Bob Schieffer: Will Obama birth certificate release halt Trump traction?

Why didn't President Obama make his official birth certificate available years ago when "birthers" first began questioning his citizenship?

White House officials have consistently told CBS News' chief White House correspondent Bob Schieffer and other reporters that the president didn't want to elevate the issue or dignify such claims with a response.

That came to a head Wednesday when in an attempt to silence the birther movement, and specifically potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the White House released Mr. Obama's long-form birth certificate for the first time.

"The White House must have concluded that Donald Trump was getting some traction and finally decided they had to bring it to a halt," Schieffer said on CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged" Wednesday.

"This is something you might talk about on a reality show, which obviously Donald Trump knows a lot about, but I'm not sure in real life if this is something that serious people would be talking about," he added.

While Trump took credit for the release in New Hampshire almost immediately following the president's news conference, other potential Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney and even Michele Bachmann have distanced themselves.

"You've now had practically everybody who's running for the nomination or is even thinking about running coming out on the record and saying this is a non-issue," Schieffer said.

So why now?

From CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid's perch at the White House, it appears to be all about politics.

"This wasn't just defense on the part of the president, this was offense," Reid said.

The birther issue is one the White House views as "political plus" for the president in 2012 because it antagonizes independent voters.

"The more Republicans harp on it, the more independents say, 'I don't care about that,'" Reid said. "They saw an opportunity here to portray Trump and by deflection, all Republicans as engaging in this silly gamesmanship when the president is engaged in talking about the serious issues."

Though Reid was quick to point out that after his statement, the president flew to Chicago to tape an interview with Oprah Winfrey and then goes to New York for three Democratic fundraisers.

Watch the video above.

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