President Obama is not a foreigner. He is not secretly a Muslim. Those are the facts, but they do not seem to matter in many quadrants of the Republican Party.
During a recent focus group conducted by the Republican pollster Frank Luntz, about half of a group of Iowa Republicans said they believed that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. Republican Party leaders seem more than happy to let such misconceptions live and flourish.
Yes, Sarah Palin, who was an enthusiastic "birther," has decided that the supposed issue of Mr. Obama's citizenship is, as she put it the other day, "a distraction." But the speaker of the House, John Boehner, made it clear on the NBC program "Meet the Press" last Sunday that he had no interest in quashing these fantasies or stopping his fellow Republicans from accusing Mr. Obama of lying about his citizenship and his faith.
("Enthusiastic birther " is a severe overstatement of what Palin said on a radio show in December 2009, and she soon clarified her position on her Facebook page, noting she had never asked the president to release his birth certificate or suggested he was not a U.S. citizen.)
The Sunday editorial approvingly forwarded "Meet the Press" host David Gregory prodding Speaker Boehner, who said he couldn't tell Americans what to think:
...It is in fact his job to combat the ignorance, xenophobia and bigotry behind the birther faction.
If Mr. Boehner really wanted to lead, he could make this obvious but important point: Being a Muslim is not a disqualification for being president of the United States. This sort of racism stained American politics in earlier centuries. It has no place in this one.
(Note to Times editors: Islam is not a race. If you're going to throw around insults, use them correctly.)
And speaking of conspiracy theories...When John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate in August 2008, the Times evidently (according to a nytimes.com search) failed to editorialize against liberals spreading their own conspiracy theory about Palin's son Trig - that Palin's daughter Bristol was his real mother. Reporter Monica Davey's coverage of the rumor  was not exactly brimming over with indignant outrage:
The Palins' statement arrived after a flurry of rumors had made their way through the Internet over the weekend, growing and blooming, it seemed, by the minute.Davey's mild tone certainly doesn't match the indignation the Times shows the "birthers."
Some claimed that Ms. Palin had not actually given birth to Trig, but that Bristol had, and that the family had covered it up. Various Web sites posted photographs of Ms. Palin in the months leading up to his birth this year, and debated whether her physique might have been too trim for her stage of pregnancy. The McCain campaign said Ms. Palin announced Bristol's pregnancy to stop the swirl of rumors.
Ms. Palin's own pregnancy took Alaska by surprise this year. Even those who worked for her in the governor's office said they were surprised. Her announcement, in March, was reported in The Anchorage Daily News, which noted at the time that Ms. Palin "simply doesn't look pregnant."