I do think that the mainstreaming of birtherism represents a new low in American political discourse, and I do think birtherism is born
e out of racism. I agree that the attacks on Clinton were just as bad in their own way, and probably more politically damaging:
As far as Clinton goes, in fact, calling him white trash who didn’t know his place was pretty mild, almost a compliment. Rightwing Republican operatives slimed him as a sleazy land speculator, a drug dealer, a drug addict, and even a murderer. His wife, of course, was a… lesbian (which to them is something to be ashamed of, as per Cheney’s behavior when Kerry noted Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation during a debate with Bush).
If you look at the crazy attacks on Clinton they always involved Clinton doing something sleazy — running drugs out of that airport in Arkansas, killing dozens of people in Arkansas (google “Clinton body count”), molesting staffers — whereas the crazy attacks on Obama usually involve Obama being a passive participant in something sleazy — the faking of his birth certificate by his family, the writing of his book by Bill Ayers.
Part of this is racial, no matter how well-spoken, a black man can probably never be a Clintonian evil genius in the eyes of Tea Party Nation. Part of it is that Obama just doesn’t come across as someone who does a lot of sleazy, underhanded things. I think that’s one of his political strengths,