The always insightful William Jacobson pens on the birthers and manages to irk me with this:
As I have said before, the motive back in 1961 could have been quite different. Perhaps the mother and maternal grandparents feared for the day when the white Ms. Dunham would be contesting with a black Kenyan man in a Kenyan court for custody of a black Kenyan baby (or British, or whatever Obama's nationality might have been.) They would have been well advised to take steps to tilt the playing field a bit by documenting their son as a US citizen, irrespective of any Presidential aspirations. Name the baby 'Barack' in the hope the marriage works out, document the baby as an American in case it doesn't. [But in a court case, surely the father would squawk about the fraud, yes? Well, if mom can limit the he-said she said dispute to an American court, where will his witnesses be? But it's a good point. That said, in my first post on this I did note other reasons to seek American citizenship.]
Do I think that is the percentage bet? No. My official editorial position is that Obama was probably born in Hawaii, but I have not embraced the faith-based initiative currently on offer, especially when more evidence is on file in Hawaii and is surely available to the White House.
That said, I am in broad agreement with the thrust of the Jacobson piece, to wit, this is a distraction that is not helpful to the conservative cause.
And that is my graceful segue to the National Review editorial on this topic, Born in the USA. Their conclusion that this is a foolish distraction is utterly reasonable but unfortunately they deliver the sort of factual errors that will shatter their credibility with the true believers. Here we go:
No, it's not - look at the picture again. It is known as a "Certification of live birth", aka the short form. A "certificate of live birth" , aka the long form, has more information, such as the hospital and attending physician, and they are no longer routinely provided by the State of Hawaii. However, old examples are floating about the internet and Hawaiian officials have said repeatedly that they have looked at their archived version of Obama's long form.
National Review ought to care because getting this detail wrong will leave folks wondering whether they have been following the debate and doing their homework. As to why I care - well, the short form is meant to be an accurate summary of the long form, which Hawaiian officials insist they have inspected. That should assure us that Obama has a long form certificate which lists Honolulu as his place of birth. Case closed? Well, maybe not.
If that long form was issued on the basis of a hospital record with an attending physicians's signature, it becomes harder to believe in a conspiracy limited to the mother and the grandparents. But the State of Hawaii would also issue birth certificates on the basis of affidavits. So what if Obama's long form lists his place of birth as his home address, based on the affidavits of his mother and grandmother? Is the case still closed?
Well, good luck re-opening it. Obama's mother and grandparents have passed away, so they won't be questioned. If the long form certificate provided a hospital, I suppose historians could look for hospital records, doctor records, insurance records, old bank statements for the Dunhams, or whatever (and have a nice day.) Sorry, I digress - let's press on with the National Review:
My goodness, was it only yesterday Josh Marshall revealed his utter ignorance on this point? In the update following his self-proclaimed last update he finally cottoned on to this:
Later Update: This appears to be the lacunae the birthers hang their hat on (from the State Department website ...)
Birth Abroad to One Citizen and One Alien Parent in Wedlock: A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) INA provided the citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child's birth. (For birth on or after November 14, 1986, a period of five years physical presence, two after the age of fourteen is required. For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen are required for physical presence in the U.S. to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.
Their thinking seems to be that since Obama's mother was just shy of her 19th birthday at the time of his birth, she couldn't meet the "five after the age of fourteen" requirement, thus necessitating rushing home to get the phony certification of stateside birth to make the eventual run for president possible.
Reliance on the statute may not be appropriate, but if for whatever reason it does not apply, the National Review ought to explain why. Otherwise they appear to be dismissing arguments with which they are not familiar, ad we know how troubling that can be.
OK, I am running long. Longer. Let me try and at least soundbite my own official editorial position, which is inspired by Thomas Collins, a regular commenter here:
Congressman are sworn to uphold the Constitution; presumably they feel as if they have fulfilled their duty and accepted Obama as President. In any case, it is not at all obvious from the Constitution just what the enforcement mechanism for the "natural born citizen" clause might be. But I will bet that no court is going to take this up so soon after Bush v. Gore.
So where are we? There are facts in abeyance available on Obama's long form birth certificate known only to a few top Hawaiian officials; there is a law about the children of Americans and aliens which may or may not be applicable; and there is the "natural born citizen" clause of the Constitution which has never been litigated. You can stir that soup for a long time and never get a court involved and never, ever get a Democratic Congress to poke at this.
However! After watching the media roll over for the John Edwards love child (and they didn't even like John Edwards!) and having seen the media roll over for Kerry's Vietnam stories in 2004 (we are still waiting for the public release of all his records, as promised on Meet The Press), I think we will be waiting a while before we get a serious reporter to simply say to Robert Gibbs, "Let's all look at the long form birth certificate so we can try to move on." It seems easy, but it jars with the media's current faith-based initiative. There is also the theory that keeping this topic buzzing helps the Dems by making the righties look kooky. Maybe! But we don't really need any help, and I doubt it helps the media to remain so visibly in the tank for Obama. Time will tell.
WE CONCLUDE THIS TIRADE: Which of the following Bold Statements would create the most awkwardness and be most likely to instigate a spousal under-table kick at a dinner party?
(b) I don't really believe Mohammed was born in Mecca;
(c) I don't really believe Obama was born in Hawaii?
We see yet another example of "Send better rebuttals" from Robert Farley of Politifact (my emphasis):
In November 2008, The Advertiser reported that the first published mention of the future president appeared in a Sunday Advertiser birth announcement that ran on Aug. 13, 1961:
"Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy., son, Aug. 4."
The identical announce- ment ran the following day in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
Birthers wave off those birth announcements, saying that Obama family members 48 years ago could have phoned in false information to both newspapers.
Such vital statistics, however, were not sent to the newspapers by the general public but by the Health Department, which received the information directly from hospitals, Okubo said.
Birth announcements from the public ran elsewhere in both papers and usually included information such as the newborn's name, weight and time of birth.
"Take a second and think about that," wrote Robert Farley of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times' Pulitzer Prize winning Web site PoliticFact.com on July 1. "In order to phony those notices up, it would have required the complicity of the state Health Department and two independent newspapers — on the off chance this unnamed child might want to one day be president of the United States."Well, having stopped and thought, I infer that if our conspiracists could get false information into the system at the Health Department, it would flow from there to the two newspapers, which reduces the circle of complicity. And here I learn something else:
Advertiser columnist and former Star-Bulletin managing editor Dave Shapiro was not at either paper in 1961, but he remembers how the birth notices process worked years later when both papers were jointly operated by the Hawaii Newspaper Agency — which no longer exists.
"Those were listings that came over from the state Department of Health," he said. "They would send the same thing to both papers."So someone who wasn't there can tell us what the normal procedure was years later. That pins it down. In Alterna-World the elder Ms. Dunham, a bank manager worried about her son-in-law, chats with a lawyer friend who does estates, wills, and that sort of thing (Bankers do get involved in that sort of discussion, you know). Incredibly, this lawyer has a friend in the Dept. of Health, and the rest is history. Inconceivable? Really? My vast conspiracy now extends to a concerned mother-in-law and a lawyer friend with contacts. Real Bourne Identity stuff.