Feet to the fire

FEET TO THE FIRE…. Responding to the latest conspiracy theory from the right — the one about Obama and Republican car dealerships — Kevin Drum raises a very good point, which I hadn’t considered. After noting that the argument didn’t stand up well to scrutiny, Kevin notes:

So that’s that. But I want to defend Doug Ross and the RedState folks who publicized this anyway. I’m serious. Sure, it turned out that nothing was going on, but you know what? If George Bush’s administration had gone down this road, I’d want someone to watch them like a hawk too. The crackpotty writing may be a source of amusement, and I have no doubt that these guys are, as usual, going to embarrass themselves in an Ahab-like quest to prove that Obama really did force Chrysler to target Republican donors — with the lapdog mainstream media covering up for him because, you know, that’s what they do.

But even so, I say dig away. Even blind squirrels find nuts occasionally, and if the government is going to be running car companies, then this is exactly the kind of thing people should be watching out for. That’s what opposition parties are for.

I agree with just about all of this. There’s nothing wrong with due diligence, and if conservative bloggers want to hold elected officials’ feet to the fire, more power to ’em. It’s what being politically engaged is all about.

The only small caveat I’d add is that the right, in the midst of its digging, should also recognize the problems associated with embarrassing themselves in Ahab-like quests too much. Outlets need at least a shred of credibility for when they really do find a story that’s legit.

When the boy who cried wolf actually saw a wolf, as I recall, no one much cared. Similarly, conservative bloggers and talk-radio hosts are constantly finding scandalous schemes and outrageous abuses relating to the White House. Some are transparently ridiculous, and some take a few seconds on Google to debunk, but either way, they shout a lot of nonsense. Eternal vigilance is generally wise, but if the opposition party finds a real gem in its 1000th try, it’ll be easier to ignore if the first 999 tries were nonsensical.

It reminds me of a tabloid, which routinely publishes thinly-sourced garbage, but once in a great while, has a legitimate scoop. The real story would be easier to believe if the tabloids weren’t consistenly such an embarrassment.

Kevin’s right; conservative blogs should keep on digging. But once “right-wing blogger” becomes synonymous with “trashy check-out aisle tabloid,” it might be too late for their news to matter.