Suborned in the U.S.A.The birth-certificate controversy is about Obama’s honesty, not where he was born.
Throughout the 2008 campaign, Barack Hussein Obama claimed it was a “smear” to refer to him as “Barack Hussein Obama.” The candidate had initially rhapsodized over how his middle name, the name of the prophet Mohammed’s grandson, would signal a new beginning in American relations with the Muslim world. But when the nomination fight intensified, Obama decided that Islamic heritage was a net negative. So, with a media reliably uncurious about political biographies outside metropolitan Wasilla, Obama did what Obama always does: He airbrushed his personal history on the fly.
So, end of story, right? Well, no. The relevance of information related to the birth of our 44th president is not limited to his eligibility to be our 44th president. On this issue, NRO’s editorial has come in for some blistering criticism. The editorial argues:
The fundamental fiction is that Obama has refused to release his “real” birth certificate. This is untrue. The document that Obama has made available is the document that Hawaiian authorities issue when they are asked for a birth certificate. There is no secondary document cloaked in darkness, only the state records that are used to generate birth certificates when they are requested.
On reflection, I think this was an ill-considered assertion. (I should add that I saw a draft of the editorial before its publication, was invited to comment, and lodged no objection to this part.) The folly is made starkly clear in the photos that accompany this angry (at NRO) post from Dave Jeffers, who runs a blog called “Salt and Light.”
That misses the point. The information in the certification may be identical as far as it goes to what’s in the complete state records, but there are evidently many more details in the state records than are set forth in the certification. Contrary to the editors’ description, those who want to see the full state record — the certificate or the so-called “vault copy” — are not on a wild-goose chase for a “secondary document cloaked in darkness.” That confuses their motives (which vary) with what they’ve actually requested (which is entirely reasonable). Regardless of why people may want to see the vault copy, what’s been requested is a primary document that is materially more detailed than what Obama has thus far provided.
Before January 20 of this year, Barack Obama had a negligible public record. He burst onto the national scene what seemed like five minutes before his election to the presidency: a first-term U.S. senator who actually served less than four years in that post — after a short time as a state legislator, some shadowy years as a “community organizer,” and scholastic terms at Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard that remain shrouded in mystery. The primary qualification supporters offered for Obama’s candidacy was his compelling life story, as packaged in 850 pages’ worth of the not one but two autobiographies this seemingly unaccomplished candidate had written by the age of 45.
Eventually a consulting house to multinational corporations agreed to hire me as a research assistant. Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across the globe. As far as I could tell I was the only black man in the company, a source of shame for me but a source of considerable pride for the company’s secretarial pool. They treated me like a son, those black ladies; they told me how they expected me to run the company one day. . . . The company promoted me to the position of financial writer. I had my own office, my own secretary, money in the bank. Sometimes, coming out of an interview with Japanese financiers or German bond traders, I would catch my reflection in the elevator doors — see myself in a suit and tie, a briefcase in my hand — and for a split second I would imagine myself as a captain of industry, barking out orders, closing the deal, before I remembered who it was that I had told myself I wanted to be and felt pangs of guilt for my lack of resolve. . . .
Shortly after divorcing Barack Obama Sr., Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, married an Indonesian Muslim, Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo, whom she met — just as she had met Barack Sr. — when both were students at the University of Hawaii. At some point, Soetoro almost certainly adopted the youngster, who became known as “Barry Soetoro.” Obama’s lengthy, deeply introspective autobiographies do not address whether he was adopted by the stepfather whose surname he shared for many years, but in all likelihood that did happen in Hawaii, before the family moved to Jakarta.
While it is all well and good to belittle the birth-certificate controversy, without it we’d know only what the media and Obama himself would tell us about his multiple citizenships, which is nothing. As noted above, we now know Obama, by operation of British and Kenyan law, was a citizen of Kenya (a status that lapsed in 1982, when he turned 21). That’s something voters would find relevant, especially when Obama’s shocking 2006 conduct in Kenya is considered. But we don’t know about his Kenyan citizenship because the media thought it was newsworthy. We know it only because of the birth-certificate controversy: Pressed to debunk the allegation that Obama was born in Kenya, his embarrassed supporters felt compelled to clarify his Kenyan citizenship.