In it, but not of it. TPM DC
Obama gave the surprise remarks nearly an hour after releasing his long-form birth certificate in an effort to put to rest a debate spanning more than two years over whether he was born in Hawaii and the United States and has a legitimate right to be president under the Constitution.
Instead of focusing on the birther issue,the American public and the media should pay more attention to the raging budget debate taking place between Democrats and Republicans, which will have enormous implications for the future of the country, Obama said.
"We've got some enormous challenges out there," Obama said. "We're going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we deal with our deficit and our debt...but we're not going to be able to do it if we're distracted, if we spend time vilifying each other."
"We're not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, if we get distracted by a sideshow and carnival barkers," he continued.
Normally, he wouldn't comment on the birther issue, which he has watched with amusement and at times has been puzzled by all the media attention it has received, Obama said. But two weeks ago, after a budget showdown between Democrats and House Republicans and after GOP released its budget for 2012 and Obama gave a major speech on his plans reducing the deficit, he became concerned that the birther issue was dominating the week's news cycle.
"During that entire week the dominant news story wasn't about these huge, monumental choices we're going to have to make...it was about my birth certificate."
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer explained the decision to release the long form birth certificate in a blog post Wednesday morning.
"The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn't good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country," Pfeiffer wrote.
The President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long-form certificate and to request that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate, Pfeiffer explained.
"They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting," he wrote.
During the 2008 campaign, the Obama camp released a copy of his birth certificate -- the same document that the state of Hawaii would have released to any person born there. But the conspiracy theories continued.
Ryan Reilly contributed to this report.