Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Variations on a Conspiracy in B Flat

By now, unless you've been completely deprived of all sources of information for the entire week, you've heard about the "birther" controversy.

The "birthers" are a growing group of people who claim that Barack Obama is not eligible to be the President of the United States because he doesn't meet the Constitutional criteria of being a natural-born citizen. They further claim that the president's long-form birth certificate from the State of Hawaii may provide evidence of this.

In most states, of course, it's not possible to obtain a birth certificate for someone who was not actually born in the state. In Hawaii, in 1961, according to many different people, it was possible to do this. I have no idea if the people making this particular claim are even remotely correct about that, but bear in mind that Hawaii had only been a state since August 21, 1959, and that Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961. It is at least marginally reasonable to suppose that things hadn't been fully sorted out by 1961 in terms of who was eligible to apply for state citizenship, and thus United States citizenship.

However, the short form or "Certification of Live Birth" Obama has released lists his birthplace as Honolulu. Presumably the long form will show the same thing, and will add further details confirming the name of the hospital where Obama was born (both Queen's Medical and Kapiolani Hospital have been named as Obama's birthplace--first Queen's, and then later Kapiolani, which continues to be referred to as the hospital where Obama was born), along with the name of the attending physician, and some more complete information about Obama's parents.

At this point I seriously doubt that the long form birth certificate will not confirm these things, and will not show definitively that Obama was born in Hawaii. So the question is: why not just release the long form birth certificate? Why not do the one thing that would deal a death blow to this particular conspiracy, peeling away the mildly curious and possibly persuadable, leaving only the hardcore tinfoil hat wearers who still think JFK was killed by the Roswell alien?

I have heard approximately five possible theories about why President Obama might not be releasing the long form birth certificate. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. President Obama believes that the "birthers" are like the 9/11 "truthers" or the Trig Palin "truthers" in that a little thing like evidence isn't going to curb their enthusiasm for the game of conspiracy theory. Heck, last I heard one prominent blogger still apparently thinks Bristol Palin might be Trig's mother, even though Bristol's subsequent pregnancy and the dates involved make that a biological impossibility. So Obama, having released the short form a long time ago, goes this argument, has nothing to gain from releasing the long form now. He has nothing to lose, either, but that's irrelevant.

2. President Obama's long form birth certificate contains some information that might be mildly embarrassing to him. Perhaps his parent's weren't actually married when he was born, or perhaps his race on the certificate is not listed as "African" as it is on the short form COLB (which may easily be true), or perhaps there is some other minor, unimportant discrepancy which Obama would prefer not be made public. So while releasing the long form birth certificate might make the conspiracy go away, it would also bring to public attention some minor embarrassment which Obama would prefer to keep private. Thus, he has decided not to release it and to wait for the controversy to die down.

3. President Obama's long form birth certificate contains some information that might be seriously damaging to him (politically speaking), even though not as damaging as a foreign birth. There are various hypotheses as to what this information might be, ranging from speculation that someone other than Barack Obama Sr. is listed as his father to even wilder and weirder ideas. Whatever the case, goes this argument, Obama simply can't afford to release the long form. All he can do is hope it never winds up in the public record, and do everything possible to keep it secret.

4. President Obama's birth certificate is completely ordinary and proves that he was born in Hawaii. The problem, according to this scenario, is that he might have attended one or more of his colleges by applying for and receiving aid to foreign students. This makes it necessary for Obama to keep both his birth certificate and his school records a secret. So long as the short form Certification of Live Birth is the only record publicly available, no one can prove that he was never eligible for aid to foreign students--but should the detailed long form be made a part of the public record, some schools might have a few questions for the President.

5. President Obama's birth certificate is being concealed simply because it does prove that Obama wasn't born in the United States. Though his mother was, of course, American, his father was not, and his mother wasn't old enough to confer citizenship on her child--he couldn't be a natural born citizen because he was born outside of the country to a British citizen and an American who wasn't old enough to confer citizenship by the laws in place in 1961. He is hiding the birth certificate because it shows him to be ineligible to be the president, plain and simple.

Of all of these speculations, I find theory "5" the least likely. For a conspiracy of this magnitude to exist, so many people would have to be involved and know the truth that it becomes increasingly unlikely that one or more of them wouldn't have revealed it. But I've got to be honest here: I also find theory "1" somewhat unlikely, too--at least from the standpoint that if Obama really can make all--or most--of this go away with a simple phone call to the Hawaii, it's hard to understand why he wouldn't just do that.

There is a sixth theory, though, that says Obama's exploiting the situation for political gain, and plans to spring his perfectly innocuous long-form birth certificate on the public at the right time, when enough Republicans have signed on to the conspiracy theory to look extremely foolish when the (weather) balloon goes up, so to speak. I don't know. I have a hard time believing that Obama thinks the Republicans need any help in the "looking extremely foolish" department.

8 comments:

Baron Korf said...

Personally I don't care about his reason(s). When I got a job at Wendy's at 15, and every job since, I had to prove my eligibility to my employers. I don't think the president, any president, should be exempted from this convention. If privacy is a concern, let the Supreme Court review the credentials behind closed doors. If they are going to be entrusted with interpreting our laws and their constitutionality we might as well trust them with that.

That's just me though.

Ambrose said...

Erin--I really enjoy your guest blogging on the Crunchy Con website.
Even though #5 is considered the least likely, there is a point contained that is inaccurate. A person can be born out-of-country and still be a natural born US citizen. It was a process we just had to confirm as one of our children was last year born in Hong Kong. If a person born abroad inherits citizenship from one or both parents (who have also satisfied all those residency requirements like age and having resided inside the US for a period of time) and never takes on the birth country's citizenship, that person is natural born citizen. Our daughter is Hong Kong-born, but never held HK or Chinese citizenship. She has a US Dept of State-issued Certificate of Live Birth Abroad which is issued as proof of citizenship.
At least twice two men born on foreign soil have qualified to run for president. Recently, of course, was Senator McCain, born in Panama Canal Zone. In the 20th century, Mitt Romney's father, George Romney , was eligible to run for president even though he was born in Mexico. His parents never renounced their American citizenship nor did he ever take on Mexican citizenship.

Red Cardigan said...

Ambrose, thanks. I stated that rather obliquely (and inaccurately as you point out), I'm afraid, because I started out saying one thing and then changed it without checking the finished sentence to see if it made sense. I've gone ahead and fixed it.

One point, though--as you say, your child can be considered "natural born" because at no time did your child take on the birth country's citizenship. According to Obama's own released information, he held "dual citizenship" (that is, he was a citizen of both the US and Britain) until this dual citizenship "expired" when he turned 21. If Obama had been born in Kenya and had held dual citizenship, the waters get pretty murky in terms of his ability to claim to be a "natural born" citizen. But if Obama was born in Hawaii (as he most probably was,) then retaining his father's British citizenship until his adulthood doesn't, as far as I know, automatically disqualify him from serving as our president.

I'm sure this question of "dual citizenship" is one reason why the birthers really want to see the original long-form birth certificate.

Bob the Ape said...

I confess to having been agnostic on the issue (while feeling that it would be a great joke if the birthers turned out to be right), but the recent editorial in National Review Online (scarcely an Obama-friendly site) contains the sort of commonsensical detail that destroys conspiracy theories:

"Baby Barack’s birth was not heralded, as some of his partisans have suggested, by a star in the east, but it was heralded by the Honolulu Star, as well as the Honolulu Advertiser, each of which published birth announcements for young Mr. Obama."

Covering up a birth certificate is one thing; planting false stories when you’re a few days old because you’ll need them 47 years later to run for President is something else.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Ambrose-- the deal with Obama and 'natural born' was that, at the time the laws were different than they are today. So because he had a foreign father and a US mother, and because she was so young, if he had been born abroad he would NOT be a citizen of the US, he'd be a citizen of Kenya.

I suppose the law was an attempt to avoid child brides being sent back to their home country to bear 'future american citizens' or something like that.....

So the birthers are partially correct--IF he was born in Kenya, he would not be eligible for the presidency.

BUT as Erin points out, how likely is it that, in an age before cellphones and computers, anyone would have gone through the massive trouble to fake a US birth. Especially since he would be able to be naturalized with a minimum of fuss when his mom returned home?

So the birthers, like most conspiracy types, are taking a shred of truth (if he'd been born in Kenya...) and blowing it up into a huge conspiracy.

Also, If this story had had any REAL legs, Clinton would have used it in the primaries.....

Anonymous said...

The time lines, places, actions, motives, when analyzed, support, and are consistent with, what is the answer to the Obama birth puzzle:

Obama’s grandmother is his mother and his mother is his sister.

Think about it. Review all the facts and claims.

ddadmin said...

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Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that the answer is none of the above. The long form birth certificate no longer exists. Hawaii used to have a different form for birth certificates, but in 2001 they entered all of the old data in a database and changed the form. Now, if you ask Hawaii for your birth certificate, you get the "short form" birth certificate. So, when Obama's campaign asked for a copy of his birth certificate in 2007 or 2008, that is what he got, and that's what he made available to the press.

Based on what I've read, it appears that Hawaii got rid of all of the old paper copies when they switched to an electronic system. What is not clear is (a) whether they scanned the hard copies before they destroyed them or (b) whether their database includes fields (like the hospital) that were on the old form but are not on the new form, so that there might be some data in Hawaii's database that is not reported on the new form.