Apparently hoping to fan the flames of the “birther” controversy (which is making the right wing look ridiculous) President Obama today authorized the release of his “long-form” birth certificate, which, under the laws of the State of Hawaii, would otherwise not be subject to public records requests.
I’m guessing the White House knows full well that the release of this document isn’t going to shut up any birthers. Those who have convinced themselves Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen and wasn’t born in Hawaii were never going to be appeased with a long-form birth certificate.
But our brain-dead traditional media just loves faux controversies like this, as evidenced by CNN’s recent “special report” on the matter. Releasing the long-form birth certificate gives television commentators more evidence to use against those kooky birthers with when they inevitably end up talking about this.
The White House benefits if would-be Republican presidential hopefuls are spending their time in debates arguing whether Barack Obama was born in Hawaii or not. It makes the Republican Party look silly and dominated by conspiracy theorists. Meanwhile, Obama can look, well, presidential.
Hilariously, right wing organizations are releasing statements saying they’re withholding judgment until they can carefully scrutinize the document, and noting the “lateness” of its release.
Barack Obama is not — and never was — under any obligation to release his birth certificate. Like any other American, he is entitled to the privacy that the law affords. His high-profile accusers, interestingly enough, have not bothered to release their birth certificates. Where’s the proof they were born here? How do we know that they’re American citizens? Maybe they were secretly born somewhere else!
In fact, according to birther logic, none of us are really Americans. Not unless and until we’ve plastered our long-form birth certificate on a signpost somewhere so any of our fellow maybe-citizens can see it.
A sane, rational press corps committed to true journalistic principles would not legitimize the baseless conspiracy theories of people who despise Barack Obama. Unfortunately, we don’t have a sane, rational press corps. The White House has decided to take advantage of the situation and leverage it for political gain. Nothing wrong with that tactic, I suppose, if the First Family has signed off on it.
But I think I speak for a great many other progressives when I say this whole birther sideshow is just more evidence that our media is in greater decline (in almost every respect imaginable) than any other institution in this country.
And that’s a problem, because without a healthy, ethical, and vibrant fourth estate, we can’t have a meaningful conversation with each other. Nor can we know what our government is doing in our names.
POSTSCRIPT (Ken): There are some who see the President releasing his birth certificate as a good thing, certain to cause the press corps to further marginalize birthers (as if they were doing that already, which they’re not) and surely to change the narrative to how the Republican party will now deal with its crazy wing. I’m not so sure that’s the case.
In the President’s statement today, he said:
“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this.”
The irony here is that President Obama succumbed to the endless media stories and silliness on the subject, which he purports to want to avoid. By releasing his birth certificate the President didn’t appease his opponents, who can never be appeased.
Phil Berg, who filed one of the original birther lawsuits, now believes that Obama was adopted by his Indonesian father and lost his U.S. citizenship:
“I think the issue is that he’s not any more natural born. I don’t care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever,” said Berg. “Let’s see his records coming back through immigration.”
Orly Taitz, once called ‘Queen of the birthers’ and who was responsible for a number of lawsuits, is verifying the document’s authenticity and now believes that the president is using a false social security number.
It’s a tried and true tactic in electoral politics to make marginal to false claims about your opponent to distract them from the task at hand. What is priceless is when a candidate or elected official spends time refuting such charges by producing evidence to the contrary. Diverting the opponent’s attention by forcing them to fight dubious and false claims, takes their focus away from the issues of the day and, when an opponent, such as Obama, addresses those charges it gives them a measure of legitimacy.
President Obama doesn’t need to waste his time addressing the falsehoods perpetuated by a group of (arguably) racist malcontents or a loudmouth corporate robber baron. It does not serve him or the American people well to dwell on or respond to these issues. As he simply said today, we’ve got bigger problems to solve and we do not have time for this kind of silliness.