When unhinged conspiracy theories become self-defeating

Updated

Remember Rep. Joe Wilson (R)? The right-wing South Carolinian has been in the U.S. House for nearly 12 years, and apparently has distinguished himself exactly once: he shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on health care policy.

Apparently, though, Wilson is still on Capitol Hill, and piped up during a House Foreign Affairs Committee today with a question on Syria for Secretary of State John Kerry.

For those who can’t watch clips online, note that Wilson, with a halting cadence, very carefully read a question that someone on his staff apparently prepared for him:

“With the president’s red line, why was there no call for military response in April? Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obamacare enforcement, the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration or the upcoming debt limit vote? Again, why was there no call for a military response four months ago when the president’s red line was crossed?”

Now, I can appreciate a wild-eyed conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but even by House GOP standards, this is just stark raving mad. First, the “scandals” Wilson believes in don’t exist; things are going fairly well for the Affordable Care Act; and sequestration was Republicans’ fault.

Second, think about the point Wilson is trying to make with his deeply silly question: the White House was, the theory goes, overwhelmed in April by scandals and policy fiascoes. To “divert attention” from all of these terrible problems, President Obama did … nothing.

Wilson’s conspiracy theory would at least have internal consistency if Obama had bombed Syria at the time, giving conservatives an opportunity to say the military offensive was timed to be a distraction from domestic difficulties. But Wilson doesn’t even have that – he saying Obama didn’t intervene in Syria in April to “divert attention” from made-up controversies, suggesting the congressman doesn’t even understand the words of the conspiracy theory someone wrote for him to repeat during the hearing.

Alas, Wilson wasn’t alone.

Sahil Kapur reported on a related conspiracy theory from another South Carolina Republican.

Secretary of State John Kerry erupted at Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) after the congressman charged that the Obama administration cannot be trusted to carry out an attack on Syria due to mistakes made in Benghazi and controversies involving the IRS and NSA programs.

“I cannot discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war without talking about Benghazi,” Duncan said, questioning Kerry at a Wednesday hearing.

“The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people, due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago. When you factor in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the AP and James Rosen issues, Fast and Furious and NSA spying programs, the bottom line is that there is a need for accountability and trust-building from the administration,” he said. “The American people deserve answers about Benghazi before we move forward in Syria’s civil war.”

Kerry dismissed Duncan’s garbage rhetoric out of hand.

If the right-wing lawmaker’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Duncan is fond of conspiracy theories about the IRS and firearms; he believes conspiracy theories involving the Census Bureau; and he pushed Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing in April. He’s also a birther.

Syria, Conspiracy Theories, Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson

When unhinged conspiracy theories become self-defeating

Updated