By now, I suspect you've heard that Barack Obama has released his long-form birth certificate, proving once and for all, to a doubting few who did not realize that they'd get Joe Biden for President should Obama somehow be proven ineligible to hold his elected office, that he was not born to outer-space Communist alien parents.
The White House has released President Obama's long-form birth certificate, saying the document is "proof positive" the president was born in Hawaii.
The release marked an unexpected turn in the long-simmering, though widely discredited, controversy over Obama's origin. Obama's advisers have for the better part of three years dismissed questions about the president's birth, directing skeptics to the short-term document released during the 2008 campaign. But as the issue gained more attention at the state level and particularly in the 2012 presidential race, Obama said Wednesday that it was starting to distract attention from pressing challenges like the budget.
© Hawaii Department of Health/ZUMAPRESS.com
"Unexpected" is a way of putting it mildly. Since the dawn of this "controversy," which, contrary to popular opinion, actually began with, of all people, Hillary Clinton, the Obama White House had staunchly maintained that to give into this ridiculous request was to give into a lunatic fringe armed with nothing more than their own awkward delusions.
Even now, it seems bizarre, particularly given that, although Democrats seem obsessed with saying birth certificate mythology dominated the media over the last two weeks, it accounted for just a little less than 4% of mainstream news coverage. It turns out that, no matter what Donald Trump was foaming at the mouth over, Americans were still pretty convinced that the economy was their number one priority, followed by Middle East unrest, the Japan quake and, most likely, Lindsay Lohan's arrest record.
So yeah, it seems weird. But I'll get to that in a second.
Trump's agenda in all of this is clear: The group of birth certificate truthers known collectively as "birthers" are easy prey for a quick grassroots movement. Clearly, they aren't interested in questioning too deeply, and from the beginning, they've seemed willing to follow just about anyone who threw them cracker crumbs on the subject. Trump saw an easy way into the spotlight through them and took it.
It's a simple marketing strategy, really: identify an audience that has a high probability of becoming brand ambassadors quickly and hop on their bandwagon. Sure, that bandwagon is going straight to Crazytown, but all Trump needed was a wedge.
From there, Trump built his campaign, attracted attention and garnered a media following so quickly and adeptly that the President of the United States, yesterday, had to wait for a man whose greatest accomplishment to date is convincing the elderly citizens of New Jersey that they needed another casino, to conclude a press conference before the President began his. On the back of the Birther movement, Trump has ascended to political influence. If only coming out of bankruptcy had been this easy.
Obama earns a bit by giving in. No matter what, the big reveal was going to be a big, if temporary boon, to his image. It was a quick and easy chance to show a right wing fringe for what it was -- scarily ignorant and bizarrely preoccupied. In this scenario, he trades off giving birthers a teensy bit of credibility for giving his supporters a moment of fire under their butts and providing an end to an issue that's been given entirely too much attention.
He also neatly distracts from $5-per-gallon gasoline, bad unemployment numbers, stagnant economic growth and floundering foreign policy. For a shining moment, Obama had the upper hand. He could condemn silliness with a puffed chest before flying off to the loving arms of Oprah. And to boot, he handily headed off Jerome "Swiftboat" Corsi's preachy tome on Obama's eligibility, due out on May 17, and now, totally and utterly useless (as are a bunch of unaired CNN "exposes" on the subject).
Obama loses, too. For one, when you sort of make up a controversy to begin with, there's no real possible end to that controversy. Nothing's going to ever prove to some Americans, including my hippie mother, that we walked on the moon. People are still pretty sure that there's a kidney theft ring in Las Vegas that'll leave you neck deep in ice in a hotel bathtub, and that you can die from consuming Pop Rocks and Pepsi at the same time. Yesterday's revelation gave way to what Wonkette termed a "Children's Treasury" of crazy excuses, ranging from birth certificate forgeries to PDF manipulation, to wacky theories about rollerball ink.
Birther-in-chief Orly Taitz, who the civil rights movement seems to have left untouched, even went so far as to suggest that since the birth certificate didn't reference Obama's father as a "Negro," it couldn't have been from the sixties since, apparently, people of a bygone era weren't progressive enough to identify themselves by their own land of origin. Birther news central, World Net Daily, which informs the heart of the movement, remains so unconvinced, you can sort of hear the whole website with its fingers in its ears yelling "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" at the top of it's lungs.
Sure, it's a bump, but it's a bump he could have used at a more opportune moment. After all, regardless of the veracity of the birther claims (and the subjective sanity of the people making them), Dems have repeatedly seen fit to use the issue to raise claims of latent or implied racism, or to imply that the issue extends even into the mainstream of the conservative movement, forcing -- sometimes effectively -- Republican politicians who don't know better or who can't control themselves to apologize for something that's clearly not their fault. When better to force that hand than in the Republican primaries, when candidates are stepping all over each other in a wild effort to appeal to the middle? Sure, things are tough now, but they'll get tougher when eight angry GOPers are vying for the love of a nation.
Personally, had I been Obama, I might have responded with a simple request: Show me your real head of hair, Trump, and I'll show you my long-form birth certificate. You'd guarantee that Trump would never, in a million years, agree. And everyone would win. Because you wouldn't really want to know what Trump looks like...would you?
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