With Congress on spring recess and President Obama darting in and out of Washington for town hall meetings and DNC fundraisers, it had been relatively quiet in the nation's capital (except for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's press conference on the economy, the announcement that CIA Director Leon Panetta is poised to succeed Robert Gates as defense secretary, and the fallout from eight U.S. service members and an American contractor being killed by a gunman in a Afghan air force compound … ).
But you know we're really in silly season when the three-year-old fake controversy about where Obama was born becomes the leading story on the news — and said coverage rises to the level of a presidential statement, as well as the release of his long-form birth certificate.
Some dissatisfied detractors are countering: But why did it take him so long to release it? Why was he just sitting on it all these years?
For one, the president released his birth certificate in 2008 — a legal document that Obama has used, and all Hawaiians use, when needing a birth certificate for things like getting a driver's license or passport. Second, it's illegal for someone to publicly disclose their long-form birth certificate. According to Hawaii state law:
§338-18 Disclosure of records.
(a) To protect the integrity of vital statistics records, to ensure their proper use, and to ensure the efficient and proper administration of the vital statistics system, it shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in vital statistics records, or to copy or issue a copy of all or part of any such record, except as authorized by this part or by rules adopted by the department of health.
(b) The department shall not permit inspection of public health statistics records, or issue a certified copy of any such record or part thereof, unless it is satisfied that the applicant has a direct and tangible interest in the record. The following persons shall be considered to have a direct and tangible interest in a public health statistics record:
The law goes on to list 13 people who fit the definition of "tangible interests," including the registrant, a spouse, a parent or legal guardian and several other agents of the registrant. The list did not, incidentally, include angry conspiracy theorists. But after the White House requested a legal waiver last week, the Hawaiian government allowed an exception in this case.
Of course, as Obama conceded in his remarks, the document's release isn't going to slow down the Birthers (or a "segment of people," as he more diplomatically put it). Because the theory that he was born in Kenya isn't about facts or legal proof — it's some deeper, emotional obsession with seeing the president as "foreign" on "un-American" or "Muslim," no matter what. Now is just the countdown to questions over the birth certificate's paper stock and pattern, the legitimacy of its signatures or any number of continuing conspiracies.
In his own news conference Wednesday, Donald Trump said that his investigators will still have to examine the long-form birth certificate for authenticity. "I hope it's the right deal," he said. "We have to look at it. A lot of people have to look at it." (Question: What have Trump's "investigators" been doing all this time, exactly?)
The president may have done enough to finally suit people who only got caught up in the renewed media frenzy over his birth of the past few days — but nothing will ever be enough to put the Birther industry out of business.