I think Jamie Kirchik has the politics pretty much exactly right. Eugene Robinson, Joe Conason and E.J. Dionne, in addition to all the politicians and bloggers Jamie mentions, have been pumping the birther story in order to tar Republicans as extremists at precisely the moment their own agenda is being rejected by the American people for it's own extremism. Even the folks at Mother Jones think this is a plausible explanation of the administration's behavior:You see, pointing out the increasingly nasty attacks on the President is a distraction from the issues, unlike the attacks on the President themselves, which are not a distraction from the issues. Dig?
If the White House thinks the birther movement is hurting the Republican party, they might refrain from doing anything that could cause the GOP to totally marginalize the group—like releasing the original certificate.
And heaven forbid anyone suggest that Robinson, Conason or Dionne would write columns to further the Obama administration's political agenda.
He then goes on to say "Liberals had 9/11 truthers! We win!" How quickly people forget that a near equal number of 9/11 truthers were and still are in fact Republicans and other right wing crackpots. (Ron Paul, anyone? Even Malkinvania thinks he's nuts.) But of course, blaming Obama for the birthers is standard. After all, if he'd just release that long form vault copy of his real birth certificate (which the birthers would not decry as fake) this would all vanish overnight. Why, I'm sure all these lunatics would believe him and we could all get back to passing health care reform.
It's not like the Wingers would gin up anything else to try to distract America from health care, right? After all, all this trying to demonize Obama isn't increasing the number of death threats he's getting or anything.
Birthers are harmless, you see.