Mutually Assured Distraction: Birthers and Obama backers alike behave exactly as predicted, a good article by James Taranto, talks about the issue and sends us to an AP article on challenges to (the white) Chester A. Arthur's qualification to be president due to the belief he was born in Canada, a conspiracy theory that persists today:
Nearly 123 years after his death, doubts about his U.S. citizenship linger, thanks to lack of documentation and a political foe's claim that Arthur was really born in Canada - and was therefore ineligible for the White House, where he served from 1881 to 1885.
Long before "birthers" began questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama, similar questions were raised about the early years of Arthur, an accidental president who ascended to the job after President James Garfield was assassinated.
"It's an old rumor that won't die, political slander," said John Dumville, who runs Vermont's historic sites and knows well the legend. "It's a fun story, and it comes up every year. People latch on to it and they've read about it somewhere and they want to know more."
Over at Real Clear Politics, Steve Chapman tells us Why Birtherism is Here to Stay:
Birthers don't dislike Obama because they think he was born abroad. They think he was born abroad because they dislike him. ...Previously on AGIP: The Birther *GAG* Issue
The phenomenon, of course, is not limited to conservatives or Republicans. It's endemic to partisans and ideologues of every stripe. In a 1988 survey, Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to believe that inflation and unemployment rose under President Ronald Reagan -- though they had actually fallen.
A 2007 poll found that Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to say President George W. Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. A lot of them would believe he has the ExxonMobil logo tattooed on his chest.
Yale political scientists John Bullock, Alan Gerber and Gregory Huber say partisans don't just say false things about the opposition; they actually, sincerely believe them. These scholars asked respondents various factual questions about Obama, Reagan and Bill Clinton -- and offered monetary rewards for correct answers. Yet even when money was at stake, partisans still had a clear tendency to give answers (and make errors) that matched their preconceptions.