The Medina Flap: Paul Burka French Kisses Glenn Beck

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Debra Medina, the insurgent Republican candidate for governor, screwed up big-time on Glenn Beck’s radio show on Thursday. Asked whether she’s a 9/11 “truther,” Medina failed to say that she doesn’t subscribe to the nutty conspiracy theories about the Bush administration having some culpability or knowledge of the deadly terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Instead, she said, “I don’t have all the evidence,” and that “there are some very good questions that have been raised” about it.

Since the 9/11 conspiracy is propounded mostly by left-wing and libertarian nuts, rather than Republican loonies, it’s one of the few conspiracies that Beck doesn’t actively promote. If Medina had gone on the show and said that ACORN stole the 2008 election, or that global warming is a fiction cooked up by socialist one-worlders, she’d have gone over just dandy. But “trutherism” is a no-no for Beck. So he quickly cut off Medina and declared himself ready to “French kiss Rick Perry”—who’d been slammed on the show recently as well.

There are two ways to process Medina’s “truther” comments: either she’s one herself, and trying to hide it, or she was caught off-guard by the question and bungled the answer badly. I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with Medina, in preparation for an upcoming profile, and I have no idea which is true. Nor do I particularly give a hoot. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that a candidate for governor of Texas should be judged by whether she believes in some far-fetched conspiracy theory about a terror attack.

The more interesting thing, to me, has been the swift and shocked response from the conservative establishment — led, as usual, by Paul Burka, the Texas Monthly blogger, who dashed off a post headlined, “Medina self-destructs on Glen Beck radio show,” his fingers flying so fast that he didn’t take the time to spell Beck’s first name correctly.

Why did Medina’s silly answer about something that has nothing to do with governing Texas mean that she had “self-destructed”? Burka didn’t explain (fingers, again, perhaps flying too fast). The things Medina very clearly stands for — nullification and eliminating property taxes, to name two biggies — are sufficiently radical that you wouldn’t think her supporters would be especially put off by the fact that she wouldn’t take a definitive position on “trutherism.”

As usual, one of Burka’s commenters made more sense than the man himself: “Anonymous” wrote, “Seriously – how is flirting with 911 truthers considered ‘self destructive’ when Medina and Perry are openly embracing secessionists, separatists, and people who threaten violence because of their fringe views? Who is deciding what is acceptable and what isn’t? 911 truthers just litter internet message boards with their garbage. There are actual people bringing guns to rallies and presidential speeches and calling for secession. Why isn’t that self destructive?”

Similarly, we might ask why giving beaucoup millions of taxpayer dollars to the subprime kings, Countrywide Financial, isn’t considered “self-destructive” to Gov. Perry’s prospects. I wouldn’t by any means be thrilled to see Medina in the governor’s office, but in general, I’d be more open to a “truther” (or even a “birther”) than someone who has abused the office the way Perry has.

But Gov. Perry, like Sen. Hutchison, is “acceptable” to the likes of Burka. Medina has wild ideas (along with a few good ones, like calling for a death-penalty moratorium), but her greater crime seems to be that she’s an outsider, a regular person who’s running for office on a shoestring — and thus doesn’t have a staff full of highly paid handlers who might prepare her for the kinds of “gotchas” that the likes of Glenn Beck might toss her way. Or to prepare her for the fact that her ideas about governing Texas might matter less to people like Burka than a stupid answer on a lunatic’s radio show.

Medina’s comments will probably hurt her with some Republican voters. But it won’t be so much the comments themselves that do the damage; it’ll be the media-fueled hysteria driven by Burka and other establishment journalists.

Her campaign tried to do damage-control soon after the flap erupted. Here’s Medina’s statement:

“I was asked a question on the Glenn Beck show today regarding my thoughts on the so-called 9/11 truth movement. I have never been involved with the 9-11 truth movement, and there is no doubt in my mind that Muslim terrorists flew planes into those buildings on 9/11. I have not seen any evidence nor have I ever believed that our government was involved or directed those individuals in any way. No one can deny that the events on 9-11 were a tragedy for all Americans and especially those families who lost loved ones.

“The question surprised me because it’s not relevant to this race or the issues facing Texans. This campaign has always been about private property rights and state sovereignty. It is focused on the issues facing Texans. It is not a vehicle for the 9-11 truth movement or any other group.

“The real underlying question here, though, is whether or not people have the right to question our government. I think the fact that people are even asking questions on this level gets to the incredible distrust career politicians have fostered by so clearly taking their direction from special interests instead of the people, whether it’s Rick Perry and the his HPV mandate or Kay Hutchison and voting for the bank bailout. It is absolutely the right and duty of a free people to question their government. Texas does not need another politician who tells you what you want to hear, then violates your liberties and steals your property anyway. I fully expect to be questioned and to be held accountable as Governor, and that’s the underlying issue here: should people be questioning their government. And the answer is yes, they should be.”