President Obama released his long-form birth certificate Wednesday, providing more proof that he was born in Hawaii and eligible to occupy the White House, in a move designed to clear up lingering doubts as the 2012 presidential campaign swings into full gear.
A visibly frustrated Mr. Obama told reporters that he released the document because questions about his citizenship were rising in profile and becoming a distraction from working on the federal budget and other critical topics.
The move left real-estate mogul Donald Trump, who has stoked so-called “birther” conspiracies as he mulls a run for president, declaring victory but raising other questions about Mr. Obama.
Posted on the White House website, a copy of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate says he was born at Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961. The green-colored document shows a stamp Monday by the Hawaii state registrar as a certified copy of the original record on file at the state’s department of health.
“Two weeks ago, when the [JUMP]Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, 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 in a terse, impromptu statement to the press. “It was about my birth certificate.”
Mr. Obama filed paperwork earlier this month to run for re-election next year, and in recent weeks has increasingly acted in “campaign mode” by attending fundraisers and sharpening attacks on such issues as Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals.
But with the Republican presidential nomination campaign gearing up, press attention has turned back repeatedly to charges from some Republicans - most notably Mr. Trump - that the president’s birthplace was in question. The Constitution requires that the president be a natural-born citizen of the U.S.
The questions have dogged Mr. Obama since the 2008 campaign, when he released a copy of his “certificate of live birth,” the document that serves as a legal birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii.
That didn’t assuage skeptics like Mr. Trump, though, who called on the president to release the “long-form” version of the document - the one kept in Hawaii state archives, which are used to issue the birth certificate upon request. Mr. Trump said he had sent a team to Hawaii to look into the matter.
On Wednesday, just minutes after the long-form document was released, Mr. Trump - who is publicly weighing a challenge to Mr. Obama on the GOP ticket - credited himself with bringing about a possible conclusion to the controversy by repeatedly pressing the issue in a number of high-profile media appearances.
“I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue,” the businessman said at a news conference in New Hampshire, adding that more investigation has to be done. “Now we have to look at it, see is it real, is it proper.”
Mr. Trump did not answer a reporter who asked whether the production of the document, which Mr. Trump earlier this week said was “missing,” called his own credibility into question. Instead, he repeated new charges that Mr. Obama wasn’t a good student in college.
The newly released document contains little information that is not on the certificate of live birth - the name of the hospital, for example - and nothing that might plausibly have been used against him. Mr. Trump speculated that the president might have been identified as a Muslim.
In a statement, the head of the Republican National Committee said he agreed with Mr. Obama that the birth certificate issue was a “distraction” - but blamed the president for keeping it in the news.
“The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy, working with Republicans and focusing on the long-term sustainability of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. “Unfortunately, his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our No. 1 priority - our economy.”
To the contrary, top White House aides on Wednesday argued, it would have been to Mr. Obama’s political advantage to let Republicans - at 45 percent, a plurality of whom think he wasn’t born in the U.S., according to a recent CBS News-New York Times poll - continue raising questions about his birthplace.
“It would have been [EnLeader] probably in his long-term political interests 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,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters.
In addition to a PDF of the long-form certificate, the administration posted correspondence between Mr. Obama’s attorneys and Hawaii’s department of health, which said it made an exception in releasing his original long-form certificate owing in part to the large volume of requests it has received to view it.
“Such inquiries have been disruptive to staff operations and have strained state resources,” said Loretta J. Fuddy, Hawaii’s health director, in a letter to Mr. Obama this week.
Mr. Obama, who has joked about the birth certificate controversy during Democratic fundraisers and other events, acknowledged the move isn’t likely to quell all the conspiracy theorists.
“I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest, ” he said. “But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do.”