In releasing his long-form birth certificate, President Obama made sure there was a moral to the sordid question of his origins: It's time to get serious about the business of the nation, he said.
Republicans have responded with their own cry to conscience: It's about time.
Just as Obama was "puzzled" by the attention given to the "birther" theories that he is not a native-born American -- which he tried to disprove Wednesday by trotting out the long-form version of his birth certificate that conspiracy theorists have been requesting -- GOP leaders said they were surprised the president felt he had to address them.
"If the White House press secretary says that this is a sideshow, why aren't we treating it as such and dealing with the bigger issues?" House Republican Leader Eric Cantor asked in reference to the birth certificate controversy.
"There are much more important issues for us to be dealing with, obviously," Cantor told Fox News, citing unemployment near 9 percent and the country's $14 trillion debt.
Cantor's office blasted out a memo Wednesday saying the party remains "squarely focused" on the economy and the debt, as well as energy policy, despite the birther hubbub.
"I am more interested in President Obama producing a budget that actually cuts spending and removes the regulatory burden on small businesses so they can create jobs and grow our economy," added Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., in a written statement. "Or perhaps he can produce a realistic energy policy to help ease the pain at the pump Americans are feeling by reducing our dependency on foreign sources."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus noted that Republicans have been working on reforming entitlements and urging the president to get on board. The GOP is pushing a long-term budget overhaul that would, among other things, end direct Medicare payments to doctors and phase in a system where seniors purchase subsidized private insurance.
Obama, who opposes that plan, offered a deficit-reduction outline earlier this month, though Republicans dismissed it as too meek. But while the president told Oprah Winfrey in a taped interview Wednesday that the birth certificate controversy was such huge news that it got in the way of the budget debate, a new study suggested that wasn't the case.
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which produces a weekly analysis of news coverage, found that during the week of April 11-17, Obama and the "birther" issue filled a mere 4 percent of the news coverage. About 40 percent was devoted to the economy that week.
With Congress returning to Washington next week with a nagging deadline looming -- the U.S. reaching the ceiling of its congressionally mandated debt limit -- the discussion must necessarily turn to whether the nation will go into default or find an alternative to unlimited deficit spending.
Obama, for his part, called this month for a tax hike on individuals making over $200,000 to help close the deficit hole, along with targeted spending cuts. Most Republicans on Capitol Hill reject this proposal, but the idea of stripping the tax benefits awarded to oil and gas companies may be more of a gray area.
Democrats in Congress, as well as Obama, are leading the charge to end what they claim is $4 billion a year worth of subsidies for the oil industry. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other top Republicans have dismissed the proposal, but House Speaker John Boehner fueled the Democratic push when he suggested in an interview earlier this week that he'd consider eliminating some of those tax breaks at a time of soaring profits for the industry.
The White House seized on the comments, pressing Congress to take immediate action -- Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid obliged, saying he'll bring the matter to a vote as quickly as possible, though Boehner later walked back his remarks.
Reid is also planning to bring up GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget, Medicare changes and all, for a vote when Congress returns from recess. Talking to reporters Wednesday, he said he wants to see whether Senate Republicans will go on record in support of the plan which passed the House. That plan has been the subject of criticism at town hall meetings and protests over the spring recess, and Democrats are trying to beat Republicans over the head with it.
"Republicans seem to be in love with the Ryan budget," Reid said. "So we're going to have an opportunity in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget and see if the Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as their House colleagues did."
Amid all these "serious" debates on Capitol Hill, potential presidential candidate Donald Trump fanned the embers of the birth certificate story during several weeks of interviews that were accompanied by polls indicating Trump's questions were resonating. A Fox News poll conducted April 3-5 showed 24 percent of people thought Obama was not born in the United States. Even more said there was "cause to wonder" about his origin.
But Republicans insist they weren't the ones discussing the birth certificate, and several GOP pundits said it wasn't their issue.
Still, the president held the trump card in the debate -- releasing the certificate to dispel the issue as a matter of public debate, and perhaps rally his base.
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We've got better stuff to do," the president said, calling attention to the matter the work of "sideshows and carnival barkers."
Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said the announcement can't make up for the problems Obama faces from the lackluster economy, but it does help the president politically by not only nullifying the birther debate but also making other questions about his personal past "seem petty and ridiculous."
"I think it'll definitely marginalize anybody who continues to make an issue about it," he said.