Birther Debate Persists, Draws Negative Attention to GOP Hopefuls

COMMENTARY | In the 2008 presidential campaign, questions arose about the legitimacy of Barack Obama as a candidate; specifically, whether or not he was a U.S. citizen. Obama’s father was a Kenyan citizen, and if Obama was born outside of the United States, he would not be a U.S. citizen. Despite the availability of a scanned copy of the birth certificate on FactCheck.org and other websites, the theory was perpetuated by numerous bloggers and media personalities that Obama was in fact born in Kenya. The argument raged throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, likely overshadowing other issues that warranted further examination.

Donald Trump has recently reignited the controversy about Obama’s birth certificate. When asked in an interview about the matter, Trump said he had his “doubts about the legitimacy of the birth certificate.” Since that interview, that is the only topic the media wants to discuss about Trump. He has other points he would like to make, but the publicity around the birth certificate controversy has overshadowed everything else, to the extent that Trump wrote an op-ed for USA Today stating that he has “said his piece on this issue” and would like to move on to other topics.

Many other Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the controversy and would like it to just go away for fear it will damage the party. Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and was presented with a copy of the birth certificate by host George Stephanopoulos. Upon seeing the copy, she simply stated “I guess it’s over.”

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona went even further, vetoing a recently passed bill that would require presidential candidates to show a birth certificate or other documentation to prove their citizenship. Conversely, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana stated that he would sign such a bill if it were presented to him, but added “I absolutely believe he is a citizen. Let’s be clear. Look, my disagreements with this president are not about his citizenship or where he’s born.”

Former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove has gone so far to say Trump is “off there in the nutty right” and is a “joke candidate” for making the issue a centerpiece of his potential candidacy. Potential candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have also stated that they believe Obama is a U.S. citizen. Pawlenty echoed Jindal by saying “Now, I’m not one to question the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate,” Paw­lenty told a tea party rally over the weekend in Iowa. “But when you look at his policies, I do question what planet he’s from.”

The debate is still quite active in the blogosphere and on the web. Newspapers, blogs, and any number of traditional and non-traditional media websites carry countless articles on the topic. In fact, a search on Google for “obama birth certificate” will return approximately 7.9 million items. With the information presented by the State of Hawaii, the debate would seem to be settled, and further discussion would not be productive or good for the country.

Furthering the debate is a waste of time for GOP candidates. Jindal and Pawlenty have the right approach in framing their arguments that highlight policy differences with Obama and what they will do to move the country forward. Going back to the birth certificate debate shows an inability or unwillingness to articulate your own ideas and proposals.

Sadly, this debate is likely to continue throughout the 2012 campaign. It’s controversial, sparks a lot of arguments, and can get a lot of air time. It’s also a distraction and will also drown out needed discussions on issues of much greater importance. We are currently dealing with turmoil in the Mideast, rising oil prices, looming inflation, a huge budget deficit, a crushing national debt, a weak dollar, and high unemployment, among other problems.

The candidate who can address the above issues in a clear, concise, and understandable manner will win the 2012 presidential election. The American people deserve better. If you can solve these problems, or at least start the solution, you have my vote. I don’t care where you were born.