The scariest thing about right blogtopia is that it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate clearly between its personnel with their peculiar “ideas” and perky obsessions, and those of mainstream Republican elites in Washington DC. Not long ago the GOP adapted itself with alacrity to its new spectrum of nutty radio ranters, so perhaps its not surprising now to find someone as debased as blogger Michael Goldfarb acting as a spokesman for the Republican presidential candidate. The real question is how quickly the worst elements of rightopia will be melded into what’s left of the bastions of Republican power, and how low together they will stoop.
Here’s a clue that it’ll be sooner, and lower, than you thought possible. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) and his brother-in-law recently decided to hire an Oxford don to help them to prove that Barack Obama did not write his 1995 memoir, Dreams from my father. Instead, they wanted to prove that William Ayers ghost-wrote the book for Obama. Truly.
It’s one of those goofy conspiracy theories that’s abounded this year in rightopia as the Republicans’ crushing electoral defeat loomed larger. Here for example is the ironically named American Thinker cataloguing the “evidence” that former terrorist Ayers wrote Obama’s memoir.
So enter Congressman Cannon, trying to turn the tide for John McCain:
Dr Peter Millican, a philosophy don at Hertford College, Oxford, has devised a computer software program that can detect when works are by the same author by comparing favourite words and phrases.
He was contacted last weekend and offered $10,000 (£6,200) to assess alleged similarities between Obama’s bestseller, Dreams from My Father, and Fugitive Days, a memoir by William Ayers.
The offer to Millican to prove that Ayers wrote Obama’s book was made by Robert Fox, a California businessman and brother-in-law of Chris Cannon, a Republican congressman from Utah. He hoped to corroborate a theory advanced by Jack Cashill, an American writer.
Fox and Cannon each suggested to The Sunday Times that the other had taken the initiative.
Cannon said that he merely recommended computer testing of the books. He doubted whether Obama wrote his autobiography, adding: “If Ayers was the author, that would be interesting.”
It was the brother-in-law who contacted Millican with the offer of $10,000 if he could prove asap that Obama relied on Ayers to write the book. I would have said that up to that point all of this conspiracy-mongering was pretty far outside what you’d expect from a member of Congress. But what followed is right out of the old school Republican playbook.
Millican took a preliminary look and found the charges “very implausible”. A deal was agreed for more detailed research but when Millican said the results had to be made public, even if no link to Ayers was proved, interest waned.
Millican said: “I thought it was extremely unlikely that we would get a positive result. It is the sort of thing where people make claims after seeing a few crude similarities and go overboard on them.” He said Fox gave him the impression that Cannon had got “cold feet about it being seen to be funded by the Republicans”.
Hiding the partisan origin of funding for research; not interested in the facts if the facts don’t advance their partisan agenda. Classic stuff.
It looks like the old and the new wings of the Republican party already have reached a perfect accommodation with each other.