In the Matter of a Birth Certificate

A couple of weeks ago, Army reservist Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook challenged his deployment order to Afghanistan on the grounds that it he is not required to serve under a commander-in-chief that has not proven his eligibility for that position.  Namely, Cook alleged that President Obama was not born in the United States, but rather in Kenya, where Obama’s father is from. (The president must be a natural-born citizen under the Constitution.)  A few days later Cook, who says he does want to serve in Afghanistan, but has a duty to question his order, won a strange victory– his deployment order was revoked without any further explanation.

Many will remember that rumors swirled regarding the true birthplace of now-President Obama during the presidential campaign last year.  To be honest, I didn’t pay any significant attention to the matter.  Particularly at issue was/is the absence of Obama’s long-form birth certificate.  True, the Obama camp has produced a secondary Certification of Live Birth (that shows Obama was born in Hawaii), which is a document that can be procured several years after the fact when the primary birth certificate cannot be located.  Some who have examined the scanned version of the document claim to find irregularities that could call into question the certificate’s authenticity.  I should also mention that finds these kind of allegations “absurd,” and even points to birth announcements in local Hawaiian newspapers for Barack Obama in 1961.  But then there’s this— supposedly showing that a left-wing blogger admitted to forging the Certification of Live Birth.  And I could have posted many more links that support either side of this story.

Aside from the actual forensic elements of the case, upon which I am thoroughly agnostic (don’t let the length of back story fool you; this is not a post assessing the proof that Obama was born in Hawaii or Kenya, or expressing an opinion either way), the whole matter raises several interesting issues.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the various iterations of the birth certificate controversy is that although it’s lingered for months, it could go away in five minutes if the White House would just release the long-form birth certificate. But suppose you are the president, who has a very valid Hawaii birth certificate– would releasing the document be akin to negotiating with terrorists or in any way be dignifying the allegations of a vocal fringe?  I think it’s easy to think that it should be beneath someone to respond to crazies. Yet at the same time, those “crazies” comprise a perhaps ever-growing portion of the president’s constituency.  Additionally, the Obama camp seemed acknowledge the issue by releasing the Certification of Live Birth (if indeed it was not a blogger’s forgery).  So, haven’t they already tried to assuage the skeptics’ questions?  Why not go the full ten yards then and put an end to this by releasing the official birth certificate?  But would it really put the matter to an end, or would some people start claiming that the “official” birth certificate was also a fraud?  I think the latter is very likely.  Perhaps the administration sees this as a never-ending controversy, so why keep feeding it at its current stage?

And, if you are the president’s men, might keeping such an issue alive paint the other side in an irrational, conspiracy-happy light?  I’m not unconvinced such could be used for the left’s political advantage, although I’m not specifically alleging they are doing so– just mentioning it as a possibility.

If you are on the right, is this an issue worth fighting over?  I’ve seem some of my conservative friends roll their eyes when another person asserts that Obama is a Muslim or that he was born in Kenya.  I understand this sentiment completely, for several reasons.  First, it’s probably a waste of time to keep insisting on something that is likely to be proven wrong.  Two, these kind of battles steal credibility from conservatives and makes them look like sore losers, searching for any far-fetched excuse to defeat Obama.  And third, it’s easy to imagine that a lot of the vocal fringe are doing exactly that– they are being disingenuous by looking for everything and anything that could topple the president.  If these were serious legal scholars, insisting on the integrity of the rule of law under the Constitution, and sincerely questioning the nature of Obama’s birth in that context, it would be one thing.   But it seems like many are exploiting the issue simply because they don’t like Obama and his policies, which probably colors their reliability and credibility on the whole issue.  If they are proven wrong here, it’s likely that they’ll just move onto something else that calls into question Obama’s presidential legitimacy, and create other distractions for the majority of conservatives, which would rather wage battles on the actual merits of the president’s policies.

And it’s unfortunate that the vocal fringe has a credibility problem, because indeed, this controversy does implicate a serious constitutional issue, one which I think is worthy to insist upon exploring objectively.  But by now the situation is so politically charged that it’s improbable too many will appreciate the fact that some people could actually raise the issue in an honest manner.  (And though I’m not familiar with the process, one wonders why a person who appears on a presidential ballot should not be required to produce conclusive evidence of that candidate’s eligibility for the office.)

Perhaps the last wrinkle of this multifaceted story that I’ll expound on here does go to whether Obama was born here or there– what if the vocal skeptics are actually right?  This is a possibility that I think most of us write off too easily, but something we should seriously assess, given some compelling evidence that hey, these guys could be right.  (It’s not as if all conspiracy theories are untrue.)   After all, if someone’s case is really so absurd, it should be easy to dismantle it– but why hasn’t that been done here then? I.e., why can’t the adminstration simply release the long-form certficate? And given that it is arguable someone in the military would actually have standing to sue on whether Mr. Obama is a legitimate president under the Constitution– unlike other dismissed federal cases on this issue in which mere voters did not have standing because they could not allege specific harm– why was Maj. Cook’s deployment order revoked without further explanation?


Filed under Brandon

20 responses to “In the Matter of a Birth Certificate

  1. czf

    Obama would be foolish to ackn0wledge any of the ‘Birther’ controversy. Sometimes you have to let the fringe remain on the fringe. In my opinion, this scandal has nothing to do with Obama. It is much more about mounting a resistance based on something physical and tangible rather than on policy or values. (Similar to W. Bush is/was a drunk/coke-user). This can be played out in the netherworld of the internet. And Lou Dobbs show.

    I for one tend not to believe any claim that comes forth on the internet as long as it remains only there(such as a blogger claiming to have forged Obama’s certification). A lot of truth comes out on the internet, but little of it stays there. There’s an enormous level of credibility difference between the POTUS and some blogger.
    And, like the fringe folks who claimed Obama is a Muslim, this will probably aid Obama. He’s a citizen; claiming he doesn’t have a legitimate right to be president seems to me a very Shakespearean plan to overtake the presidency. It certainly isn’t a a rational dispute between ideologically various parties. Honestly, I think it makes people look panicky and desperate.

    And, on the off chance that the birthers are right, well, Obama will have pulled off such an enormous, complicated, and elaborate hoax that no one could possibly be faulted for believing it. To get from Kenyan-born African child to first African-American President of the US, would there have ever been a greater swindle of the American Public in history?
    (Answer: it doesn’t matter, because there is no real reason to question his citizenship).

  2. The only way to put this issue to rest is to prove that you are an American citizen. Easy as 1, 2, 3. Prove that you are and all these questions will be laid to rest. It should be an issue but because people love the man so much. They couldn’t care less if he is American or not. I guess when taxes are higher and the economy gets worse they will understand.

  3. Christopher

    The people raising hell over this probably aren’t educated enough to realize that Hawaii is a state.

    Jon Stewart hilariously points out how this inane argument is fed by xenophobic zealots and their Pied Piper: Lou Dobbs.

  4. And if you were educated on the issue you would have realized that its not about having Hawaii as a state. We all know that. The issue is Where was he born? There are conflicting reports as to the correct location. Obama says Hawaii,his grandmother says she was at his birth in Kenya with other family members for the birth. It doesn’t add up.

    Obama moved to Indonesia earlier in his life and was adopted by his step-father. This would mean a name change Chris. Since he moved to Indonesia in a time of war it would mean only citizens were allowed to attend school. And that is how we have come to know that Obama went to a muslim school.

    He then came to the USA and would have to go through immigration to become a US citizen. There is no record of him doing so. Which means Chris that there is a possibility that your president Obama may be an illegal citizen.

    If that doesn’t shock, wake you up about this issue then maybe your too in love with Obama to see his faults.

    Lou Dobbs is merely a journalist that is shedding light to this issue. On this issue all the people would like the President to do is to show this simple document. What amazes me is that anyone that comes against this President seems to be maligned and degraded. All he has to do is provide the real document. The document he has provided is fake, I can do that, it is not authentic. Any their can. The document he has provided is not a birth certificate. I cannot fathom why the media isn’t pressuring him on this. That is why people are pressuring him. The more he avoids this matter, the more people are going to talk. That equals lower ratings, negative image which the president needs right now.

  5. Christopher


    For someone who is so clearly interested in the details of the subject, I am disheartened by your inability to discern truth from mere tabloid journalism. If you believe that Lou Dobbs is a journalist, then we really have nothing to discuss.

    Here’s an article from yesterday’s NYtimes that refutes everything you assert:'s%20birth&st=cse

    Here is another article from that refutes the notion that Obama’s Kenyan grandmother says she was present at his birth:

    You are forming preposterous opinions based on nothing more than the pseudo-intellectualism of cable news. Firstly, the birth document has been officially confirmed by the Department of Health for the State of Hawaii. Secondly, Lou Dobb’s was proven wrong on HIS OWN show!!! (as my previous clip displays). Lastly, there are even official US hospital records on file, as well as birth announcements found printed in the Honolulu newspapers for Barack Obama on Aug 13, 1961!!

    You say you can’t fathom why the media isn’t pressuring him on this. I’ll tell you why: they have dignity of intellectual honesty to uphold! They can’t just run away with a story that has already been debunked! Have you stopped to wonder why the AP, Reuters, the BBC, etc… aren’t covering this? Or is that all another conspiracy?

    For conspiracy theorists who desire to further promulgate ignorant doubt, no form of documentation will ever suffice. And for the record Mr. Corvedacosta, I didn’t even vote for Obama, so I have no personal need to defend him. However, what I DO defend is intellectual honesty. I urge you to seek real facts from real news sources.

  6. I am in no way supporting these conservatives who are on the rage. What I am alarmed about is that this issue can go away now by showing the real document. Show the doc. and move on. But no, we will continue these rumors to spread damaging his image everyday by those who care about the issue.


  7. Joseph

    But that’s what the articles say – there are no “real documents.” They are all electronic, from 1908 until now.

    “In 2001 – the state of Hawaii Health Department went paperless.*Paper documents were discarded*The official record of Obama’s birth is now an official ELECTRONIC record Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department told the Honolulu Star Bulletin, “At that time, all information for births from 1908 (on) was put into electronic files for consistent reporting,” she said.”

    So what, exactly, does he need to show?

  8. I think this has gotten out of hand. Obama should have submitted these docs (paper form – digital) to run for President. That should have been the procedure. I do not know why we are at this stage today. There are so many issues to attend to. I have not heard anything education yet.

    This will continue to be an issue because the call in programs will forever be pressuring it, FOX NEWS will feature it, I now see MS NBC talking, Lou Dobbs is on it, Chris Matthews had a discussion on it, CNN is doing their thing, IT IS ALL OVER THE INTERNET, BLOGS. When will Obama address it?

  9. GCC

    This may also be a symptom of 24-hour news outlets. They have a lot of time to fill, and real news (that also drives ratings) may not happen often enough for them.

    And we have to remember that news outlets are in the business of catering to the public first and reporting real and accurate news second. In fact, they only do the latter in the case the public actually wants it.

  10. czfinke

    How many of the previous 44 presidents’ birth certificates have you seen?

  11. Are you saying that knowing ur president is an american doesn’t matter to you. Omit Obama right now. You don’t think this is a huge issue.

    How may Birth Cert. have I seen, check C SPAN!

    Tell Obama to prove he is.

  12. Joseph

    He can’t show you a paper copy or an electronic version of the long form because neither exists. The state of Hawaii destroyed all paper records in 2001. The only item in existence in the state record is the electronic copy everyone has seen.

    From here:

    “…the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the state’s current certification of live birth ‘as an official birth certificate meeting all federal and other requirements.'”

    So again, how is he supposed to “produce” this document that everyone says will get him off the hook, if it doesn’t exist in the first place?

  13. well, listen. My approval rates are not going down, people are not expressing hate and rage against me everyday, and my question of integrity is not in a loop. Obama has the POWER to settle this once and for all.

    Is he a legal citizen or an illegal alien? Who was the doctor? Who was the nurse?

    If it doesn’t exist, tell us and let the issue go away. But remaining silent and having one newspaper with this fact, the other doesn’t cut it. It only asks more questions.

  14. Brandon

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Clearly, I knew little of the actual forensics of the matter, and you guys have got some great information here. But the post was intended to explore some of the issues implicated by cases such as these, and not necessarily the evidence itself. But, I can see that they are somewhat inseparable.
    Corvedacosta brings up the point I was making before– why can’t he just produce the document and be done with it? But if Joseph is correct, there’s nothing to produce, and the Supreme Court has recognized the “Certificate of Live Birth” is acceptable as conclusive evidence of such matters. (Incidentally, the Snopes link above contradicts Joseph’s link, in that it implies the Certificate of Live Birth is not merely electronic (as people have inspected the physical document), and an official at the Hawaii Health Department testifies that she HAS seen the official long form document… so it appears that there’s contradictory arguments on that side of the case– not that there’s not anything contradictory on the other side!)
    CZF, you indirectly raise another worthy point– who has/should have the burden of proof? You would hope, like I say above, that the process requires each candidate to conclusively prove eligibility. Did that happen here? Maybe the Certificate of Live Birth met that burden of production if the latter exists. (On the other hand, maybe the campaign was just releasing it to quell the controversy, acknowledging the “Birthers” in a manner that others above have implied is illegitimate.) Maybe each of the 43 presidents who went before did have to produce their birth certificates, and we could see them if we wanted. Maybe instead, anyone can run for president, and is merely subject to legal challenge after the fact. I don’t know.

    Also, I had no idea Lou Dobbs was talking about this. And other than the fact he’s on CNN, I know next to nothing about him– is he some sort of conservative talking head?

  15. Peachey Carnehan

    Previous 44 presidents? Did I miss one? Are you including one of the Presidents of the Continental Congress in that total? John Hancock perhaps? Oh, I get it, you were including Algore, since he should have been POTUS, right? (Really, I kid.)

    Brandon, really I am ashamed. “Whole Ten yards”? Who taught you to write like that? Let’s get our cliches straight: Nine yards. No more, no less. I don’t care how much you love American football. Perhaps I should loan you a particular book on my shelf, it covers everything from “The whole nine yards” to “Send that in.” HA!

    Seriously though, if this isn’t an issue, then why drop the Major’s orders? I think the Obama administration has set a dangerous precedent. By not facing the issue directly and so obviously sidestepping it, they give the impression that they do not believe that they have a leg to stand on, legally. So the calls for Obama’s head become louder and now all that is required for a soldier to avoid deployment orders is to hire a lawyer that will question this same issue.

    (I’m sure this won’t matter to the Acolytes of Obama here, but I don’t get cable and had no idea who Lou Dobbs was until I googled him. But I am a huge fan of Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and would like to see them get together.)

    (Okay, I actually just threw up a little.)

  16. 🙂
    I thought Brandon really concluded the discussion on this topic and we would have returned to paying taxes to the Obama administration. LoL
    I guess Brandon stirred up some more anger.

    Your mention of Ann Coulter btw I am just back from looking at some videos with her. My friend just told me she is racist, I do not want to believe it LoL.

    I think there are some nasty information in Obama’s past. He hides a lot of stuff from us. He wanted to avoid his pastor issue, now the birth cert. I am tired of it. One of them will blow up in his face.

    PS You know Ann Coulter would crash Hannity’s show. So feisty!!

  17. blraatikka

    Peachey, the “whole nine yards” sounds almost as dumb as “I could care less,” but if someone can show me “nine” yards makes sense in some archaic context, I’ll have to accept it.

    Apparently, the “original vital records” (the long form BC?) DO exist, like I alluded to yesterday:

    So are we back to the pristine hypothetical I initially framed here?

    Also, this came out over the weekend– apparently McCain’s lawyers researched the whole Obama birth issue during the campaign, and found the rumors that he was born elsewhere to be without merit–

  18. Brandon

    This morning, my girlfriend forwarded me this story, which illustrates the confusion in the press surrounding this issue :

    It says: “Obama’s birth certificate … [was] brought forward even before he took office.”
    No, it wasn’t the birth certificate– it was the secondary “Certificate of Live Birth.” Apparently whoever wrote this story wasn’t even familiar with the 40,000 foot detail.

    Honestly, this is getting annoying. I’m starting to think President Obama, who has the “tangible interest” necessary to obtain the document, should get it and release it to make this whole thing go away.

    Christopher, I forgot to mention it before, but I wanted to tip my hat to your affirmation of intellectual honesty.

  19. GCC

    From my vantage point, the fact that the campaign team (full of resource both intellectual and financial) working against Obama determined this whole thing to be without merit is more than enough to close the case for me. It seems that no one would have had more motivation or resources with which to really uncover the “lie” about Obama’s place of birth than the McCain Campaign.

    And what about Hillary Clinton? You’d think she’d probably have gone after that too. Not publicly of course.

  20. Peachey Carnehan

    I don’t need to do your research for you. “The Whole Ten Yards” is only acceptable as a reference to a failed Bruce Willis movie. However, “The Whole Nine yards” has been in the english vernacular for some time, and there are various explanations for it, from the length of fabric to make a Great Kilt, to the length of a World War I machine gun belt.

    Lighten up.

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