Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obama's birth certificate: The truth isn't always the best politics

Obama's birth certificate: The truth isn't always the best politics

 

I have to say I'm a little stunned that the White House released President Obama's long-form birth certificate this morning -- minutes before surging GOP billionaire candidate and "birther" extraordinaire Donald Trump launched a speaking tour in the bellweather state of New Hampshire.

Not stunned that it shows the the 44th President of the United States is exactly who he always said he was -- the 49-year-old Hawaiian born son of U.S. citizen S. Ann Dunham and Kenyan student Barack Hussein Obama. That was always a no-brainer.

But I'm stunned by the politics, because let's be honest -- the whole "birther" controversy was the best thing that happened politically to Barack Obama since the invention of Facebook. For one thing (and if this sounds like an indictment of our national media...it is) the Trump candidacy and the increasingly bizarre allegations about Obama's citizenship had dominated the 24/7 news bubble for days -- and that prevented coverage of all the things that have Americans thinking that the nation is still on the wrong track, such as high long-tern unemployment and soaring gas prices.

More importantly from a political sense, the focus on the birth certificate was creating massive confusion and disagreement within the Republican Party -- exactly what you want when you're an incumbent Democratic president with an approval rating in the 40s. The idea that birther mania amongst the GOP's Tea Party rank and file could create a nominee like a Donald Trump, whom a mature politician like Obama would clobber in the November 2012 general election -- even if unemployment hovers at 9 percent -- should be almost too good to be true for Team Obama.

So knowing that, why not, in the words of the Cranberries, let it linger? Why end a conversation that was a huge political boost for the president?

The best answer, I guess, is that Obama's re-election strategy -- now that he's alienated some of his core liberal supporters -- is an obsession with being "the adult in the room" of national politics, and his advisers see ending the birth certificate distraction today as part of that.

As a student of politics, I'm not so sure. Being "the adult in the room" doesn't mean you can't be a Machiavellian adult in the mode of a Lyndon Johnson, does it? 

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Will Bunch
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