OK. I think I understand why he did it. At first I didn't think Obama's release of his long form birth certificate would do him much good. But now I'm beginning to think the president knows exactly what he's doing, how it could help him, and how it can potentially hurt the GOP.
Birther Blues: Obama's Birth Certificate
The White House released President Obama’s original birth certificate Wednesday.
The surprise release follows recent and sustained remarks by businessman Donald Trump, among others, that raised doubts as to whether the president was born in the United States.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Trump said, “I have accomplished something nobody else has accomplished.”
“I want to look at it, but I hope it's true,” he added. “He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to have played such a big role in hopefully getting rid of this issue.”
Earlier Wednesday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the debate has been “really bad for the Republican Party.”
The so-called “birther” debate is “good politics” but “bad for the country,” said Pfeiffer.
Now, you can see it for yourself.
Again, on one level I understand why he did it. He explained as much in his remarks.
I know that there is going to be a segment of people that no matter what we put out, this issue is not going to be put to rest,” he told reporters. “We don’t have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have better stuff to do.”
Obama gave the surprise remarks nearly an hour after releasing his long-form birth certificate in an effort to put to rest a debate spanning more than two years over whether he was born in Hawaii and the United States and has a legitimate right to be president under the Constitution.
Instead of focusing on the birther issue,the American public and the media should pay more attention to the raging budget debate taking place between Democrats and Republicans, which will have enormous implications for the future of the country, Obama said.
“We’ve got some enormous challenges out there,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we deal with our deficit and our debt…but we’re not going to be able to do it if we’re distracted, if we spend time vilifying each other.”
“We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, if we get distracted by a sideshow and carnival barkers,” he continued.
The “sideshow and carnival barkers” makes me think Obama knows what he’s doing. He knows very well that the hard core GOP birthers won’t be satisfied by this.
It might shut Trump up (though I somehow doubt it), but it runs too deep with birthers to be satisfied by this.
Because, as I said before, birthers are the latest incarnation of a very old American phenomenon.
Has there been anything on the political scene, in recent memory, as amusing or disturbing as the "Birthers".
Birther - A racist sore loser who can't deal with having a black president so they make up absurd conspiracy theories about Barack Obama's birth certificate.
I didn't recognize them at first, when we first met them. Their particular brand of insanity hadn't yet blossomed during the campaign. But the seeds, long planted, were ready and waiting.
They burst through the loamy soil of modern conservatism. They were fertilized all along the campaign trail, actively cultivated by the McCain/Palin campaign. Palin never failed to toss out fresh rhetorical dung during her campaign speeches. The not-so-subtle references to "real America" and "real Americans" (phrases used and defended even in the mainstream media, which helped water the young tendrils of birtherdom as well), and suggestions that Obama just didn't "get" America ANC "real Americans."
That's because their definition of American - and especially "real American" - really means only one thing. And their insistence on pressing their irredeemably inaccurate case, and resolute ignorance of how citizenship works is really flimsy a cover for their ideas on who is and isn't an American or a "real American." In fact, the "Birthers" are the just the most recent example of American conservatism's own brand of "identity politics."
The Guardian’s Tom Rogan aptly explains what I earlier called the birthers’ (and the GOP’s) “resolute ignorance” on how citizenship works.
There was even a meme, debunked by Snopes.com, that Obama’s mother was not eligible to confer automatic citizenship upon her son because she was “too young” to have met the requirement of being a U.S. citizen and having live in the country for 10 years, at least five of those years after the age of 16. According to Snopes, the requirement applies only to those Americans who were born outside of the United States, and since Obama was born in Hawaii (and, yes, Hawaii was a state when he was born, and had been for two years), it makes no difference how old his mother was at the time.
Of course, Obama wasn’t talking to the hardcore birthers. He was talking over their heads to the other “adults in the room” who were likely nodding their heads in agreement with his remarks about how the question of his birth got more attention than any of the serious challenges the country is grappling with.
Obama was speaking over the birthers’ heads to the 4 out of 10 Americans who believe the economy is getting worse. He was talking to those Americans who are mystified by the agenda the GOP is pursuing in the midst of what Robert Reich called a “wageless recovery” that puts many households in a bind because they had a tough enough time making ends meet with two paychecks before the recession, and now they’re down to “one-and-a-half, or just one, and its shrinking.”
We already knew that the folks involved in debating and designing economic policy had a weak understanding of economics, that is why they couldn’t see the $8 trillion housing bubble that wrecked the economy, but now it seems that they are breaking their ties to reality altogether. The country is still smoldering in the wreckage of the collapsed housing bubble, but the victims have left the policy debate altogether.
Twenty five million people are unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether, but that’s not on anyone’s agenda. Millions of homeowners are underwater in their mortgage and facing the loss of their homes, that’s also not on anyone’s agenda. Tens of millions of baby boomers are at the edge of retirement and have just lost their life savings. This also is not on anyone’s agenda.
Washington is, once again, out of touch with American families - as Eugene Robinson noted.
What is it about the word jobs that our nation's leaders fail to understand? How has the most painful economic crisis in decades somehow escaped their notice? Why do they ignore the issues that Americans care most desperately about?
Listening to the debate in Washington, you'd think the nation was absorbed by the compelling saga of deficit reduction. You'd get the impression that in households across America, parents put their children to bed and then stay up half the night sifting through piles of think-tank reports on the kitchen table, trying to calculate whether there will be enough in the Social Security trust fund to pay benefits beyond 2037.
And you'd be wrong. Those parents are looking at a pile of bills on the kitchen table, trying to decide which ones have to be paid now and which can slide. The question isn't how to manage health care or retirement costs two decades from now. It's how the family can make it to the end of the month.
President Obama gives signs of beginning to perceive this disconnect. His Republican opponents, not so much.
Obama likely had two goals with this speech, and neither of them was to finally put birther claims to rest.
First, he was giving millions of Americans a sign that he is at least as fed up as they are with a GOP agenda that both ignores and draws attention from the “enormous challenges” the country faces, and the economic challenges American families struggle with every day. He wasn’t talking to the GOP, the tea party, or the birthers when he said “We don’t have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have better stuff to do.” He was talking to millions of Americans who are growing increasingly weary of right-wing “silliness.”
Second, Obama was giving the GOP just enough rope to hang themselves, politically. Obama knows what the GOP knows: that the birther’s are something of a “tar baby” for Republicans.
The Tar-Baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br’er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. The more that Br’er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he becomes. In modern usage, “tar baby” refers to any “sticky situation” that is only aggravated by additional contact. The only way to solve such a situation is by separation.
It’s no coincidence that Trump rode the birther issue all the way to the front of the pack of GOP candidates for 2012. He wasn’t just appealing to racial feelings as old as the nation itself. He was appealing to birthers who make up a majority of likely GOP primary voters in 2012. He was appealing to a sizable chunk of Republicans too.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's announcement Monday that he will not seek the presidency is just the latest sign that politically sentient Republicans fear their party's voters have moved so deeply into la-la land that winning their support in next year's primaries could render their nominee unelectable in November. "Friends of Barbour," reports The Post's Dan Balz, "said that he had come to the conclusion that Republicans can win only if they are totally focused on serious issues and not distracted by some side issues, such as Obama's birthplace, that have arisen in the early going."
But Republicans are massively distracted by birtherism. A New York Times-CBS News poll last week showed that while 57 percent of Americans believe that President Obama was born in the United States, against 25 percent who didn't, just 33 percent of Republicans believed him American-born, while 45 percent did not. The Republican level of birtherism was effectively identical to that of self-identified Tea Party supporters, 34 percent of whom thought Obama was U.S.-born, while 45 percent did not.
Which is to say that the loopy, enraged divorce from reality of the Tea Potniks has infected the entire party.
Here's the thing: Trump's candidacy is largely a problem of the GOP's own making. It's a symptom of circumstances Republicans have spent the last two years tacitly cultivating as an asset. Republican leaders have at best refused to tamp down the most outlandish right-wing conspiracy-mongering about the president and at worst have actively enabled it. The result: A substantial portion of their base believes a complete myth about the president's birth certificate, and Republicans are stuck with a candidate shameless enough to exploit the issue without resorting to the usual euphemisms more respectable Republicans tend to employ when hinting at the president's supposed cultural otherness.
I don't know how you solve a problem like Donald Trump, but I know it's a problem the Republican Party brought on itself.
That’s why Republicans have been working hard to put some “daylight” between themselves and the birthers.
- Michelle Bachmann told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopolis that the issue of Obama’s birth and citizenship is “settled,” by his certificate of live birth.
- House Speaker John Boehner called the question of Obama’s birthplace and citizenship settled, declaring “The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there,” Boehner said. “That’s good enough for me.”
- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he believes Obama is a citizen, adding “I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all. . It is not an issue that even needs to be on the policy-making table right now whatsoever.”
- Tim Pawlenty said Republicans shouldn’t “play into” birther conspiracy theories, adding “I, for one, do not believe we should be raising that issue.”
- Glenn Beck said Trumps claims made him “uncomfortable.”
- Republican governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s “birther bill” - which would have required President Obama to show “proof of citizenship” - calling it a “bridge too far.”
- Karl Rove called Trump a “joke candidate” and “part of the ‘nutty right’.”
If birtherism is forcing Republicans to take a stand, it’s because they know what Obama knows: Birtherism isn’t going to go away. Having congratulated himself on the release of Obama’s long form birth certificate, Trump has moved on to challenging Obama’s ivy league credentials. Same dog whistle, different tune. This could be a problem for Republicans, whether Trump actually gets the nomination or not. Surveys show registered voters don’t like “the Donald” - 46% have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and 47% would vote for Obama over Trump. If he loses the GOP nomination, Trump is likely to run as an independent, and he could take a chunk of GOP voters with him if he does.
Meanwhile in Arizona, Jan Brewer is facing a backlash after vetoing the “birther bill” passed by the state legislature. Like other Republican leaders, Brewer told CNN she believes its clear that Obama was born in Hawaii, and said the birther issue is leading the country “down a path of destruction.”
The truth is that the birther issue is leading the GOP down a path of destruction; caught between an increasingly fed up electorate, and an increasingly far-out base. While the rest of America shrugs, and waits for a debate on real issues, the GOP’s birther base is already eating up the red meat the president flung their way.
- WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah claims the long form birth certificate “raises as many questions than it answers,” and Bob Unruh’s article suggests that the long form birth certificate shows that Obama had “dual citizenship through his father” and that “the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born citizens.”
- Birther queen Orly Taitz says Obama’s long form birth certificate should say “Negro” not “African.”
- And the long form birth certificate is already getting the PhotoShop treatment from blogging birthers.
- The Smoking Gun offers even more “nutty points about the birth certificate sure to be seized upon by the nonbelievers.”
Most of those “nutty points” probably will be taken up by the birthers. President Obama, having produced the document they’ve demanded for two years, has now laid to rest any reasonable concerns about his birth, citizenship status, and eligibility for office. Most reasonable people will see that, and will grow even more tired of the distraction of the GOP’s birther base. With this move, President Obama had made sure it’s no longer his problem. Instead, he’s made it the GOP’s problem, and planted a seed in the minds of millions of Americans who don’t want to be their problem much longer.
crossposted at Republic of T