Diary

Why it's time to take birthers seriously [closed]

[Okay, this silliness has gone on long enough. We don’t subscribe to birtherism on the site. If that’s an itch you really feel needs to be scratched you’re in the wrong place.

–streiff]

Last week Mr. Obama publically referred to the controversy surrounding his eligibility for the Office of the Presidency – and Allahpundit, writing for hot air, said this about Mr. Obama’s decision to raise the issue:

It’s newsworthy as a rare example of The One addressing Birthers directly and as proof of how useful this dopey controversy is to him, letting him take the high road – during a speech about faith, no less – vis-a-vis opponents looking to discredit him by all available means. The citizenship line is delivered almost as an afterthought, but I doubt it was unscripted: Remember, Birtherism is part of the Dems’ midterm strategy, to frighten indies into believing that the GOP’s too fringe-y to be trusted with governance.

I believe a lot of smart people want to agree with Allahpundit on this, but that the bitter truths of the birther issue do not – and as the denier vindication going on in the various climategate scandals shows, reality always triumphs in the end.

The importance of the birther issue is both simple and complex: simple because the bottom line reality of birther claims is blatantly obvious, and complex because birther reality is compounded out of deep emotional conflicts within themselves, among members of the birther community, and between birthers and those who try to use the label “birthers” to denigrate them.

Notice that there are two very different issues here: what’s right about birther beliefs, and what risks deniers run as pressures building inside the cauldron of birther emotional response seek outlets.

The most obvious conflict arises from the “birther” label, because most birthers adopting it know it’s a lie.

The term appears to have originated with, and was certainly popularized by, a number of major media players whose general zealotry on behalf of Mr. Obama’s perceived agenda leads easily to the assumption that the coinage incorporates a sneering reference to the 9/11 truthers with a sophisticated attempt to limit public attention paid birther concerns to the matter of Mr. Obama’s missing birth certificate.

In reality, however, relatively few birthers put the missing birth certificate at the center of their concerns. On the contrary, most see it only as simultaneously the easiest example to publicize of all the missing Obama documentation, and as the most glaring example of mass media hypocrisy in that the latter went full bore after proof that Sarah Palin’s son is really her’s and repeatedly demanded that John McCain prove his eligibility for office, but not only viciously attack anyone unwilling to accept an obviously inadequate profer as sufficient proof of Mr. Obama’s American birth, but appear to deliberately mislead their audience by conflating legal citizenship with natural citizenship.

What we don’t know about Mr. Obama
The traditional list of examples, lifted straight from Joseph Farah’s wnd.com, looks like this:

Besides Obama’s actual birth documentation, the still-concealed documentation for him includes kindergarten records, Punahou school records, Occidental College records, Columbia University records, Columbia thesis, Harvard Law School records, Harvard Law Review articles, scholarly articles from the University of Chicago, passport, medical records, his files from his years as an Illinois state senator, his Illinois State Bar Association records, any baptism records, and his adoption records.

The less canonical version makes the utterly absurd, but sadly correct, claim that we know more about North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il than about Mr. Obama – because we know who paid for Mr. Kim’s education; we know when, where, and to whom, he was born; we know his national and religious affiliations; and, he has not spoken convincingly on both main sides of every major issue.

The deeper conflict birthers feel is both more complex and more subtle. In general birthers are Americans who deeply love their country or foreigners, like me, who deeply love the American ideal of one nation, under law – and it’s the “under law” component here that carries the emotional firepower for birthers. Under the highest law of the American nation, The Constitution, Mr.Obama’s ineligibility for the office he pretends to is unquestionable – but moral law, and today’s social values, contradict that to catch birthers between two deeply held value sets.

The intellectual side is easy: Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution requires that the President be a natural born citizen and as long as Mr. Obama claims that his father was a Kenyan of British citizenship (by coincidence precisely the loyalty split the founders were concerned about and their successors fought a war over twenty five years later) he cannot be eligible for the office he pretends to.

The emotional one is harder: the constitution was written at a time when family rights and obligations descended exclusively through the father, but we now treat the mother as of equal importance – and since Mr. Obama’s mother is thought to have been an American at the time of his birth, the emotional response is to treat his electoral victories as a kind of jury nullification of this particular constitutional requirement.

About the certificate of live birth [COLB] released by Mr. Obama’s campaign
There are three separate issues here:
  1. The constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural born” citizen is not primarily about the candidate’s place of birth. It is primarily a requirement that the father be American.
  2. the COLB provided by the campaign has a fatal flaw in that it describes Mr. Obama’s father as “African”; a term not in use for Hawaiian birth documentation during the early 1960s.What seems to have happened was that Hawaii’s move to digital records enabled someone to let political correctness trump the legal need for facsimile reproduction and therefore change the original from “Negro” or “Negroid” to “African.” However, the legal maximum: “falsus in unum, falsus in omnia” applies, and this document therefore proves nothing without supporting testimony and production of the underlying records.
  3. A genuine Hawaiian COLB does not suffice to prove American birth.The Hawaiian COLB documented resident children up to one year of age regardless of their place of birth and required only that the guardian parent be ordinarily resident in Hawaii for the previous year.It appears, furthermore, that Hawaii 182 H.B. NO. 3016-82 allowed anyone to be issued valid Hawaiian birth certification on proving to the satisfaction of the Director of Health for Hawaii that the “legal parents of such individual while living without the Territory or State of Hawaii had declared the Territory or State of Hawaii as their legal residence for at least one year immediately preceding the birth or adoption of such child”.

And as if that isn’t conflict enough, there’s one that’s even more important: birthers tend to be people who respect the law, respect opposing viewpoints, and generally avoid both person to person and political conflict – but being a birther stands in opposition to all that: it means making yourself a target for the two ends of the democratic spectrum still supporting Mr. Obama: the unemployable illiterates whose forte is hate, and the weak minded public intellectuals whose forte is self-justifying mis-information.

To really understand how deep seated this conflict is, contrast the least reported of all consistent tea party phenomena: their neatness and politesse, with what happens when Mr. Obama’s supporters get together. Put 200,000 tea partiers on the lawn in front of the Washington monument, and they leave the place clean – but Obama’s people leave an open garbage dump behind them.

Every city holding an Obama rally both before and after the 2008 elections ended up with a garbage problem, a police overtime budget problem, and a collections problem when they went after the organizers. Tea parties and Palin rallies, in contrast, leave none of this hang-over – and people who don’t litter, don’t shout, and don’t address illiterate rants to editors also don’t want to get down and dirty in the birther conflicts.

Taken together these conflicts wouldn’t matter if the birther movement wasn’t growing – but it is, and in that growth there’s both danger and opportunity.

There’s danger, because the emotional load carried by birthers could be discharged into the tea party movement and the 2010/12 elections. After all, one of Mr. Alinksy’s more cogent bits of advice (cadged of course, from someone else) is that winners understand their enemy’s strengths, and use those strengths against them – and because the greatest strength of the tea partiers and birthers is that they’re basically decent Americans, Mr. Obama’s people may be able to build birther conflicts nearly to the point of explosion and then bleed all that energy into a “one brush tars all” rejection of conservative views (and any further discussion of his eligibility) by conflating birtherism with the tea party movement and then publically producing a genuine Hawaiian birth certificate.

The opportunity, of course, is in seizing the issue: educating the public to understand that it’s about where his allegiances are, not about where he was born -and including his prompt ejection from office in the November 2010 contract with America. campaign.