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updated 7/28/2009 3:37:49 PM ET 2009-07-28T19:37:49
COMMENTARY

"Dear Birthers: Stop! Sincerely, Serious Conservatives."

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I’ve held fire for the last several months as I’ve watched the so-called "Birther" movement gain steam. At first it was amusing, like playing a drinking game — you know, like taking a shot every time Chris Matthews explains why he insists on pronouncing the former Vice President’s name "CHEE-knee."

It’s not amusing anymore.

As one of the GOP operatives whose job it was to defeat Barack Obama in a campaign for federal office (there have only been three GOP campaigns run against him, and I’ve been involved with two of them), I can attest to the fact that nowhere in our opposition research did we find any reason to believe that the man was not a natural born citizen of the United States.

I can also attest to the fact that Alan Keyes, who, at about 1:22 into this video shot on February 20 of this year, lays out the "Birther" case against Obama, never raised any doubts about Obama’s alleged overseas birth while he was running against Obama for the United States Senate in Illinois in 2004.

Oh, Alan Keyes said all sorts of other nutty things while he was the GOP Senate nominee in 2004, the kinds of things that cause campaign operatives to go gray prematurely — "Jesus Christ would not vote for my opponent," Second Daughter Mary Cheney was a "selfish hedonist" and other such bon mots — but he never once challenged Obama’s place of birth.

Nor did he suggest Obama had anything to do with the introduction of the Edsel, nor the marketing of New Coke; nor the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, nor the disappearance of Amelia Earhart; nor did Keyes allege Obama was anywhere near Graceland on the morning of August 16, 1977, nor did he suggest Obama had anything to do with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

But that "Birther" thing ...

Seriously. Is this anything but a gift to the Democrats?

Am I the only one to notice that mainstream media attention to the "Birthers" has picked up in recent weeks, and that this increased attention is coincident to the turn in Obama’s approval ratings?

For instance, a search of The Washington Post web site on the term "Birther" yields as its oldest hit this one from July 6; a search of The New York Times, though, shows one June reference in passing and then the first real mention of the term on July 22.

Far be it from me to assume one is the cause of the other, but, still, it is an interesting coincidence.

Coincidence or not, it is eating up valuable air time and gobbling up precious inches of type that could, and should, be devoted to other, more pressing, matters, like the self-immolation of the Democratic Party as it struggles to find a way to reform the health care delivery system without destroying it.

Reasonable and responsible conservatives, thus, are stuck. We are being lumped in with irresponsible and unreasonable conspiracy theorists.

And I believe the time has come for reasonable and responsible conservatives to deal with the "Birther" Problem.

In January 1962, conservative leaders faced a similar problem: How to deal with the members of the John Birch Society, whose leader, Robert Welch, believed that the former president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a a conscious agent of the International Communist Conspiracy.

National Review Founder William F. Buckley, Jr., Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, conservative historian and philosopher Russell Kirk, and American Enterprise Institute President William Baroody took it upon themselves secretly to meet at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, where they decided Welch and the Birchers would have to be excommunicated from the Conservative Movement, lest their lunacy taint reasonable and responsible conservative political activity.

Were Buckley alive today, is there any doubt he would have the same response to the "Birthers"?

I think not.

DISCLAIMER: When I write about the politicians in my past, CQ Politics says I have to turn the cards face up. I arrived in Chicago in late May of 2004 to try to help then-GOP Senate nominee Jack Ryan campaign against Barack Obama . Four weeks after I arrived, Ryan ended his campaign. I was the guy whose idea it was to recruit Alan Keyes to run as Ryan’s replacement candidate -- which led to a nightmarish 86-day campaign, about which all I will say for now is that if I ever sit down and write the book about that campaign, it will be called “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.”

Bill Pascoe is CEO of The Foundation for American Freedom, a conservative think tank headquartered in Alexandria, Va. and writes the ”In the Right” blog at CQPolitics.com.

CQ © 2009 All Rights Reserved | Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1255 22nd Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20037 | 202-419-8500

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