Are the Birthers Helping Obama?

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As Dan noticed yesterday, Chuck Norris, who makes apple pie look un-American, is wondering why Barack Obama won’t just release his original birth certificate (as opposed to a “certification of live birth,” which is good enough for pretty much all of the rest of us). I was talking about this with some friends last night, and we covered all the obvious reasons: it won’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced (reasonable people are), it won’t actually make the “controversy” go away, and the White House has nothing to gain from engaging the birthers.

But maybe there’s something else going on here, too. By not releasing the certificate and making the birthers even madder, the administration is probably benefiting politically. Reasonable people think the birthers are crazy. By keeping the media spotlight on them, the administration can continue to brand the Republicans as a party of marginalized nutjobs. E.J. Dionne concern-trolled this yesterday:

[The Republican] party is being defined by extremist voices who have faced little push-back from its leaders.

The extremists include the “birthers” who, against all evidence, insist that Obama was not born in the United States and thus ineligible to be president. These guys are so out there that party leaders and commentators have started to disown them.

[…]

But to take advantage of the opportunities that might come their way, Republicans will have to make themselves an acceptable alternative. They have not done this yet. Facing down extremism and breaking out of the party’s regional enclave would be good places to start.

If the White House thinks the birther movement is hurting the Republican party, they might refrain from doing anything that could cause the GOP to totally marginalize the group—like releasing the original certificate.

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