At this festive time of year, we ought to be concentrating on the celebration of the birth of the One Who came to save us from our sins. Instead, we find ourselves ensnared in a bizarre argument over the natal circumstances of The One who comes bearing Hope and Change, none other than our presumptive President-Elect, Barack Hussein Obama II, as denoted on his birth certificate.
Or so we hear. And therein lies an important tale, for according to Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution:
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Yet there are those who believe that Mr. Obama is disqualified from the office by this clause, and the question becomes more tangled the more you examine it.
Complaints about Mr. Obama's origins have been around for months now, and we've steadfastly ignored them until now. After all, there is no question that Stanley Ann Dunham (named thus because her parents had wanted a boy) is a natural-born U.S. Citizen, born in the United States to two natural-born U.S. Citizens, and nobody is saying that Barack Obama was born to someone else.
So, like John McCain, who was born to American parents but not in the United States, Barack Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen regardless of where he was born, right? Case closed.
Not so fast; it's not quite that simple. The Constitution doesn't specifically define what "natural-born" means; that's left to statutory laws passed by Congress. Yes, the way the law reads now, if a child born today has one parent who is an American citizen, they can be delivered in Timbuktu and still be natural-born citizen, perfectly eligible to assume the Presidency. But on August 4, 1961, the law read:
If only one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth, that parent must have resided in the United States for at least ten years, at least five of which had to be after the age of 16.
Ann Dunham was born in 1942. Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was never a U.S. citizen and has never claimed to be; he doesn't count for purposes of Barack Jr's America citizenship.
A little math reveals Ann to be 18 at the time of Barack Obama's birth. Clearly, she doesn't meet the requirement of the law for foreign-born U.S. citizens' parents - to live 5 years in the U.S. after the age of 16, you have to be at least 21 at the time of the birth unless you are possessed of even more miraculous powers than those credited to Mr. Obama.
All that's merely academic, or so it would seem. The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, a U.S. state, so no matter who his parents were, he would be a U.S. citizen.
If, that is, he really was born in Hawaii.
Most Americans have had to prove their birth at one time or another in their lives and are familiar with how you do this: by presenting a birth certificate.
Unlike a U.S. passport or even a driver's license, birth certificates come in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and formats. Nowadays, many states store the data in a computer system and simply print out and certify the vital information on an official form, but over the years each county, town, or even hospital has had their own form and format.
There is no national standard that declares what a birth certificate is supposed to look like. In other words, we prove where we came from using a document that almost nobody looking at has any way to tell whether it's genuine.
When the question of his birth arose some months back, the Obama campaign released a scanned image of his Hawaii birth certificate which you can readily view online. It looks more or less like you'd expect a birth certificate to look, but as noted elsewhere, that doesn't really mean anything because most of us aren't familiar with Hawaiian birth certificates.
You'd have to compare it to another Hawaii birth certificate to have any confidence in the image. Fortunately, the resources of the Internet and Google are helpful: here's the birth certificate for a Hawaiian named Patricia DeCosta. Comparing the two birth certificates and allowing for variations in scanning equipment, Mr. Obama's passes the smell test.
Web commentators complain that Mr. Obama's certificate is lacking the embossed seal and the stamp of certification. In Hawaii, those don't go on the front of the certificate; they go on the back, where you wouldn't necessarily see them. Sometimes the stamp shows through the paper, as with Ms. DeCosta's, but again, different computer scanners will have different results.
Representatives from FactCheck.org physically went to the Obama campaign offices, personally examined the birth certificate, and verified the presence of the stamp and seal. You can see their report and photographs on the FactCheck website.
Could the certificate still be a forgery? With the hundreds of millions of dollars the Obama campaign raised, you can buy an awful lot of chicanery. Fraud at some level is at least possible, but both the State of Hawaii Health Director and the Hawaii Registrar of Vital Statistics certify that they personally examined the original birth certificate of Barack Obama in the vaults of Hawaii's archives and found it to be in order.
So unless there is a vast, far-reaching conspiracy, it's most unlikely that Barack Obama's birth certificate is a forgery. It is far, far more likely that he simply sent off to the Hawaii registrar for a copy, enclosing his check for the fee, and got the document in the mail just like anybody else.
Why, then, does the controversy continue? You'd think that Mr. Obama would simply ask Hawaiian officials to produce the original document at a press conference, to be examined by the media, forensic experts, and so on, just to put the question to rest. With such a simple solution immediately available, why let this drag on? It doesn't make sense. Something's missing.
At this point, the trail collides with a major logical fallacy that is rarely noticed or addressed: Documents, no matter how detailed, no matter how genuine, are not the same as reality.
Consider the 9-11 hijackers. When they checked in for their ill-fated flights, they presented their driver's licenses. These licenses were perfectly genuine. The check-in staff only glanced at them, of course; a good forgery wouldn't have been caught anyway.
But the terrorists' false licenses weren't forged; they came from the DMV offices and were made using the official machines which were used to generate any other driver's license in the state. Had a policeman checked the DMV database, the hijackers' bogus identities would have been indicated as valid and correct.
But they weren't. Regardless of what the documents said, regardless of what the computers would have confirmed, the licenses were false. They'd been fraudulently created with the help of bribed officials.
An official document may be worthy evidence of a fact and in law may even be considered conclusive proof, but documents do not create reality. They merely reflect it, or not, as the case may be. Reality itself may be quite different, depending on how the document came to be created.
Are we suggesting that Obama's parents bribed the Hawaii registrar to fraudulently file a birth certificate? Absolutely not.
They would not have needed to. Hawaiian law provides a perfectly legal way to get a 100% valid Hawaiian birth certificate for someone not born in the United States.
The webpage of the Hawaii State Department of Health states:
Amended certificates of birth may be prepared and filed with the Department of Health, as provided by law, for 1) a person born in Hawaii who already has a birth certificate filed with the Department of Health or 2) a person born in a foreign country.
Hawaiian law says that persons who were born in foreign countries can obtain Hawaiian birth certificates. Who is allowed to get an amended birth certificate? Further down the same website, it's stated that adopted persons can get an amended Hawaii birth certificate recorded on their behalf.
It's been reported that Barack Hussein Obama II was adopted by his mother's second husband, an Indonesian. It's also been reported that he was eventually adopted by his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, now both deceased. Either of these adoptions would have taken place in Hawaii, as the location of both Ann Dunham's second marriage and her parents' home.
As provided in Hawaiian law, an adoption could, perfectly legally, have triggered a legal, valid, amended Hawaiian birth certificate for Barack Obama even if he wasn't born in Hawaii.
Is that what actually happened? It should be easy to tell - the original birth certificate would normally be noted as an amended one, though that notification would not be on the certified copy Mr. Obama's campaign posted. On the other hand, if the official story of Mr. Obama's birth is true, the original birth certificate would show easily verified details such as the hospital and attending doctor. We're barred from finding out: by order of Hawaii's governor, Obama's birth records are sealed to everyone but himself.
Meanwhile, various contradictory reports swirl around. Mr. Obama's paternal grandmother, in Africa, was recorded as saying he was born there in her presence; Kenya has ordered all its national records regarding the Obamas sealed; and now, even our Supreme Court is contempating the question of his citizenship.
It's ludicrous that we should even be having this discussion, especially now, weeks after the election. The time for such debates was a year ago; the time to examine documents was during the Democratic primary. The fact that this is still an issue is a vehement condemnation of our news media who utterly abandoned their most rudimentary journalistic responsibility; with few exceptions, the media throughout the campaign were nothing more than a choir of Obama cheerleaders.
Even more preposterous is the fact that there is such a simple, elementary way to instantly resolve the question and make everybody asking it look like a complete idiot - but it isn't happening.
The moment Hawaiian officials step forward holding the original document recording Mr. Obama's birth, certified as genuine and with all its associated information regarding the circumstances and locale of his birth disclosed for all the world to see, anyone who ever doubted it will appear ready for the tinfoil-hat brigade. The sound of derisive laughter will echo from all corners and many of Mr. Obama's right-wing opponents will turn beet-red in embarrassment.
What politician wouldn't enjoy such a scene? Why permit such a mountain to be made out of such a trivial molehill when it should be so easy to stop it?
It's easy to dismiss those demanding to view the original birth certificate as kooks, conspiracy theorists, and paranoiacs, but there are a couple of sayings with resonance and relevance with respect to such matters: even the paranoid have enemies; and, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
What is Mr. Obama hiding? And why? As things now stand, there's more public documentary evidence and testimony supporting the reality and circumstances of the birth of the original One two thousand years ago.