White House releases Obama birth certificate


WASHINGTON — President Obama, trying to squelch a persistent and distracting controversy over whether he was born in the United States, on Wednesday released the official long-form birth certificate that skeptics had demanded.

The signed-and-sealed Certificate of Live Birth shows he was born exactly where he had said: Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. During the 2008 campaign, he had released a copy of his Certification of Live Birth, a shorter official form with fewer details.

At a morning White House news conference, Obama said he decided to seek the official waiver needed to obtain the longer document after the debate over competing deficit reduction plans by him and House Republicans were overshadowed by the conspiracy theories fanned by possible GOP presidential contender Donald Trump and others.

“We’ve got some enormous challenges out there,” the president told reporters in the briefing room. “I am confident that the American people and America’s political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems. … (But) we aren’t going to be able to solve these problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Trump, at a news conference of his own in New Hampshire, bragged that he had forced the president to release the document. “I’m very proud of myself because I accomplished something that nobody else was able to accomplish,” he said.

Then he immediately pivoted to another issue involving Obama’s personal qualifications, saying he had read that Obama was a poor student and asking how he had won admission to Columbia University and Harvard Law School, both elite institutions. “I don’t know why he doesn’t release his records” from his school days, Trump said.

Democratic consultant Phil Singer said it was smart of the White House to release the longer birth document.

“This is a non-issue that for whatever reason takes up space that would otherwise be dedicated to the good things that the president is doing, so it makes every piece of sense in the world to try to take the issue off the table,” said Singer, an aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 primaries against Obama.

“It probably would have been a good thing if they’d done it when the issue first surfaced, but better late than never,” he said.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released Monday showed the issue gaining surprising traction, given that investigations by news outlets and non-partisan organizations consistently concluded there was no question about Obama’s place of birth. In the poll, taken last week, only 38% of Americans said they thought the president was “definitely” born in the United States; 18% said he “probably” was.

Nearly one in four, 24%, said he was probably or definitely born in another country. Nineteen percent said they didn’t know enough to say.

Among Republicans, 43% said Obama was definitely or probably born abroad — more than the 35% who said he was definitely or probably born in the USA.

“This has long been a settled issue,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “The speaker’s focus is on cutting spending, lowering gas prices and creating American jobs.”

Obama also said he was focused on jobs, the economy and other big challenges. But he pointedly noted that the release of his birth certificate was consuming more news attention that the pending White House announcement of appointments of a new Defense secretary and CIA chief.

And Trump sounded like a candidate undeterred by the loss of the issue that had drawn him attention, saying he would announce his decision on the finale of his TV reality show, Celebrity Apprentice.

“I think if I do run, I’ll do very well,” Trump said. “I think I’d beat Obama.”

The Constitution requires that the president be “a natural born Citizen.” Some conspiracy theorists have suggested that Obama, whose mother was an American and father a Kenyan studying in Hawaii, was himself born in Kenya. Speculation on the issue had grown in recent months.

Trump raised the “decibel level” so high it became necessary for the White House to address it, said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

“I think he had somewhat of an arrogance before, in thinking he wasn’t going to respond to an accusation of this nature,but obviously if it warranted that much national attention he should have dispensed with it and moved on,” he said. “You scratch your head wondering why it took the president so long to put this to rest — if indeed that long form puts it rest.”

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson accused Trump of appealing to “ancient racial fears” in raising questions about the birthplace of Obama, the nation’s first African-American president. “He is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse,” Jackson told Politico.

Meanwhile, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus called the issue “a distraction” but seemed to blame Obama for the furor. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority — our economy.”

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