Why Conspiracies Don't Die

William Saletan critiques the latest in a string of interviews with leaders of the GOP who refuse to kill the birther conspiracies:

That's four straight interviews in which the country's three top Republicansthe speaker of the House and the GOP leaders in each chamberhave refused to condemn the spreading of lies about Obama's faith and citizenship.

These three men are confident enough in the personhood of fetuses to support banning abortion. They're confident enough in the efficacy and justice of the U.S. health care system to block funding of the Affordable Care Act. They're confident enough in Wall Street, despite the recklessness and bailouts of the last three years, to press for repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. But ask them whether Obama is a Muslim or was born in the U.S., and suddenly they're too humble to impose their beliefs on others. They can only describe "the facts as I understand them." They can only speak "for me." They can only "listen to the American people," not "tell them what to think."

These men aren't leaders. They're followers. To lead a party, much less a country, you have to be able to say no. You have to stand up to liars, lunatics, and dupes on your party's fringe.