Confronting growing doubts that could undermine his re-election bid, President Obama on Wednesday delivered an extraordinary rebuttal to those questioning whether he was born in the United States and eligible to hold office, producing a detailed birth certificate and pleading for a long "sideshow" to end.
Obama's surprising intervention came as the White House saw that doubts about his birth in Hawaii -- and therefore his legitimacy to be president -- were growing, consuming more of the political debate and the mainstream media's attention.
Until now, the White House had deflected demands for Obama to produce his long-form birth certificate, apparently content that voters would see the issue as frivolous, perhaps even to the president's benefit.
The White House calculation Wednesday was that it was necessary to step in and try to deflate the issue, even though doing so meant Obama ended up swamping the news with the very topic he said he wanted to quash.
Donald Trump, weighing a campaign against Obama, crowed that he had forced the president's hand.
On TV, Obama said the issue was distraction from the important matters of the day: budget deficits and soaring gasoline prices.
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness," Obama said in a hurriedly announced appearance in the White House briefing room. "We've got better stuff to do."
He portrayed himself as the voice of reason in a loud, lingering debate, essentially saying that the nation was above all this. The president also sought to push to the national fringe anyone who refused to accept the facts about his birth, taking an indirect swipe at Trump, who has been loudly stirring up the matter.
"We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers," Obama said before TV cameras at the White House.
Trump, the real estate developer who was making campaignlike stops in New Hampshire, proudly took credit for getting Obama to show further proof of his birth in Hawaii.
"Today I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish," Trump told reporters, shortly after his black and red helicopter, emblazoned "TRUMP" on the side, touched down in Portsmouth.
"I hope it's true so we can get on to much more important matters," Trump said.
At that point, Trump launched into another favorite topic: whether Obama -- who graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude -- deserved admission to Ivy League schools. Trump says he has sources who claim that Obama had not been a good student.
Obama had released a standard short form of his birth certificate before he was elected in 2008 but requested copies of his original birth certificate from Hawaii officials in hopes of killing the controversy. Until Wednesday, the White House had insisted that the short form certificate was the appropriate legal document confirming Obama's birth and no further proof was needed. In addition, officials in Hawaii had said the longer version could not be released, and the White House had not tried to get past that.
Doubts about his birth in America, though widely debunked, have been growing. A recent New York Times-CBS News poll found that fully 45 percent of adult Republicans said they believed Obama was born in another country or weren't sure.
At the same time, many Republican leaders have been wary of the topic, not wanting to be linked to an extreme argument. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said on Twitter: "What President Obama should really be releasing is a jobs plan."
The Constitution says a president must be a "natural born citizen." Obama's skeptics assert he was born in Kenya, his father's home country.
Obama secured special authority to secure two official copies of the more detailed certificate. He dispatched his personal attorney to fly to Hawaii, get the certificates and hand deliver them back to the White House.
The certificate says Barack Hussein Obama II was born at 7:24 p.m. Aug. 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital, Honolulu.
It is signed by the delivery doctor, Obama's mother and the local registrar. His mother, then 18, signed her name (Stanley) Ann Dunham Obama.
The certificate says his father, Barack Hussein Obama, age 25, was African and born in Kenya and his mother was Caucasian and born in Wichita, Kan. Obama's mother and the doctor signed the certificate on Aug. 7 and 8.
Obama quickly left the stage after making his appeal for a national debate on the most serious issues of the day. He was off to Chicago for an appearance on Oprah Winfrey's television show and then to New York City to raise money for his re-election.