POLITICS
09/21/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Corsi's Obama Book Inspires New Dissidents On Right

At last count, there are only four members of the dissident cell -- Peter Wehner, Ross Douthat, Jon Henke and John Hawkins -- conservatives who have broken ranks to harshly criticize Jerome Corsi's The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality.

All four make the case that Corsi presents a greater danger to the conservative movement and the Republican Party than to Barack Obama -- that for the right to take Corsi under its collective wing represents a moral and intellectual failing. This breakaway faction does not pull its punches as it challenges the ideological orthodoxy of fellow travelers.

"The French Revolution produced the saying 'no enemies to the Left' -- a mindset that has poisoned both the Left and the Right in American politics. As a result, some figures who should be repudiated have, instead, become prominent representatives. On the Right, in particular, the 'go along to get along' approach has created a Movement where the bad guys are protected, and the people who get promoted are those who make friends, not waves," wrote Henke on thenextright.com.

"The continued tolerance and prominence of Jerome Corsi -- his books, columns and appearances," Henke continued, "is embarrassing for the Right, embarrassing for Republicans, embarrassing for conservatives and libertarians, embarrassing for all of us."

John Hawkins of rightwingnews.com wrote:

"[T]here is one enormous problem with Jerome Corsi: he's a habitually dishonest buffoon who will say absolutely anything to make a buck. He's the Right's Michael Moore, except that Michael Moore has much more talent -- and certain boundaries beyond which, even he won't go." ...

"Keep in mind, folks, this is the same lunatic who has been running around for years telling people that George Bush is going to somehow personally merge the US, Canada, and Mexico over the objections of the American people and Congress. In other words: Jerome Corsi is a conspiracy nut whose credibility level is zero." Hawkins added sarcastically, "Oh yeah, let's put this embarrassing nutjob on point in the attack against Barack Obama -- what could go wrong?"

The Atlantic's Douthat sees Corsi's assault on Obama as posing a major danger to conservatism:

"It isn't just that Corsi himself is a conspiracy theorist and a crank, or that his best-selling farrago of innuendo and outright smears exemplifies everything that's wrong with a certain sort of right-wing publishing, or that David Freddoso's The Case Against Barack Obama demonstrates that it's perfectly possible to write an anti-Obama book without descending into the fever swamps. It's that this is an election where conservatives need to be very, very conscious about the importance of line-drawing: If the Right is going to resist the ongoing attempts by Obamaphiles to define various sorts of normal political elbow-throwing (cutting ads making fun of Barack Obama's political style, calling attention to the controversial public utterances of Michelle Obama and Jeremiah Wright, etc.) as inherently racist and hatemongering, conservatives need to be very clear about where the line actually is, and what sort of attacks are actually beyond the pale and worth condemning."

Former Bush White House aide Wehner, writing on the Commentary blog, expands on the same theme:

"Corsi's approach to politics is both destructive and self-destructive. If Senator Obama loses, he should lose on the merits: his record in public life and his political philosophy. And while it's legitimate to take into account Obama's past associations with people like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- especially for someone like Obama, about whom relatively little is known -- it's wrong and reckless to throw out unsubstantiated charges and smears against Senator Obama.

"Conservatism has been an intellectual home to people like Burke and Buckley. The GOP is the party that gave us Lincoln and Reagan. It seems to me that its leaders ought to make it clear that they find what Dr. Corsi is doing to be both wrong and repellent. To have their movement and their party associated with such a figure would be a terrible thing and it will only help the cause of those who hold both the GOP and the conservative movement in contempt."

While the views of Hawkins, Wehner, Douthat and Jon Henke are in the minority, their critiques of Corsi's work, in combination with a resounding repudiation by the mainstream media and a detailed 40-page rebuttal by the Obama campaign pointing out the book's innumerable errors of fact, have so far prevented a repetition the kind of damage John Kerry suffered four years ago when he failed to respond immediately and decisively to the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.