Gov. Perry: Birther Nonsense Is "A Good Issue To Keep Alive"

October 25, 2011 10:40 am ET — Alan Pyke

When Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) flirted with the long-disproven notion that President Obama wasn't born in the United States in an interview published Sunday, he cited no less an expert than Donald Trump. He also suggested that the whole thing is a distraction, and that he's a serious guy who wants to focus on the real issues.

But now Perry's gone back for a second helping from the birther buffet, telling CNBC's John Harwood that "it's a good issue to keep alive." This time the comments are on video:

Harwood added this morning on MSNBC that he gave Perry repeated chances to say that Obama was born in the U.S. but the candidate declined to do so, opting instead to suggest that the whole thing is a big joke: "It's fun to poke at him a little bit and say hey, how about, let's see your grades and your birth certificate."

Perry's grin and the crack about grades don't make this any less of a dog whistle. To believe the "birther" nonsense, or to pander to it even momentarily as a high-profile Republican presidential candidate, is to endorse an elaborate conspiracy theory in which Obama is at best a fraud and at worst a foreign operative with insidious intentions. Perry apparently thinks he can wink at the lunatic fringe and still have his policy proposals taken seriously by everyone else.