John Boehner was on Meet The Press today and when he was asked about why he doesn’t speak out against the birther/Obama is a secret Muslim conspiracy theorists, the Speaker of the House said that it’s not his job, “It’s not, it really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what to think. There’s a lot of information out there, people read a lot of things…”
Here’s the video:
Here is the transcript from NBC News:
MR. GREGORY: And, indeed, members of Congress speak publicly and are outspoken and will say what their views are. And sometimes they have an effect on what people believe around the country. And there was a — something that caught my eye this week that was on Fox News on the Hannity program, a focus group with voters in Iowa led by Frank Luntz , the Republican strategist, and he had this exchange with them. I want to show it to you.
MR. GREGORY: As the speaker of the House , as a leader, do you not think it’s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: David , it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people . Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That’s good enough for me. The president says he’s a Christian. I accept him at his word.
MR. GREGORY: But isn’t that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you’re not standing up to obvious facts and saying, “These are facts. If you don’t believe that, it’s nonsense.”
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I just outlined the facts as I understand them. I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian. I’ll take him at his word. But, but…
MR. GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance about whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t — it’s not my job to tell them.
MR. GREGORY: Why isn’t it your job to stand up and say, “No, the facts are these”?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I am…
MR. GREGORY: Didn’t John McCain do that…
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I, I, I just did.
MR. GREGORY: What you’re saying, “It’s good enough for me,” is that really standing up and saying, for those who believe that or who would talk about that — you had a member of Congress , you had a new tea party freshman who was out just yesterday speaking to conservatives, and he said, “I’m fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth, and I do have a birth certificate to prove it.” That was Raul Labrador , a new — a congressman from Idaho . Is that an appropriate way for your members to speak?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: The gentleman was, was trying to be funny, I would imagine. But remember something, it’s not — it really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what to think. There’s a lot of information out there, people read a lot of things…
MR. GREGORY: You shouldn’t stand up to misinformation or stereotypes?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: …but, but, but, but, but I’ve made clear what I believe the facts are.
MR. GREGORY: But is, is it, is it because it weakens the president politically, it seeks to delegitimize him that you sort of want to let it stay out there?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: No. What I’m trying to do is to do my job. Our job is to focus on spending. We’re spending too much money here in Washington. The president’s going to outline this new budget tomorrow, that I outlined earlier, spends too much, borrows too much, and taxes too much. And the president wants to talk about winning the future. This isn’t winning the future, it’s spending the future.
To summarize Speaker Boehner’s position, although he believes that President Obama is a citizen or a Christian, it isn’t his job as a leader in the Republican Party to correct false or inaccurate beliefs about the President of the United States. He doesn’t believe it, but if other people want to, he isn’t about to correct them.
Boehner’s response to the questions proved three things. First, John Boehner wants nothing to do with the birther or the Obama secret Muslim conspiracy theorists in his own party, but number two is that he is terrified of these people. Boehner doesn’t want to cross them, or else he might face a primary challenger in 2012. Number three, Fox News is a more powerful force in conservative politics. One would think that the Speaker of the House would not be afraid of Fox News, but Boehner dodged the whole Fox element of Gregory’s questions.
David Gregory deserves props for being relentless in his questioning of the Republican leadership on the issue of why they don’t stand up against birthers and righties who believe that Obama is not a Christian. In recent months Gregory has put the question to John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell. With Boehner he took it a little further, and contended the leadership won’t knock down these conspiracies because these wild theories serve their political purpose by delegitimizing the President.
Boehner’s answer was extraordinarily weak and wimpy for a man who supposedly has so much political power. The “it’s not my job” excuse doesn’t cut it. The fact that Boehner turns a blind eye to this sort of Tea Party insanity illustrates a real problem for the Republican Party. By not denouncing them, the GOP is risking the Tea Party redefining them as a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theorists. If leaders like Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell are too afraid to stand up, Barack Obama will not only win reelection, but the Republican Party will be risking its future relevancy.