Except for Donald Trump, who parlayed the event into yet another all-about-me moment, the response to President Obama's provision today of his long-form birth certificate seems to be a collective sigh of relief. Obama conceded to what he deemed "silliness" and to what the less charitable (me) deem moronic petulance.
According to a USA Today/Gallup poll earlier this month, only 38% of Americans believe Obama was "definitely" born in the United States. Nearly one-quarter believe he was probably or definitely born in another country.
We love conspiracies and shallow science and telegenic people who enthuse about them on TV and Twitter. Some people don't know whether to indict our educational system or celebrate our childlike wonder given that:
--48% of Americans believe in ghosts (2005 CBS poll);
--34% believe in unidentified flying objects (2007, AP), and 80% believe the government is concealing knowledge of extraterrestrial life forms (1997, CNN);
--36% believe it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them (2006, Scripps Howard/Ohio University);
--more than 20% say it's possible the Holocaust never happened (1993, Roper).
Apparently, I'm alone in wishing Obama hadn't gratified the interests that dominate a parallel universe to common sense. Democratic consultant Phil Singer applauded the fact that time, energy and dollars were expended to fly the president's lawyer to Hawaii to procure the document the White House released. "This is a nonissue 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," he said. "...better late than never."
Another Obama supporter, Linda R. Monk, writing on the Huffington Post, claimed never to have "doubted that the president was born in Hawaii." Still, she castigates him for "stonewalling on controversial issues by blaming questioners, leaving the country bitter and embroiled and wasting precious energy to do the nation's business. It is the president who squandered the nation's time, not so-called 'birthers.' ... Any questions about the details of the president's birth should have been answered, regardless of motive."
Bitter? Embroiled? Naw. How about "indulged" and "spoiled"? I'm no parenting expert, but even the people who made Lindsay Lohan probably understand that to wilt in the face of infantile demands and tantrums is to encourage that behavior in perpetuity. Monk makes that point herself: "That some so-called 'birthers' would never accept President Obama's election was irrelevant. Any American voter is entitled to know the facts about the president's birth, period."
Reasonable people within the GOP concurred that it was ludicrous for any thinking person to have entertained the idea of an alien in the White House, but also agree that, in the hope of moving on, the certificate should have been made public. "This has long been a settled issue," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. "The speaker's focus is on cutting spending, lowering gas prices and creating American jobs."
In resisting for so long the whining appeals for fluff over substance, Obama maintained his role as the adult in the room. The country is not going to be able to solve its problems, he said, "if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers. ... We do not have time for this kind of silliness."
Is he naive in thinking his disclosure puts to rest a silly nonissue, or am I naive in thinking that it only invites endless permutations?
Consider Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, who called Obama's initial resistance to providing his birth certificate arrogant. "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."
Consider the bloviating, heft-challenged Trump who lives to feed America's hungry maw for political junk food, who lives to throw a hissy fit. "I'm very proud of myself because I accomplished something that nobody else was able to accomplish." A couple of days ago, he impugned the scholastic credentials of Obama, who graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude. "I heard he was a terrible student, terrible," Trump said in an interview with the Associated Press. "How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records. I don't know why he doesn't release his records (from his school days)."
It will never end. Let children eat chocolate cake for breakfast Monday, and guess what they demand for breakfast Tuesday?
Public figures, especially those who run for office, deserve a higher level of scrutiny than the rest of us. If they don't expect less privacy than other citizens, they're in the wrong line of work. But there is a limit, and a grownup society understands and respects it. Grownups do not allow the children to run the household. Grownups do not elect leaders who announce their political intentions on "Celebrity Apprentice."
If The Donald truly plans to leverage his silly passion into a presidential run, the only greater gift to the Democrats would be to choose Snooki as his running mate.