Fast-forward to the last week or so. Van Jones, an avowed "communist" and passionate supporter of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, was a truther par excellence. Contrary to many reports, he didn't merely sign 911truth.org's petition in 2004, he helped organize one of the first truther groups as early as 2002.
When these and other revelations came to light, Jones resigned from his White House job as "green jobs czar."
The reaction from much of the liberal establishment has been fascinating, hypocritical and deeply creepy. For starters, the same White House that fueled the anti-birther boom has refused to offer a single critical word about Jones' past positions (some of which he recanted as his job security grew more threatened; we'll see how long that lasts).
In July, the popular left-wing Web site FiredogLake couldn't let go of the birther bit. One post -- titled "The Republican Party is the Birther Party, and it's dragging them down" -- made much of the fact that 28 percent of Republicans, according to one poll, do not believe that Obama is a natural-born citizen. This week, the site's founder, Jane Hamsher, was disgusted that Jones was "thrown under the bus," even though he subscribed to trutherism, a view that "35 (percent) of Democrats believed as of 2007."
Got that? Belief in an implausible conspiracy is a cancer on the GOP. Even greater belief in an even more implausible conspiracy is proof that it's mainstream.
Apologies for Jones and trutherism appeared instantly on the sites of the left-wing flagship magazines The Nation, The New Republic and elsewhere. The New York Times and Newsweek deliberately distorted what the truthers believe in order to make Jones look more reasonable and his critics more unreasonable. The Financial Times actually reported that Jones resigned for criticizing how the GOP majority had run Congress.
But mostly, the mainstream press changed the subject to how the right is paranoid and vaguely unpatriotic for opposing Obama's speech to schools Tuesday, despite the fact that most conservatives and Republicans didn't protest the speech once the Department of Education's controversially politicized lesson plans were withdrawn.
One last question is worth asking. Forget which is more plausible.
Which scenario is more unpatriotic, more malicious, more corrosive to civic life? In short: which is more evil? Again, I think the answer is obvious. Alas, it seems I'm in a minority.