Philip Maddocks: Birthers say strike on bin Laden is proof Obama is a U.S. citizen

Philip Maddocks

Just moments after the President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attack on American soil and the most hunted man in the world, had been killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan, his critics said they had ceased to doubt his U.S. citizenship or his credentials to run the country.

“All we needed was proof and now, finally, we have that,” said a young man, dressed in khaki pants, flip-flops, and a T-shirt emblazoned with “DISBELIEVE” in large letter across the front and back, one of a hoard of celebrants who had gathered in front of the White House to rejoice in their newfound knowledge that the president was indeed born in the United States and is the legitimate leader of the country.

Another celebrant, a college freshman, called it “a great relief and a huge weight off my mind” that the president had proven beyond any doubt his true nationality with his commanding of the targeted mission in Pakistan,

 “The feeling you can’t even imagine, the feeling in the air. It’s crazy,” he said.

Others said they had first learned last summer that Mr. Obama might be planning something to illustrate his true birthplace that would be more convincing than legal documents produced by a hospital and a government office, but they admitted they had little idea of what the president had in mind.

“With Obamacare and all that it was beyond comprehension that I would ever believe he is from the same country as me,” said a middle-aged man toting around a “USA” sign. “But knowing that it was the president who gave the final order for members of the Navy Seals and C.I.A. operatives to strike, I can say that I am not only confident that he is an American but I am beginning to believe his policies might actually be good for the country. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

For years, as they failed to believe him, the president’s critics that make up the so-called birther movement have said that their clamoring for him to produce his birth records was more symbolically important than operationally significant because Mr. Obama is the president and the country’s leader, but his opponents had hoped to keep him on the defensive and hinder any meaningful leadership role he tried to assume.

But a New York Times/CBS News Poll released Thursday showed just how dramatically public opinion had shifted in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The poll found that 90 percent of adults surveyed nationwide said they thought Mr. Obama was born in the United States. And the 10 percent who said he was born elsewhere said they meant Hawaii, not some other country.

Even Donald Trump, a potential Republican presidential candidate who had been questioning the validity of the president’s birth certificate, gave ground this week.

 “I want to personally congratulate President Obama for proving he may be more American than me,” said a contrite Mr. Trump, who noted that a recent Gallup/USA Today poll found that some 7 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Trump was probably or definitely born in another country, while 30 percent were uncertain.

Mr. Trump told reporters that in the face of such discouraging numbers he was considering abandoning his presidential aspirations so he could join the Navy Seals.

“For over two years, the president has been the symbol of doubt and ridicule for the birther movement,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said in a statement broadcast around the world. “The death of these false rumors about the president’s citizenship marks the most significant achievement to date in our effort to defeat this movement. But the death of this rumor does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that the president’s critics will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad — and by abroad I mean Hawaii.”

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