President Obama, after almost 4 years of controversy, has finally released his birth certificate. This will settle the question of where he was born for a great many people; however, it is not the only thing we have learned from the certificate, the events surrounding its release, and the controversy itself.
Inspecting how the President handled a major-minor issue is very telling of the man. I say major-minor, because meeting the minimum qualifications to be President is most certainly an important issue, and for Mr. Obama, it was an extremely easy one to solve. On CNN today, the telling question was asked of a panel: "Has there ever been a controversy like this?" Of course, the question could have three interpretations.
Has a President or presidential candidate ever been demanded to show his vital records? The answer is a most definite yes. Even Senator McCain had to show his birth certificate, and provide verification that he was indeed born on US ground in the Canal Zone, to parents engaged in the service of the country. In fact, I can now say that there has never been a president who, when challenged for his vital records, did not provide them.
Has there ever been a problem with those vital records, in which people were not convinced by them, or where the records were unclear? Again, this is a definite yes. Both Presidents Arthur and Jackson had issues concerning their birth and records. In the case of Jackson, there was a question as to which state he was actually born in, although he was most certainly born in a state. In the case of Arthur, there was a question that he might have had dual citizenship at birth, thereby precluding natural citizenship, because his father was an Irish national. It is likely that Mr. Obama will end up facing this same question.
Has there ever been a controversy which dragged on for so long? The answer to that is no. In all the previous controversies, the people involved took it seriously, including the press. They worked to address the issues, to present evidence and witnesses, and obtained legal opinions or rulings. This is where Mr. Obama's handling of the issue is unique: he belittled and prolonged it. Les Kinsolving of WCBM and World Net Daily was among the few White House reporters who would ever ask about issues concerning President Obama's birth certificate. The White House staff would often ignore and frequently humiliate him concerning the questions. There was even one recording where, when asking about Mr. Obama's losses in a law suit, the other reporters could be heard snickering. Mr. Gibbs simply ignored the question.
There were all sorts of questions developing about why Mr. Obama refused to show his (long form) birth certificate. Some speculated that he just didn't have one, but it seems he did. Some speculated that there was something embarrassing in it, but it seems there wasn't. Some speculated that maybe the certificate existed, but it just couldn't be found. The loss of records is an old and frequently recurring tale. There were even reports that Governor Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) went looking but only found some form of written note, lending some credibility to the idea that the certificate was lost (or non-existent), but that seems to have been wrong as well. Some speculated that Mr. Obama just liked the controversy, and having someone to poke fun at. The controversy would have been simple enough to end. Mr. Obama could have ended it with a quick trip to the Honolulu County Clerk's Office and a check for $25 during any one of his many trips to Oahu. Instead, he spent thousands, perhaps millions, of his own and public moneys to prevent the courts from ordering him to produce that $25 document. It is safe to say that Mr. Obama liked the controversy, because he worked so hard to prolong it. Considering the way Mr. Kinsolving was treated, Mr. Gibbs certainly liked poking fun at him. Mr. Obama himself rarely took questions on the certificate, and often sloughed them off. That was all when the White House and news media viewed the birth issue as the cause of some minor group of partisans. I cannot begin to recount the number of times that I personally had Democrats use the "birthers" as evidence that opposition to President Obama was nothing more than racism, but I should think it would be over a hundred. Congressman Danny Davis even once again opened his mouth to embarrass the people of Chicago. What is clear from recent White House statements is that Mr. Obama and his advisers felt that the "birthers" were a right-wing fringe, that could be used to drive a wedge between Republicans and independent voters. What better reason to keep the issue cloudy? The question of whether the President can be President is not trivial, and there is no reason to belittle a person when such an important issue is more cloudy than clear. Perhaps it started with a partisan fringe, but Mr. Obama's refusal to end it lent it credence, to the point that a USA Today poll showed only 38% of people believed that Mr. Obama was born in the United States. The White House was belittling not a small fringe, but 62% of Americans.
This issue has given us a good view into the Obama White House internals. First, they lack the ability to identify serious and important issues. Second, they lack the ability to distinguish between fringe and majority. Third, Mr. Obama is all for highly partisan politics. This is a combination of flaws which can only spell political disaster, and it has raised its head before.
The hostile takeovers of Chrysler and GM raised a lot of alarm flags, but the Obama White House bullied the fringe critics. The extortion of banks into taking bailouts raised more flags, but again, the critics were marginalized. The QE2 stimulus had a lot of right-wing objectors. The opponents of ObamaCare were just a fringe that didn't know what they were talking about. Objections to the not-war in Libya are yet another fringe. Now in the budget and debt limit arguments, the Republican Party has been taken over by "the extreme right wing." What happens, when that "extreme right wing" is not as extreme, right, or wing as the White House thinks? Easy, the White House will have insulted and angered a lot of people.