Yesterday was quite an extraordinary day in American politics.
The President of the United States conducted a press conference during which he, with great fanfare, released the long- form of his birth certificate. The President stated that the country had more important things to do than debate his birthright. He then rushed off to conduct an interview with Oprah.
Real estate and media mogul Donald Trump took full credit for the President’s disclosure. “I did a very good job on this…I have done a great service to the American people… I was told everyone wanted to see it and I was the only one that got him to do it….I got him to do something that nobody else could and I take great credit for that.” He then began to question the validity of the President’s college transcripts.
The President’s political opponents immediately shifted gears. After two plus years of questioning the President’s citizenship and demanding concrete proof of the legitimacy of his Presidency; they called his releasing of the birth certificate a distraction from more important matters.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said: “The President ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy, working with Republicans and focusing on the long-term sustainability of Medicare, Medicaid and Social security. Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him for our No. 1 priority…our economy.”
Never one to miss a chance in the spotlight; Sarah Palin tweeted that the media should not let: “the WH distract you w/the birth crt” from stories like the public comments of Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
A London newspaper “The Independent” summed it up best with a headline referring to yesterday as: “The Day America Took Leave of Its Senses”
All of this begs the question… why did the President give in to his critics and release his birth certificate…and why now and not months ago?
The birther movement has taken hold in America. Nearly 25% of Americans believe that the President was born in another country; and 45% of Republicans say they agree. The movement had also begun to erode the support of independents and the elderly; groups critical to the President’s re-election. The White house feared that when a legitimate Republican challenger emerged from the primaries he or she would be allowed to remain above the fray; appearing reasonable while the Tea Party folks ginned up the birther controversy.
The White House believed that this was also a good time to take the offensive. They saw that by releasing the Presdient’s birth certificate they could discredit the birthers. At the same time they could attach the radical and now discredited birthers to the mainstream Republicans…Republicans that support the very radical, Medicare killing Ryan economic plan. The White House saw an opportunity to score political points; and they took it.
The White House was also concerned about Trump. As one pundit said: “Trump has become the Joe McCarthy of our time.” He is willing to repeat outrageous accusations without any factual basis in order to promote his agenda…himself. While Trump is a shameless, self promoting windbag who will never be elected President; his constant belaboring of the birth certificate issue was gaining more and more traction. The White House remembered the “Swift Boating “of presidential candidate John Kerry. They were not going to allow Trump to “Swift Boat” candidate Obama.
But all of this misses the larger point.
There is one other aspect to this that few in the media are willing to report. Would any of this have happened if the President were not of African American decent? If Barak Obama had the same international upbringing, excelled at the same Ivy League schools, were elected President of the Harvard Law Review, State Senator and President of the United States and was white; would this controversy have ever occurred? Would his accomplishments not have been hailed as a shining example of the American Dream? Or would his birthright and collegial matriculation have undergone the same intense scrutiny? Doubtful!
From our prospective, yesterday was a day in which the Presidency was marginalized. The most powerful office in the world was somehow lessened by a ridiculous political movement. It is a movement that has at its core a deep seated resentment; a resentment that continues to fester within the underbelly of our society.
Looking back, it was quite an extraordinary day in American politics. It might in some ways have been funny were it not so sad.