Barack Obama's attempt to settle the birther debate immediately became the subject of a debate itself, with past sponsors of birth certificate legislation in Congress saying the president could have settled the issue long ago by releasing this morning's document earlier.
The matter has been swirling on Capitol Hill at least since March 2009, when Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 1503, which would have required future presidential candidates to provide a copy of original birth certificates. The measure never went anywhere in the House, but provided an official imprimatur for the conspiracy chatter, even as backers insisted they weren't singling out Obama with the legislation.Continue Reading
Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), one of 12 co-sponsors, said in a statement to POLITICO's Arena that the issue is now "finally resolved." Carter said he was "disappointed that the president took this long to do so. This could and should have been done when the question was first raised."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), another co-sponsor, said future presidential candidates should still be required to provide documentation proving citizenship.
"I have never doubted that President Obama is a natural-born citizen. Indeed, I agree with him that this issue has been a distraction from the important issues America faces," Blackburn said in Arena. "I continue to believe that the best way to prevent this distraction from manifesting itself in future elections is to implement a standard of proof that all candidates must abide by when they pursue the office of president."
Republican strategist Mindy Finn agreed that Obama should have released his long-form birth certificate months ago.
"It would not have wiped out the birther movement but would have quelled it. You can't let pride or the belief that a media narrative is silly get in the way of smart PR."
Political strategists, academic and others were skeptical that the birther matter would die.
"Thinking of the persistence of Holocaust denial, despite a mountain no, a mountain range of evidence, I am inclined to doubt whether the production of evidence will make much difference," linguistics expert Deborah Tannen said in Arena. "And given the ease with which documents can be falsified in the digital age, doubters have ever more reason to discount what is before their eyes."
Longtime State Department official Aaron David Miller also doubted that releasing the birth certificate likely won't kill the issue.
"What the birther movement reflected in essence had nothing to do with the birth certificate. It was (and is) a reaction to what far too many Americans believe is the alien quality of our 44th president (Barack Hussein Obama) and in their own mind his unacceptability as president."
Nonetheless, Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee praised the president's decision to release the documentation this morning. He pinned the blame on Republicans especially the one who has made this the centerpiece of his would-be presidential campaign for making questions about Obama's citizenship into a discussion at all.
"I'm glad that the president released his birth certificate not because it proves his birthplace, but because it proves how big of a fraud Donald Trump and the birther movement really are," Elleithee said.
Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster said the factors at play in the long-running birther saga were even larger than that.
"That this controversy lasted this long says more about the weak Republican presidential field, the media's desire for salacious news over policy, and the extreme wing that has taken over the Republican Party," Omero said.
But as for who wins coming out of the president's decision to release the certificate now, Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said the answer was clear.
"Donald Trump trumped the president of the United States by forcing him to directly address his birth certificate."