If you learned about David Barton, the conservative pseudo-historian whose “historical and biblical justification” is much-sought-after by right-wing presidential candidates, from today’s New York Times profile, you will mostly feel that he is a not very smart, fun-to-laugh-at trifle; Ralph Wiggum in 40 years, perhaps, and the personification of the joke that the Tea Party is. “Can you believe it,” Barton says, “James Madison opposed a bailout and stimulus plan in 1792!” No, David, I can’t!
But the Times, for whatever reason, decided not to delve into the messier parts of David Barton, like his white supremacist past, in which at one point he aligned himself with the Christian Identity movement, which holds, among other things, that the first Jew was born out of Eve’s coupling with the Satanic snake (apparently, there really are no truths outside the gates of Eden). Barton subsequently condemned racism, which he then laid entirely at the feet of liberals. So anyway, if you want to learn about Barton’s embarrassing kookiness, stick with the Times. If you want to know what he is really about and what presidential aspirants like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Michelle Bachmann are associating themselves with in seeking his consultations, read Michelle Goldberg’s Tablet Magazine profile. Like, now.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.