The Case of Jerome Corsi

I'm not big on ritual denunciations: I'd rather argue with people than read them out of the conversation, as a general rule, and I hope my distaste for certain styles of political discourse is clear enough without my having to publicly denounce Ann Coulter every time she pulls an offensive, sales-goosing stunt on live TV. But along with Jon Henke and Pete Wehner, I think it's worth making an exception in the case of Jerome Corsi's anti-Obama book, whose Amazon page won't be linked here. It isn't just that Corsi himself is a conspiracy theorist and a crank, or that his best-selling farrago of innuendo and outright smears exemplifies everything that's wrong with a certain sort of right-wing publishing, or that David Freddoso's The Case Against Barack Obama demonstrates that it's perfectly possible to write an anti-Obama book without descending into the fever swamps. It's that this is an election where conservatives need to be very, very conscious about the importance of line-drawing: If the Right is going to resist the ongoing attempts by Obamaphiles to define various sorts of normal political elbow-throwing (cutting ads making fun of Barack Obama's political style, calling attention to the controversial public utterances of Michelle Obama and Jeremiah Wright, etc.) as inherently racist and hatemongering, conservatives need to be very clear about where the line actually is, and what sort of attacks are actually beyond the pale and worth condemning.

In a related vein, I can't help noticing that Andrew has decided to elevate this campaign's tone with eleven posts (and counting, as I write) about the possibility that John McCain fabricated and/or plagiarized his story about a North Vietnamese guard sketching a Christmas-time cross in the prison camp dirt. It is, of course, possible that Andrew's suspicions are justified and McCain invented (or at the very least seriously embellished) the story to pander to the dread Christianists; all sorts of things are possible when you're dealing with a story that almost by definition can't be corroborated. But if this is the standard we're establishing, it's also possible that Jerome Corsi is right when he insinuates that Barack Obama is deliberately concealing the extent of his childhood exposure to Islam in order to maintain his political viability. After all, who can really say?

Look, if Andrew thinks the possible "cross in the dirt" fabrication represents a fruitful line of anti-McCain inquiry, he has every right to pursue it. But given my colleague's steady appeals for a more high-minded approach to political argument, I think he should ponder whether this sort of thing might, just possibly, be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.