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The Conservative Crack-Up Deepens

All they've got left is their perennial outrage.
 
 
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With the Republican Party experiencing a full-blown implosion, conservatives are grasping at straws in a desperate effort to bring down Barack Obama.

The latest fashionable right-wing conspiracy theory: Obama didn't write his memoir, Dreams from My Father , Bill Ayers did!

You can't make this stuff up -- or, if you're a writer for the fringe website the American Thinker (a major promulgator of numerous Obama smears) I suppose you can. One of its contributors, Jack Cashill, compared Obama's memoir with Ayers' Fugitive Days and concluded that only the former Weatherman could've authored Obama's book (even though, for starters, Obama got the contract for his book in 1990 and didn't meet Ayers until 1995, the year his memoir came out).

Normally I'd just ignore such bogus drivel, except that Cashill's smear was picked up by Andy McCarthy of National Review , which still enjoys (perhaps unfairly) a modicum of respectability.

"Did Obama Write Dreams from My Father ... Or Did Ayers?" asked McCarthy on Saturday. "I don't want to feed into what sounds, at first blush, like Vince Fosteresque paranoia," McCarthy writes, and then goes on to do just that. (In case you've forgotten, some conservatives accused Bill Clinton of murdering his longtime friend, Vince Foster, in 1993.)

McCarthy's rant was too much for fellow National Review contributor Jonathan Adler, the director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western University, to handle. Wrote Adler:

C'mon Andy. Giving credence to Jack Cashill's maybe-Ayers-wrote-Obama's-book theory is a bit much. This is even more outlandish than his stuff alleging a possible connection between Enron and Ron Brown's death. Even if Obama's book was ghost-written -- -and I've seen no evidence that it was -- fingering Ayers as the potential author is nutter-territory stuff.

Thus gave rise to a civil war at National Review's group blog, the Corner, over whether or not Obama wrote his own memoir. Responded McCarthy:

I resisted reading Cashill's analysis for a long time -- -and he's not the first to advance the idea that Obama did not write his book -- because I didn't want to be accused of wading into what could be taken as nutter stuff. I was then persuaded that I should at least look at it with an open mind. I'm convinced it raises major questions. I tried to treat them in a serious way. I expected to get gruff, but I did hope it wouldn't come from my own (diminishing) ranks. But such is the way it is these days.

Yes, these days conservatives can call out other conservatives as lunatics. Get used to it, Andy. Responded Adler in round II:

It's still a giant leap to Cashill's suggestion that Ayers was the actual writer of Obama's book, his "analysis" notwithstanding. There are more serious issues at stake, and we can do better than that.

But can they? While the economy tanks and America plunges into recession, there's nothing but Ayers, Ayers, Ayers over at the Corner. Not so long ago, conservatives liked to brag about how they belonged to the "party of ideas." When those ideas run dry -- or are actually implemented to disastrous effect (see Bush, George W.), conspiracy-mongering is all they have left.

Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation, covering national politics and the 2008 election, and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute.

 
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