Three reasons why President Obama finally released his birth certificate

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have their theories as to why President Obama released his birth certificate Wednesday. But has anyone considered: It could be great comedic material.

Susan Walsh/AP
President Obama speaks to reporters in the White House briefing room in Washington Wednesday about his decision to release his birth certificate.

Why did President Obama release his long-form birth certificate now? After all, conspiracy theorists who believe him to be foreign-born have been calling on him to produce the document for years.

Mr. Obama himself said it was so the nation could move on from this “silliness” to more important issues. But some administration critics believe the opposite: that the timing of Wednesday’s announcement is meant to distract the nation from items of greater national importance.

Thus ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tweeted on Wednesday that her followers shouldn’t let the birth certificate hoopla distract them from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s afternoon press conference – the first ever by a head of the US central bank.

“Stay focused, eh?” Ms. Palin wrote.

Talk show host Glenn Beck said the same thing on his syndicated radio show.

Both Palin and Mr. Beck in the past have complained that the Fed has yet to answer for all it did during the depths of the recent fiscal crisis. Palin in particular has complained that Mr. Bernanke and other Fed leaders are standing by and doing nothing while inflation gathers steam.

Liberals, of course, believe just the opposite – that Bernanke is a heartless banker more concerned with holding down prices via tight money than easing unemployment. Go figure.

Anyway, the beauty of criticizing the timing of Obama’s birth-certificate announcement is that it allows you to be tough on the administration without having to align yourself with the so-called “birthers,” who discount evidence that the president was born in Hawaii. Which is part of the US.

Thus Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has said that developer/reality show star Donald Trump is wrong on the “birther” issue, hit the administration for trying to prove his (Priesbus’s) own point.

“The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing the economy,” Mr. Priebus said Wednesday. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our No. 1 priority – our economy.”

So what’s behind the timing of the birth certificate release, really? Well, as we’ve said before, it may be that the White House figured it would have to do something like this eventually, and did it now to (A) get it out of the way and (B) keep Trump in the news, since he’s roiling the GOP side of the presidential race.

But here are three other reasons why Obama may have finally roused himself to obtain and disseminate a document people have been asking about for a long time:

Birtherism was going mainstream. Polls show large numbers of Republicans doubt Obama’s origin, despite the evidence that he’s a US native. A hard core of doubters will always be suspicious of Obama’s “otherness,” of course, since he’s the son of a Kenyan father. But the administration may believe that releasing this final document may at least convince some of the less-committed “birthers” that they’re wrong.

The question was getting annoying. Obama himself cited the fact that the media was focusing on the question of what he would do about his birth certificate to the exclusion of coverage of more important things, like the budget and the future of Medicare. And White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted Wednesday that when top Democrats (and Republicans) appeared on cable news in recent weeks they would get asked about the birth certificate issue instead of, say, how to control skyrocketing federal debt.

“That really struck the president, led him to ask his counsel to look into whether we could ask the state of Hawaii to release the long-form [birth] certificate, which is not something they generally do,” said Mr. Carney.

Obama really needs comedy material. Here’s a thought that some other commentators have raised: The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is coming up, and Obama may need some good lines. The sitting president usually gives a little speech at this event, which is often described as “Washington’s prom.” (We think they mean that in a good way.) By releasing his long-form birth certificate, Obama is freer to joke about his origins, without fear of some reporter asking him why he hasn’t released the danged thing yet.

Also, Donald Trump will reportedly be there as a guest of The Washington Post. So Obama can ask Mr. Trump in public when he’s going to release his tax returns, as he promised he’d do if Obama released a birth certificate.

Hmm. We see that Seth Meyers, anchor of “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live,” will be the featured speaker. You think he’ll bring this up?

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