Jacob Heilbrunn

The Obama Birth Certificate

He did it. President Obama released his birth certificate. It's about time. Or is it? Personally, the controversy swirling around Obama's birth certificate was kind of fun to watch. It became a new litmus test—Donald Trump was deemed beyond the pale once he started flirting with the whole "birther" controversy. Haley Barbour said it was a waste of time. So did Karl Rove.

To my mind, Barbour and Rove had it right. If you look at the pictures of Obama that ran in the New York Times magazine this weekend, it's hard to think of the young Obama as anything other than a cheerfully good-natured cherub, decked out in his pirate costume. The funny thing is that much of the Republican field seems to recognize this as well. The problem for the GOP is that the nutjobs—Donald Trump et. al.—seem to be capturing the limelight, at least for now. What's needed is for the establishment to unite behind someone (Mitt Romney is the obvious candidate) who can sell the GOP brand successfully. 

The key to defeating Obama will not be hugger-muggers about birth certificates but rising gasoline prices. Nothing sticks in the craw of Americans more than high tariffs for gas. In this regard, America truly is becoming Europeanized. Whether any president can do much about oil prices is another matter. Richard Nixon tried to implement wage and price controls, and look where that got him.

Obama is urging Middle East countries—namely, Saudi Arabia—to increase output and threatening to rescind tax breaks for oil companis. He observed,

 

We are in a lot of conversations with the major oil producers like Saudi Arabia to let them know that it's not going to be good for them if our economy is hobbled because of high oil prices."

 

It will be interesting to see if Obama tries to take steps to curb commodities future trading. But this, too, is probably a phyrric move, one that addresses the symptoms rather than the cause of the disease. But it may well become a big issue should oil prices continue to increase, partly as a result of trading on oil futures.

For now, however, the Republican candidates seem to be spending more time pummeling Obama over peripheral issues than over the economy. It's time for the birth, in other words, of a real race. Otherwise, the GOP will have capitulated before it's even fired a shot.