Instapundit: Has Obama Legitimated Conspiracy Theories?

In USA Today, Glenn Instapundit Reynolds argues that Obama has mainstreamed conspiracy theorizing: 

Spend a little while on Twitter or in Internet comment sections and you'll see a significant number of people who think that the NSA may have been relaying intelligence about the Mitt Romney campaign to Obama operatives, or that Chief Justice John Roberts' sudden about-face in the Obamacare case might have been driven by some sort of NSA-facilitated blackmail.

A year ago, these kinds of comments would have been dismissable as paranoid conspiracy theory. But now, while I still don't think they're true, they're no longer obviously crazy. And that's Obama's legacy: a government that makes paranoid conspiracy theories seem possibly sane.

The problem with government is that to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy. And the problem with the Obama administration is that, to a greater extent than any since Nixon's, it is not. Do not be surprised if the result is that people mistrust those in authority, and order their lives accordingly. Such an outcome is bad for America, but bad governance has its consequences.

Read the whole thing.

I'm partway there in agreement: The Obama years have been marked by the sort of blatantly insincere encomia to transparency, fairness, and post-partisanship that are almost immediately revealed as false. The list includes everything from the IRS and NSA revelations Reynolds focuses on in his column to the adminstration's assertions that lobbyists wouldn't run policy, that you could keep your health plan if you liked it, that the stimulus would create jobs and jumpstart economic growth, and more. The reality is that Obama's time in office has been marked by failure, with the very notable exception of his winning a second term. Even Obamacare, the one thing he could point to as "transformative," is nothing to brag on these days (it matters, too, that it was passed without any Republican votes; regardless of the reasons, any law of that scope that can't even fake a nod to bipartisan support is almost certain to cause massive anxiety).

Yet I think Instapundit's analysis goes a bit too far a bit too fast. Obama was the subject of highly fraught conspiracy theorizing before he even won the Democratic nomination in 2008. The whole secret Muslim from Kenya birther shtick proceeded not from anything particular he did or proposed - it clearly was thrust upon him by a mix of racist theorizing and inchoate anxiety about the direction of the country. And, even more important, Obama comes after eight years of conspiracy mongering about George W. Bush - that he stole elections in 2000 and 2004 (remember all the "not my president!" stuff), that Dick Cheney and Haliburton was calling all the shots, or Big Oil, that Iraq was a personal mission to avenge assassination attempts on his life, that he planned the 9/11 attacks, and more.

Which is one way of saying that conspiracizing is as common a feature of the American landscape as, say, Mount Rushmore. It's man-made, for sure, but it never seems to go away. And it gets worse when the economy sucks and flagrant falsehoods and deceptions by government come to light (weapons of mass destruction, secret kill lists, you can keep your plan, etc.). And let us be clear: Obama's economic policies have helped keep the economy in the doldrums. Stimulus spending doesn't work and layering on massive amounts of uncertainty in the form of Obamacare (and Dodd-Frank) is no way to boost the economy.

Reynolds is surely right that "bad governance has its consequences." Between the Bush years and the way the Obama years have played out so far, it's going to take a long time for the nation's politicos to dig themselves out of the crisis of confidence they've inspired. That means the rest of us pay, both in lost time and resources, as power-brokers get their act together. And as I've noted elsewhere, one of the most disturbing outcomes is that bad government may counterintuitively create a demand for more regulation.

For a great discussion of how conspiracy theory has long been at the very center of American political and social life, read Jesse Walker's The United States of Paranoia.

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    legitimated?

  • SweatingGin||

    It's a perfectly cromulent word.

  • waffles||

    How long does it take for a neologism to become an accepted word? We're nearing 17 years on embiggen and cromulent.

  • Zeb||

    With those, I'd say that they have to stop being primarily Simpson's references first.

  • Sevo||

    "legitimated?"
    Irregardless.

  • Zeb||

    Hey, Do you have a PHD in English?

  • Spiny Norman||

    Exactly. Nick should feel free to architect any word he likes.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the NSA may have been relaying intelligence about the Mitt Romney campaign to Obama operatives, or that Chief Justice John Roberts' sudden about-face in the Obamacare case might have been driven by some sort of NSA-facilitated blackmail.

    Holy eff, I can only hope that Edward Snowden has this very thing and is readying its release at the most bestest moment.

  • ||

    That would be epically hilarious to see people bend that far backwards to explain away.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It would be pure entertainment all around.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Yet I think Instapundit's analysis goes a bit too far a bit too fast.

    Of course, that's what Nick wants us to think, or is it?

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Obama was the subject of highly fraught conspiracy theorizing before he even won the Democratic nomination in 2008. The whole secret Muslim from Kenya birther shtick proceeded not from anything particular he did or proposed - it clearly was thrust upon him by a mix of racist theorizing and inchoate anxiety about the direction of the country.

    Or the absolute, total lack of vetting him by the media during his rapid rise from a state legislature made people wonder what's being hidden. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if O's college transcripts made references to him getting scholarships from being foreign born. He did lie about being from Kenya on a book jacket when he thought mayor of Chicago would be as high as he got and that lie would benefit him w/ the 'right' people.

    Was he lying then or now if that's the case? Who knows?

  • Rotbard||

    "the absolute, total lack of vetting him by the media"

    Which media would that be? The musty, dead-tree, legacy media that everyone claims is irrelevant and superfluous? Or the fresh and bold New Media like Reason.com who never miss a trick? Are you claiming that the New Media dropped the ball?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The media that desperately looked into every facet of his life including what his idiot preacher said in every single sermon.

    CT is the domain of conservatives and they live it 24/7 since they group believe anything without evidence (like Creationism).

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Sorry, what was that about the Koch Brothers?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Something about tower 7 or steel never in history being melted by fire or somehting.

  • wareagle||

    right...20 years in Jeremiah's congregation and he was the only person never to hear what everyone else heard. And the birther thing started with Hillary whose husband also talked about the race card being played on him.

    Just stop. No one looked into anything re: Obama. Some folks acted like they were looking. Oddly, they are the same people who think Fat Chris' bridge caper is much larger than FF/AP/IRS/etc.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    OK, I'll play along. No one looked into Obama's past.

    So, in the five years since what have we learned about him that would change anything?

    Something factual - no goofy opinions.

  • Rotbard||

    Are you claiming that he still might not be a secret Muslim?

  • Rotbard||

    And what about his "birth certificate?"
    Shirley, that's suspicious.

  • Drake||

    Well, he sure seems intellectually incurious. I bet those sealed transcripts would back me up.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You're talking about Dumbya, the Dry Drunk.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|1.21.14 @ 12:01PM|#
    "BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSH!"
    Go fuck your daddy.

  • Drake||

    We all got to see Bush's and Kerry's transcripts complete with "Gentleman's C's".

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|1.21.14 @ 11:08AM|#
    'The media that I'll lie about every chance I get?'
    Go fuck your daddy.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I hear you chirping about "No Blood for Oil" but I don't see any of the damn oil.

    When's it going to get here, shrieky?

  • Irish||

    WaPo: How much will Wendy Davis' bio gaffe matter?

    Bio gaffe is to lie as democratic politician is to peasant

  • Idle Hands||

    I like how they act like faxahontas lying on her resume and getting/keeping the job based on that or someone lying about military service is on the same page as Romney using hyperbole in a stump speech.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It matters because it demonstrates that she is at the very least as sleazy as Newt Gingrich (who TEAM Blue insists was a very sleazy character) and, of course, that she is an unabashed liar (but veracity only matter with TEAM Red).

  • ||

    I love the automatic assumption that it's the good ol' boy system just trying to assert its patriarchy.

    Like Texas didn't elect Ann Richards to State Treasurer and then Governor. Or Kay Bailey as Senator for 10 fucking years.

  • Killaz||

    His supporters would like to characterize everything his critics have to say as a conspiracy theory because of the negative cognition of that phrase. His administration isn't a conspiracy, it's a swindle.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Confidence schemes are a type of conspiracy.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    WaPo: How much will Wendy Davis' bio gaffe matter?

    Let's face it, her story is not as compelling as if she wife the wife or orphan child of a former United States President, but they'll find a way to idolize her.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    wife were

  • Killaz||

    In other matters:

    New documents: NSA provided 2-3 daily “tips” to FBI for at least 3 years

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-po.....t-3-years/

    For any of you dread pirates out there, forwarned is forarmed.

  • An Innocent Man||

    Wasn't it Hillary's people who started the birther stuff during the 08 primaries?

  • Killaz||

    She needed the bitter clinger vote, so its okay when she did it. We know her policies would have been progressive even if her methodology was low brow.

  • Killaz||

    I meant that as sarcasm, but no doubt someone has already written that on the Democratic Underground, and meant it sincerely.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "...a significant number of people who think that the NSA may have been relaying intelligence about the Mitt Romney campaign to Obama operatives, or that Chief Justice John Roberts' sudden about-face in the Obamacare case might have been driven by some sort of NSA-facilitated blackmail."

    Of course, Glenn isn't saying this himself, nor is he saying that either of these things actually happened, only that they may have happened, according to some unidentified people.

    In the immortal words of Ron Bailey "Hmmm. Innuendo is a game that anyone can play." If you lack valid arguments against Obama (and how is that possible, considering his abysmal record?) one can always make up specious ones that "might" have happened. But isn't that a little bit stupid?

  • Rotbard||

    "isn't that a little bit stupid?"

    No, it's a lot bit stupid, but that's the blog world we're living in.

  • ||

    The whole point, anal, is that Obama's abysmal record allows for those innuendo's to gain more ground.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Was this a response to Mary or Vanneman? Either way works.

  • Mike M.||

    This administration's repurposing of the IRS as a tool to go after ordinary unknown citizens on the basis of their political affiliation really is unprecedented in our history. It has been used a before, but always against a president's elite, highly placed enemies, at least until now.

    Reynolds is right in that Obama makes believing the absolute worst all too easy.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Evidence?

    Oh, the Bush appointed head of the IRS must be "proof".

  • Mike M.||

    You should quit goofing off and get back to working on your piece of crap book, dipshit Dave. I know there's no way you can possibly be done.

  • Loki||

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|1.21.14 @ 11:40AM|#
    "Evidence?"
    Keep your blindfold on, dipshit.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    So you admit that Obama is at the very least, as bad as BOOSH the Busherian?

  • Drake||

    I think the informative part is how very few bureaucrats are willing to speak up when the government as a political weapon. Most are content to simply watch while the political hacks do as they please.

  • Loki||

    Do not be surprised if the result is that people mistrust those in authority, and order their lives accordingly. Such an outcome is bad for America

    How is it bad for America? I think a little more skepticism towards government is a good thing.

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