One insuperable problem with moderates' argument that the White House should have released the president's original birth certificate "long ago," so as to circumvent "the country's polity [from being] almost paralyzed with distraction," as Andrew Sullivan opines today, is stated in Prof. David Brion Davis' foreword to Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia:
[Any] attempt to define a paranoid response to a make-believe conspiracy could be perceived itself as part of a new ideological conspiracy. For example, if I produce documents to show that a given conspiracy does not exist, this may now be interpreted as a cover-up. As [the Encyclopedia's editor] Peter Knight has put it: "Contemporary conspiracy culture is therefore always poised on the edge of an infinite abyss of suspicion."
So, did the release allay suspicion among the insanely suspicious? Of course not. Did it relax the nation's near "paralyz[ation] with distraction"? Of course not. Did it feed the production of more conspiratorial cover-up theories? You bet it did. (Just browse the Internet today. It's horrifying.) And does it now dominate the news even more so, as it will tomorrow, and God knows how long throughout the debt-ceiling debate? Of course.
For several years Obama brilliantly dodged the Clinton War-Room Mentality: the by-now conventional belief in politics that every rumor, every cretinous story, every trickle of innuendo should be met with overwhelming and countervailing force. Crush rumors early and crush them hard, otherwise they'll bloom and live on. That was the theory then, and it's generally practiced in politics now (except by the nation's greatest politician, Barack Obama, whom I'll yet label a convert to it).
Because ponder for a moment the successful degree to which the practical application of that war-room mentality benefited Bill Clinton. Did you ever see -- besides Obama -- a pol so thoroughly engulfed by maniacal conspiracies and lunatic conspiracists? Every Clinton campaign and Clinton White House denial launched new fleets of suspicion. I've got to say, I always had my doubts about the entire Clintonian approach.
And then came Obama, who simply brushed off loathsome bullshit with elegance, class and style. Sure, the conspiracy theories thrived, but see above, which is where Obama stayed in relation to them.
Today, his was a concession to madness. If the mountainous evidence already presented in clear disproof of conspiracy theorists isn't good enough for them, then fuck 'em. That was the old Obama Doctrine -- temporarily violated. I suspect we'll see a return to the old way, soon.