Yesterday, President Obama released the long form of his certificate of live birth. That document has no more substantial legal weight than the short form of the certificate that had been issued long ago. So, there is something a bit disingenuous, if not downright bizarre, about those who are patting themselves on the back like Donald Trump, claiming that the President should have released this document long ago.
But, the birther issue is uglier than a fight over documentation. At its heart, the suggestion has been that President Obama is different from the rest of us, that his presidency is illegitimate, that he is part of a vast conspiracy. Now, conspiracy theories come in all ideological flavors but none that I am aware of speak to, and harnass, the bigotry that still exists in our culture. Many of my conservative friends disagreed with President Obama's policies and regretted his election on those grounds, but even they acknowledged that it was a good thing for the country that a black man can be elected as our chief magistrate. The birther frenzy was begun by those who cannot reconcile themselves to this happy fact.
The frenzy, of course, was fed by others. Shame on Ed Henry, CNN's White House correspondent, who raise the issue (actually, it is not really an issue, but you know what I mean) at the daily press briefing the day before. Will Mr. Henry next indulge Holocaust deniers?
The birthers have sullied the office of the Presidency with their sham concern about the President's birth certificate. I recall in the 2000 election, then-Gov. George W. Bush pledged he would restore "honor and dignity" to the Oval Office, a not too subtle slap at President Clinton's philandering with Ms. Lewinsky. The pledge was a big applause line and while I did not support Mr. Bush's candidacy, I understood why the line generated applause. Mr. Clinton's antics had sullied his office. Nothing President Obama has done merits a similar charge. If you wish to oppose his policies, that is the very stuff of a democracy. But, this birther stuff is crap. It was crap before the President released the long form of his certificate and it is crap today.
President Obama's decision to release the long form, however, also slays another myth, the idea that Mr. Obama is Machiavellian to the core, that he only cares about the politics of an issue, that he will do anything to win re-election. To be sure, President Obama is a politician and that breed has been known to pursue their self-interest. But, the birther issue did not work against him politically. Quite the contrary. His decision to put the issue to rest so that the nation can turn to serious matters does not benefit him politically, but it does benefit the nation politically. It clears the deck for the important debate we need to have about the future of Medicare, the cuts in federal spending, and the pressing need to raise taxes.
I will not hold my breathe waiting for any conservative commentators to applaud the President for what was, politically, a self-less act. But, he warrants the applause. And all those who encouraged the birthers, from nut jobs like Michelle Bachmann to once serious journalists like Ed Henry, have covered themselves in shame.