying to convince people that the president was an un-American pretender to the throne and deserved to be removed from office immediately and then finding out that you were wrong, the decent thing is not to just say "Yeah, well Obama's still a socialist" or "Well why did he take so long to release it?" or things to that effect. Rather, one might say, "You know what? I have a lot of problems with the president, but I was wrong about this. I'm sorry."

How hard is that?


Robert David Sullivan said...

The closest Democratic equivalent I can come up with is "You know what? Clinton did a lot of good things as president, but having a sexual relationship with an intern was inexcusable." I still have friends (liberals like myself) who can't say that because it would be conceding a point to the enemy.

lidzville said...

Their next move should be to jump on the Hawaiian independence bandwagon, obviously.

Seth Masket said...

Robert, I don't know why liberals would have a hard time saying that. Actually, refusing to admit that Clinton did anything wrong -- something he himself has admitted -- probably grants more points to the "enemy" than just saying what you said does.

Rick said...

This is a (deeply ironic) joke, right? Do you really think that any significant number of birthers are going to say "Oops, we were wrong?"

No, they'll just go on to how the birth certificate was forged, or whatever.

Steve Greene said...

I think the question with Clinton was not, was this wrong, about which presumably people of all political stripes can agree it was. I think the question is, "was it an impeachable offense." I didn't think so then and don't now. I'd like to think I'd feel the same way had it been GWB in the situation.