The controversy over a birth certificate (Update)

I have to be completely honest about something that’s in the news these days that I was really planning on ignoring: I don’t really believe that President Obama was born in a foreign country. Barring real evidence to the contrary, I have no reason to doubt the word of the Vital Records folks in Hawaii who say their records show Obama was born there in 1961. And I honestly believed I was part of a firm majority of people in Virginia who felt the same.

However, word is coming out about a Public Policy Polling survey due to be released today that 41% of my fellow Virginia Republicans believe Obama wasn’t born in the US. (Really, guys? 41%?) Just 32% believe as I do that he was while 27% – almost as many of us who believe he was born in Hawaii – aren’t sure. There’s no reason to believe that these figures are somehow massively different in Virginia than they are elsewhere but even if it’s just half of that nationwide, that’s still 1 in 5 Americans with a serious doubt that the man sitting in the Oval Office is legally qualified to be there. That’s a very big deal.

I read an opinion piece by Chuck Norris yesterday and it got me thinking: if this kind of uncertainty exists why not do something about it. Norris says the same thing:

I’m writing you because this is no longer a matter merely about proving a presidential prerequisite in the Constitution. Refusing to post a copy of your original birth certificate is an unwise political and leadership decision that is enabling the birther controversy. The nation you are called to lead is experiencing a growing swell of conspirators who are convinced that you are covering up something. So why not just prove them wrong and shut them up?

To the members of Obama’s supporting team who have suddenly decided that dissent isn’t the patriotic duty they have been claiming it was for 8 years, take note that Norris explicitly states that he’s not among those who believe Obama wasn’t born in America. Read Norris’ whole article and you’ll see that he’s more concerned about the wisdom of allowing such a controversy to survive and grow when the fix for it would be simple and devastatingly quick.

But is it right and proper to be asking for that document to be released? Well, we demand that our Presidents release their medical reports. We demand to know their tax returns. We demand these things because we want to know that the man at the top is medically fit for such an office and that he’s adhering to the law in fiscal matters. The issue of whether he was born here in America isn’t academic and it’s not political, it’s a matter of Constitutional law and it’s black and white. He’s either legally permitted to run and hold the office or he’s not.

The requirements consist of him being of a certain age (35 years old or more) and that he be a native-born U.S. citizen. (A third requirement exists that he also must have lived in the US for 14 or more years but we know that’s been met by President Obama.) The only document that can conclusively prove that he meets both of the first 2 requirements is a birth certificate. That document is required for anyone so much as trying to get a drivers’ license in this country and it’s suddenly a no-no to ask that we see it when we’re confirming eligibility to be the President? Asking for documented proof of legal eligibility is not wrong and the mere asking is not traitorous regardless of the various commentary being aired – on both sides of the political aisle. I’m with Norris on this one: put up and shut them up. If this is such the non-issue it’s being claimed, then produce the document, shove it into the nearest “birther’s” face, and tell them to stick their conspiracy theories where the sun don’t shine.

Then we can get on with the rest of this business we have before us.

Update: Jonah Goldberg at The Corner has an interesting take.



  1. Why not? Simple: because posting the certificate will not stop the birthers. It will simply give them further ammunition to use in claiming there’s a coverup.

    Just like the 911Truthers. Just like the JFK-CIA-Mafia connection folks. Just like the Moon-Landing-Hoax folks. It does not matter how much evidence you provide. They will simply declare that the evidence is part of the conspiracy, and cry out all the louder.

    Bottom line is whether you agree that the evidence available is sufficient, or not. If you do, then you’re getting on with business, and you’re ignoring the group railing at you to believe them. If you don’t, then you’re going to be looking for more and more evidence, evidence that cannot be refuted… and none exists, because it can always be questioned.

    There’s such a thing as reasonable doubt, and there’s unreasonable. As you’ve said, there’s no evidence to suggest that the word of the authorities of Hawaii is unreliable. I’m content with that.

  2. Ehhh, not sure you can make the claim that 1 in 5 Americans – or more – buy the 911Truthers’ schtick. Same goes for the Moon landing imbeciles. That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

    The author of the 9/11 attacks has admitted responsibility personally. If those Truthers don’t want to accept that that’s their call but the statement is on record and it’s been publicly released. The documentation about the moon landing is copious and well-established. Again, it’s compelling unless you just don’t want to believe it. Moreover, it’s available to the public.

    This document that could end this “birther” stuff as a rational discussion is being withheld. It has not been released to the public as these other 2 cases were and it’s that withholding that’s allowing it to not just continue on the fringe as the 9/11 and Moonshot stuff but to grow.

    I would also point out that the calls for investigations into 9/11 were answered by the government with investigations, not with dismissive waves of a press secretary’s hand and derisive snorts. Should the Bush administration have simply ignored the calls for the 9/11 investigations and the calls to release those documents once compiled. I think I know full well what the reaction of the left would have been. If transparency was important then, it should be important now.

  3. James Taranto at the WSJ did a thorough debunking of the birthers in his 30 July Best of the Web column.

    He adds a bit more in a follow up column.

    The best reason among several for Obama not to respond is that the birthers severely undercut the credibility of everyone on the right, regardless of their actual belief in the theory.

    Conservatives need to stay away from birthers and their conspiracy theories if they want to have a real shot at taking back power in Congress.

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