ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
In one of the more extraordinary presidential moments in history, President Obama came before the American people today, more than two years into his presidency, to provide even more documentation that he was born in the U.S. and is thus constitutionally eligible for the position he holds.
“We've got some enormous challenges out there,” the president said. “There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We're going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt.”
But, he said, the American people are not going to be able to rise to these challenges “if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Some White House advisers told the president not to dignify the sideshows and carnival barkers, but White House aides say two weeks ago President Obama was dismayed when in the midst of his squaring off against House Republicans over budget priorities many in the media chose instead to focus on false charges leveled about the president’s birth certificate by possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“During that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we're going to have to make as a nation,” the president said today. “It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.”
“It became something that when both Republicans and Democrats were talking to media,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters today. “They were asked about it. It was a constant discussion on mainstream news organizations. And the president believed that it was becoming a distraction from the major issues we’re having in this country.”
However much of a distraction it may have been, polls indicated that more and more Americans were believing the untruth. Only 33% of Republicans said that the president was born in the U.S., with 45% sure he was born outside the U.S., and 22 percent unsure where he was born, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll from earlier this month reported. Nineteen percent of Democrats said the president was born outside the U.S. or weren’t sure where he was born. Forty-eight percent of independents were either sure he was born outside the U.S. or weren’t clear either way.
White House advisers say today’s move may even be bad politics by the president, since the birther nonsense has the potential to make Republican presidential candidates look unserious, as well as putting them in the position of either having to pander to a sizable number of Republican voters who erroneously believe the president wasn’t born in the US, or risk alienating them.
As the president told George Stephanopoulos on April 14, “I think that the vast majority of Americans across the country – Democratic or Republican – really want this election to be about growing the economy, getting control of the deficit, preparing the future for our kids. And my suspicion is that anybody who is not addressing those questions is going to be in trouble. I think they may get a quick pop in the news. They may get a lot of attention. But ultimately, the American people understand this is a serious, sober time. They want an optimistic vision. They want one that unifies the country and more important than anything else, they want some answers to how we’re going to get the economy moving.”
Pfeiffer said it was :probably in his long-term political interest to allow this ‘birther’ debate to dominate discussion in the Republican Party for months to come.But he thought even though it might have been good politics, he thought it was bad for the country, and so he asked counsel to look into this.”
In 2008, then-Sen. Obama posted on his campaign website the certificate of live birth that the state of Hawaii provides for those who request copies of their birth certificate instead of the original “long form” copy. This did not quell critics, opponents, political opportunists, conspiracy theorists, and others who demanded to know what the president was hiding by not releasing the original birth certificate.
Early last week the decision was made to by the White House to review the legal basis for seeking a waiver from the long-standing prohibition in the State Department of Health on releasing the long-form birth certificate. After a legal analysis, White House counsel Bob Bauer determined a waiver request could be made and that the president had the grounds upon which to make that request.
Last Thursday, Bauer spoke to private counsel for the president, Judy Corley of Perkins Cole, and asked her to contact the State Department of Health. She did. The department outlined the requirements for the president to make this request. On Friday, Corley wrote to Loretta Fuddy, the director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, to “request a waiver of the Department of Health’s policy” so President Obama “can obtain two certified copies of his original, ‘long form’ birth certificate.” Corley provided a letter from the president authorizing her to receive the two copies, On Monday, April 25, Fuddy alerted the president that she would make an exception for the president. Corley flew to Hawaii and returned with the two copies yesterday evening.
At an off-camera gaggle with reporters this morning, Pfeiffer held up a certified copy of the President’s original Certificate of Live Birth. A copy is now on the White House website.
The president said this morning that “over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I've been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going. We've had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital. We've posted the certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate. And yet this thing just keeps on going.”
The president said that today’s announcement and release was because “we live in a serious time right now and we have the potential to deal with the issues that we confront in a way that will make our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids proud. And I have every confidence that America in the 21st century is going to be able to come out on top just like we always have. But we’re going to have to get serious to do it.”
“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he said. “We’ve got better stuff to do.”