Up until the last month or so, President Obama had no reason to release a birth certificate and every reason to let the conspiracy theorists opine that he was a secret Muslim born in Kenya. Every time they did, established Republicans had to scramble to distance themselves from the so-called “birthers.”
Then came Donald Trump’s big mouth, and the birth certificate came soon after. Why would the President engage on this issue now? Without the birth certificate, the Republican 2012 primary debates would shape up with the more traditional candidates (Romney, Pawlenty, et. al.) distracted from their core issues.
It may be that the President has internal poll numbers which show that the issue is taking a solid foothold among the electorate (despite more public polls that demonstrate a collective “meh,” even among those who think Obama is from Mars).
But maybe the President wants the GOP to avoid the distractions after all and engage in spirited discussions on their core issues – namely, federal spending. After watching the ever-more-moribund Republican messaging on smaller government over the past few weeks, the President may look at this as a fight he can win.
When he tunes into Fox news in a few months for the first primary debates, the President would rather have Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty argue over who will cut entitlement spending than have them both deny conspiracy theories.
Obama’s release also solidifies Trump’s candidacy. A month ago Trump was a novelty; now there can be no denying that his campaign has had some sort of impact. When the President of the United States reacts to your Today Show interview, you are no longer a complete joke.
And with the certificate released, Trump may have a chance to mouth off on other, more important important issues such as energy policy, health care, and the size of government. A blunt, unapologetic voice countering the policies of the current administration is what makes Chris Christie and exciting candidate. Since Christie remains firm that a 2012 shot is out of the question, that role is most likely filled by Trump.
The Obama campaign is probably delighted by the idea of Republicans having to deal with the Trump candidacy in the early primaries, betting that his loud, unfocused rhetoric will distract the rest of the field. The best way for him to claim his share of attention is, ultimately, to talk about real issues rather than moot issues. By taking the birth certificate conspiracy theory off the table, the White House made Trump a slightly more serious voice for the primaries.