Rick Perry is proposing an optional 20% flat income tax this week, but the Texas governor seems to be scuttling whatever opportunity he may have had to re-establish himself as a credible conservative challenger to Mitt Romney by toying with conspiracy theories about the president that were long ago put to rest.

Perry was tripped up by the birther "issue" during an interview with Parade magazine that was released this weekend:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?

I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—

Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.

I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?

I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.


That came up.

And he said?

He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?

I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

To make matters worse, Perry then told the New York Times that birtherism is a "good issue to keep alive." Via the Washington Examiner:

NY TIMES: You chose to keep [the birther issue] alive in an interview with Parade Magazine over the weekend. Why did you do it.?

PERRY: It’s a good issue to keep alive. You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. [...]

NY TIMES: It sounds like you really do have some doubt about it.

PERRY: I haven't seen his grades. My grades ended up on the front page of the newspaper. So if we're going to show stuff, let's show stuff. But look that's all a distraction. I mean, I get it. I'm really not worried about the president's birth certificate. It’s fun to poke him a little bit and say “Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.” [...]

NY TIMES: But are you saying that your comments about that are kind of a joke? Or do you seriously have an unresolved question like Donald Trump has about this?

PERRY: I don’t have a clue about where the president — and what this birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction. I’m not distracted by it. If those of you in the media want to talk about it that's fine. But what we've really got to be focused on is how we're going to get this economy back on track.

David Freddoso calls Perry's remarks "disqualifying."

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