wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Pete Hoekstra and the slippery slope of birtherism

at 05:05 PM ET, 05/30/2012

Michigan GOP Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra is proposing a new panel to verify the citizenship of federal political candidates, but he’s facing some tough sledding.

The former congressman, whose proposal for what’s already been dubbed a “birther panel” came to light Wednesday, went on CNN this afternoon to talk about the idea.

It didn’t go well.

Hoekstra, despite saying he believes in the legitimacy of Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate, found himself in a combative interview in much the same way Donald Trump did the day before.

By the end of the exchange, CNN host Brooke Baldwin had played a clip of Hoekstra’s controversial and racially charged Super Bowl ad in which a young Asian-looking woman speaking broken English thanks Hoekstra’s opponent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), for sending jobs overseas. Baldwin went on to suggest that the “birther panel” might further the case of Hoekstra’s critics that he’s running a racially charged campaign.

Hoekstra couldn’t seem to find the words.

“I don’t know — no. I don’t know why they would call that and take it in that direction. Absolutely not,” Hoekstra said. “Excuse me. You’re just taking this into an area where I see absolutely no connection at all.”

Hoekstra added: “It’s an outrageous term, and it’s an outrageous question that you would even ask anything like that.”

The lesson here: When it comes to birtherism, it’s best to stay far, far away.

Hoekstra appears to be aiming for a common-sense solution to what has become a major distraction for the Republican Party. (Though it should be noted that he also faces a tea party primary challenger and might be looking to burnish his anti-Obama bona fides; Hoekstra initially made the remarks at a tea party rally. He has also notably criticized Sen. John McCain for not raising the issue during the 2008 campaign, according to reports.)

But a side effect is that Democrats can make it look like he’s dabbling in birtherism himself.

To be clear, Hoekstra himself didn’t appear to be pushing this idea publicly — it came to light after Democrats distributed footage of him at a tea party rally.

But he said it, it’s out there now, and he’s going to have to deal with it.

We have yet to see how it all pans out, but this looks like it could be another case of Hoekstra’s outside-the-box tactics causing some blowback.

 
Read what others are saying