Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 18, 2013.
Erika Rich/Austin American-Statesman/AP

The conspiracy-theory reflex is uncontrollable

Updated
It’s unclear if the White House expected the release of an American POW to become a partisan food fight, with Republicans who supported Bowe Bergdahl’s liberation condemning it soon after. But now that Republican sniping is in full effect, officials in the West Wing are, as Greg Sargent noted this morning, “placing its bet on Da Crazy.”
 
Greg added, “That is to say, White House officials are bracing for months of assaults on Obama’s handling of the swap, but they believe the Conservative Entertainment Complex will veer into over the top attacks that will alienate the broader public, which won’t see the basics of the situation in such lurid terms.”
 
If that is the plan, Obama administration officials won’t have to wait too long for “Da Crazy.” Indeed, it’s already here.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) suggested the recovery of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was done to distract people from the Veterans Affairs controversy…. Perry suggested the trade was done to distract from a controversy involving delays in healthcare for military veterans.
 
“Here’s the bigger concern for me, and I really would like for somebody to take a look at this and answer it – was this done to take the VA off the front page of the newspapers? An absolute debacle that we’ve seen this administration not taking care of the men and women of our military, and this kind of happened all of a sudden it seems like,” Perry said during an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
Perry added that his conspiracy theory is “really troubling,” which is an assessment I’m inclined to agree with for entirely different reasons.
 
What’s more, it’s not just the Texas governor – Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), himself a former military veteran, also suspects administration officials agreed to the prisoner swap as an elaborate ruse to distract the public.
 
It’s worth noting a couple of relevant details that Perry and Griffin may not be aware of. First, the diplomatic process that freed Bergdahl was initiated years ago (before the VA scandal was on front pages), and picked up speed months ago (also before the VA scandal was on front pages). To plan this as a distraction ploy, the White House would need a time machine.
 
Second, following Shinseki’s resignation, much of the political world had already begun to shift its attention away from the VA scandal, suggesting that if this were the White House’s motivation – it wasn’t, but we’re playing along with the nonsense for a moment – it didn’t need an elaborate international scheme involving multiple countries talking over several years.
 
So why in the world would far-right policymakers say stuff like this?
 
Because it appears that for many Republicans, the conspiracy-theory reflex is uncontrollable. For quite a while, every development in every area was seen as a distraction from Benghazi. Or maybe the IRS “controversy.” Or perhaps “Fast and Furious.” Or healthcare.gov’s two-month troubles.
 
The idea of simply evaluating developments on their merits is too difficult. It’s easier to see just about everything through a “there must be a conspiracy in here somewhere” lens. In the immortal words of Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), if Democrats believe Republicans are on a witch hunt, “that must mean there is a witch somewhere.”
 
“Da Crazy” is only going to get worse. Dana Milbank’s latest is a gem.
Rep. Buck McKeon displayed the probing intellect this week that we expect from a chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
 
Commenting on Fox News Channel about the prisoner swap with the Taliban that sprung U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the California Republican explained why he plans to hold hearings on the matter. “It really is kind of ironic, because this is kind of playing out much like Benghazi,” he said, “where they kind of do or don’t do something, and uh, and then kind of come up with a story afterward of why they did or didn’t do something. This is really mind-boggling.”
 
So the prisoner exchange in Afghanistan is “much like” the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya because, in both cases, the administration did or didn’t do something and then later gave an account of why it did or didn’t do that something. Scandalous.
Remember, McKeon is not some random pundit saying dumb things on Fox; he’s the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
 
It’s one thing for assorted oddballs to come up with bizarre arguments, but do Republicans have to give power and authority to those who share dumb conspiracy theories in public?
 

Bowe Bergdahl, Buck McKeon, Conspiracy Theories, Rick Perry and Tim Griffin

The conspiracy-theory reflex is uncontrollable

Updated