The Obama "birther" movement has sucked in a few Republican congressmen. But Tuesday night the conspiracy theorists who think our president isn't a citizen got a major boost from none other than Elizabeth Cheney, former State Department official and vice-presidential daughter.
Birthers took hits on television earlier in the day, after a YouTube video of one such extremist confronting Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) at a public event. CNN's Rick Sanchez spent a whole segment debunking the fantasy, and MSNBC's Chris Matthews confronted a congressman sponsoring a bill that "would require future presidential candidates to provide a copy of their original birth certificate."
Cheney was apparently unmoved. Appearing on "Larry King," she dismissed the Castle video and suggested that people have reason to question Obama's national loyalty.
"I think the Democrats have got more crazies than the Republicans do," Cheney said. "But setting that aside, one of the reasons you see people so concerned about this, I think this issue is, people are uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas ..."
Asked directly by King if she actually thought Obama was born in Kenya, Cheney responded, "No, I'm not saying that." But then she kept going. "I'm saying that people are fundamentally uncomfortable and fundamentally I think increasingly uncomfortable with an American president who seems to be afraid to defend America, stand up for what we believe in."
Fellow guest James Carville seemed momentarily flabbergasted. "These poor pathetic people are believing stuff just like Ms. Cheney tonight," he concluded. "She refuses to say this is ludicrous because she wants these people to believe this."
UPDATE: Cheney later reaffirmed to Politico that "I don't have any question about Barack Obama's right to be President of the United States." As Salon's Joan Walsh says, "By refusing to denounce the Birthers on CNN, then issuing a mealy-mouthed statement that she doesn't question Obama's right to be president, Cheney has it both ways: She curries favor with the Birthers and but affirms her basic sanity (if not integrity) to the Beltway media."