With the revelation that roughly as many Americans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim as those who believe that building a mosque at Ground Zero is a swell idea, democrats and the media (so far as they are distinguishable) have apparently cottoned to a new type of "pin the extremist on the Republican": asking Republican candidates whether they believe Obama is a Muslim.
In an interview with Roll Call, GOP candidate Tom Ganley, running against vulnerable Democratic incumbent Betty Sutton in OH-13 (No. 62 in the First Read Field of 64), would not say whether he thinks the president is a Muslim.
Look, I certainly get that it's fun to see whether candidates will express disagreement with beliefs held by the extremist fringe members of their base; that's why every Democrat in the country is getting asked whether they agree with Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. Not by the media, mind you, but rather by guerilla bloggers with Flip cameras; whatever, the information is getting out there. And look, it's patently ridiculous to suggest that Obama is a secret Muslim. Just because the guy offered no Easter prayer or offeratory statement on the White House website, whereas Ramadan had both (closing with "may God's peace be upon you") is no reason to think the guy secretly prays to the East. Just because he gave a lengthy and sympathetic speech to Muslims at a prayer dinner for Ramadan and pretty much ignored the National Day of Prayer, that's no evidence at all that he directs his prayers to Allah. And it's absolutely irresponsible to draw conclusions from the fact that he went to church for 20 years without hearing any of the sermons, or from the fact that his dad was apparently confused about whether he was a Muslim when he enrolled him in a Madrassa as a kid. These beliefs are fringe, and are certainly no more worthy of the media's respect than the belief that building a mosque at Ground Zero is appropriate.
The point, however, is that whether Barack Obama is a Muslim or not is a complete sideshow. The ambush on Ganley to ask him this completely irrelevant question was certainly not the first, nor will it be the last. For instance, Missouri Senate candidate Roy Blunt was ambushed recently during the middle of a discussion of his deficit reduction proposal and asked repeatedly whether he supported Paul Ryan's Roadmap plan. The clear reason for this was to give Robin Carnahan ammo to claim that Blunt is trying to steal social security checks (scaring the elderly on Social Security being the most time-honored baseless attack in the left's political arsenal). Blunt refused to take the bait and tried to turn discussion back to his own plan, and the story becomes "Blunt distancing himself from Paul Ryan" (having failed to paint Blunt as an extremist, might as well alienate him from the TEA Party people).
In the same way, Ganley refused today to answer a completely irrelevant question, and the story becomes that he "refuses to say whether Obama is a Muslim." This, of course, is completely different from "I have no position on whether Obama is a Muslim" (what Ganley actually said), which clearly implies not giving a crap about whether he is a Muslim or not. Allow Ganley to clear it up in even more excruciating detail:
When asked whether he believes Obama is a Muslim, Ganley "said he would prefer not to answer that question, because he felt it was irrelevant to the interview at hand," said Ganley spokeswoman, Meghan Snyder. "For the record, he doesn't believe the president is Muslim."
"I do not believe President Obama's religion has any impact on the need for jobs in Ohio's 13th district," Ganley said in a press statement. "According to the White House, our president is a Christian and I have no reason to believe otherwise."
There. Problem solved. But don't expect this to be the end of completely irrelevant questions asked to GOP candidates. The media senses that the end is coming for Democratic reign in Congress, and that every second Republicans are reminding people of the damage the Democrats have wrought just hastens the process. Therefore, the only thing left to do is to get try to get them talking about something else, and lie about what they said when Republicans refuse to take the bait. Pretty soon, Marco Rubio is going to get asked whether he has any comment on the possibility that Barack Obama was born on Jupiter. And woe to him if he dares to respond with "That's a ridiculous question and I'm not dignifiying it with a response" lest MSNBC report, "Marco Rubio refuses to deny that Barack Obama was born on Jupiter."
Sad and predictable, and the voters aren't taking the bait.