In a surprising move, the president of the United States took to the podium Wednesday to address an issue he and his staff had long thought was a done deal: to tout the existence of a birth certificate proving that he, in fact, was born in the USA.
The reason? Well known New York businessman, Donald Trump, a rumored GOP presidential contender, resurrected the issue of the president’s citizenship mere weeks ago, forcing the White House to do what they felt was necessary to quash the rumor.
But we should be asking why, at a time when gas prices are soaring, we’re in three wars and unemployment is still high, the commander in chief would take the time to personally put down his detractors.
The White House has made a lot of missteps, but the handling of the “birther” issue might be one of its biggest. Here are 4 examples of where they got it wrong:
1. Putting the President out in front. Press Secretary Jay Carney might be new to the job but that’s still no excuse for this media gaffe. The White House communications team should have never used the President as the spokesperson to address his birth certificate. This was a grand mis-use of the bully pulpit and should have been kept at the staff level. Obama only elevated Donald Trump and made himself look thin-skinned when it comes to criticism that he and his staff have already dismissed.
Plus, Obama should always appear above the fray and focused on the top issues to the public: the economy, the deficit and national security.
2. Covering all bases from the start. When the Clinton camp first brought up the birth certificate issue in 2008, then candidate Obama’s camp had the opportunity to silence the suspicion that he wasn’t born in Hawaii. Instead of releasing the long form certificate then, his campaign released a live birth form that many have questioned ever since. When it comes to public relations, if you have access to all the information you’re being asked about, it’s in your best interest to release everything as soon as possible to avoid more media and appearing as if you’re hiding something.
Letting it fester. For over two years, the narrative that the President wasn’t really born here had swirled on blogs and in chat rooms since it was never totally addressed with the full certificate. Over the last 28 months the President had every opportunity to have one of his staffers quietly release the certificate on a random Friday afternoon, or even this Friday afternoon when the world will be watching the royal wedding in London, not at 9:45 am on a Wednesday morning two and a half years into his term.
3. Perpetuating hypocrisy. Barack Obama billed himself as the man who would head up one of the most transparent administrations in history. In fact, he’s done just the opposite. According to the Associated Press, “Two years into its pledge to improve government transparency, the Obama administration took action on fewer requests for federal records from citizens, journalists, companies and others last year even as significantly more people asked for information.” Not releasing a full birth certificate, as well as his college transcripts ran in direct contrast to what the president promised.
4. Not including his college transcripts. The media failed to do its due diligence during the 2008 campaign and look into Obama’s background. While they were busy managing their leg tingles and wiping the drool from their mouth while they dug through Sarah Palin’s trash cans in Wasilla, many voters felt as if they didn’t know the man on the ballot they way they knew past presidents. Obama most certainly had a unique upbringing, but he should have embraced it, and owned it but making as much information to a very forgiving and understanding American public.
Wednesday’s press conference helps the president in one distinct way: now that the White House has spoken up, the issue should be put to rest. Any Republican who continues to bring up the president's birth certificate will risk undermining his or her seriousness about their candidacy and their priorities. It’s time for the president and potential presidential contenders to get back to work and back to the real issues at hand.
Andrea Tantaros is a conservative commentator and Fox News contributor. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros.
Andrea Tantaros currently serves as co-host of Fox News Channel's The Five (weekdays 5-6 PM/ET). She joined the network as a contributor in 2010. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros or on Facebook.com/andreatantaros. Click here for more information on Andrea Tantaros.