The White House on Wednesday released President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, a stunning reversal after years of ignoring of rumors--widely discredited--that the nation’s commander-in-chief had been born in a foreign country.
“The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country,” the White House said in a statement posted on its Web site. “It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country.”
Although Obama had released a “certification of live birth” during his presidential campaign, that document did not satisfy so-called birthers, virulent critics of Obama who insisted that he was born on foreign soil and therefore was not eligible to serve as U.S. president.
They repeatedly called for release of the long-form birth certificate, which White House officials said is generally not released publicly in the state of Hawaii, where Obama was born. In Hawaii, the certification of live birth is what citizens use to prove their identities and get driver’s licenses and other documents.
“Normally, I would not comment on something like this,” Obama said Wednesday, appearing before reporters shortly after the document was released. He said he decided to show the document two weeks ago, when he concluded that the debate over the nation’s budget and fiscal future was being overshadowed by continued questions about his citizenship.
“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” Obama said. “We’ve got better stuff to do.”
Describing the looming debates over government spending, the national debt and major foreign and domestic policy issues, the president said “we’ve got some enormous challenges out there ... We have to make a series of tough choices.”
“We’re not going to be able to do our jobs if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”
Among those who adopted the birther mantra was billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who is mulling a run for the Republican presidential nomination. His questions about whether Obama was foreign-born gave new energy to the birther movement. In New Hampshire Wednesday, Trump said he was “honored” to have apparently played a role in getting Obama to release the lengthier document.
“He should have done it a long time ago,” Trump said. “We have to look at it we have to see is it real, is it proper. But I hope it checks out beautifully.”
Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, is the nation’s first African American president. He spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and has a middle name — Hussein — that reflects his father’s Muslim heritage.
Among Obama’s political opponents, there have always been some who use these parts of his biography to question whether he is authentically American. The birther movement sought to capitalize on those fears.