Some quick impressions about one of the strangest events in the history of the American presidency, the Great Birth Certificate Reveal:
It’s kind of hard to see this as a triumph for Obama. The intention was obviously to take the wind out of Donald Trump’s sails, but Trump is perfectly capable of pumping wind into his own sails. Trump was quick to claim victory, and I think he’s right. The bottom line is that he pressured the President into doing something he has spent years, and a great deal of money, refusing to do. Obama expects the public to ask Trump, “What were you so obsessed about?” They’re more likely to join Trump in asking, “Why did you conceal it for so long?”
That includes a lot of people who didn’t give a fig about the Birth Certificate until now. An absurd crusade stops being absurd when it works.
If nothing else, the high profile of this event will raise Trump’s stature. (Trump will be more than happy to explain why, during every media interview he gives for the next few days.) The only way today’s reveal would damage his image would be if he fell silent and appeared chastened. There’s not much danger of that.
Maybe elevating Trump is the plan – Obama really wants to run against him, and hopes this will push him even further into the lead during the Republican primaries.
The problem with that strategy is that the public relations boost from such a “sideshow,” to borrow Obama’s phrase, will be ephemeral. Trump’s weaknesses as a potential candidate do not stem from a lack of media attention. Replacing the crappy compact fluorescent light bulbs in the media spotlight with good old-fashioned pre-Obama 100-watt incandescent bulbs doesn’t really change the face of the Republican primary. Those hot bulbs will burn out soon enough. No one will cut The Donald any slack during the GOP debates because he managed to drag the Birth Certificate out of Warehouse 13.
On the other hand, this event also diminishes Obama’s stature. He can complain about sideshows and carnival barkers all he wants, but he bought a ticket to the circus, and he’s sitting in the VIP row. The President who vanishes completely during the important debates of the day made this the only matter he wants to address with the American public, in between fund-raisers. In fact, he dashed out of the Birth Certificate press conference with unseemly haste because he’s got three more fund-raisers to attend today.
As Trump quickly pointed out, there is a lot of other paperwork he would like to see from Obama’s past, including his school transcripts. Releasing the Birth Certificate under pressure makes it hard to resist these demands. A great deal of Obama’s past is shrouded in secrecy, and he just parted the shroud. It will not be easy to keep Trump and others from throwing it wider. I doubt very many of them will be demoralized by today’s events – they’ll be energized instead.
The “Obama wasn’t born in America” crowd was never the big threat. In a re-election campaign, issues pertaining to the President’s distant past are not likely to play a major role, except as a force multiplier for disdain. (Would the “National Guard memos” have completely destroyed Bush in 2004, if they weren’t exposed as fakes?) The President’s actions during his term of office will be much more important.
The action Barack Obama took today will be one of many that damages his re-election prospects. What he really needs to display is a Certificate of Live Presidency. Instead, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will be giving a much more important press conference later today – the first ever for the Federal Reserve – in which he adds his signature to the death certificate for a disastrous planned economy.