We have previously derided the Times coverage of the "birther" controversy around Obama's birth certificate - they love to peruse polls suggesting that all birthers are daft but shy away from even hinting at a few basic facts.
But the recent signing in Hawaii of the so-called "birther-bill" allowing the Hawaii Dept. of Health to ignore repeated requests from the same people has prompted the Times to put some of the basic facts in evidence.
So today, a careful Times reader learns that:
- during the 2008 campaign Team Obama released a summary form known as a "Certification of Live Birth", suitable for driver's license applications, passport applications, or framing;
- a more complete file is available at the Hawaii State Dept. of Health;
- that file could be released to Obama or a relative (and no doubt will be when he inks his eight-figure book deal).
What the Times continues to avoid is a seemingly obvious question - why doesn't Obama just request the file and then release it? Surely the most transparent Administration in history has nothing to hide?
As to what that file might reveal, my favored guesses are nothing, or perhaps some embarrassing tidbit, like a legal name change from "Barry" to "Barack" as a teenager (in a quest for authenticity left unmentioned in "Dreams"). As a wild longshot, I have ruminated about the possibility that the evidence of Obama's birth is Hawaii is nothing more than affidavits from his mother and her parents.
If these affidavits are honest and accurate, they will probably describe a quick, unexpected labor and delivery somewhere in Honolulu. If the three were lying, their motivation would have been to establish American citizenship for Baby Barry (or Barack!?!) against the day when Stanley Dunham might be waging a nasty custody fight in Kenya over a black baby born in Kenya to a Kenyan father. But the three (hypothetical) affiants are dead, so they won't be available for cross-examination except by John Edwards.
The notion that there is a more complete file available at Obama's request will come as a revelation to some in the media - Andrew Sullivan, for example, wrote this in explaining the dust-up to the Brits back in 2009:
"Obama did all he could to make this go away."
That is simply not accurate, and even the Times now says so:
By Hawaiian law, birth records can be released only to people with “a direct and tangible” interest in them — a person born in the state, say, or certain relatives or their estates.
So why won't Obama just release the file? My guess is that there is nothing of interest or consequence in the file, but that Obama is concealing it simply because he conceals everything. His political success is centered on his biography and he controls the presentation of that biography the way the Walt Disney people control Mickey Mouse. As a matter of brand management Obama won't release his birth files, his college transcripts, his law firm billing records, or anything else - go buy a copy of "Dreams From My Father" and he will tell you his story, and thanks for asking.
And the politics have worked for him - "Look how crazy my opponents are!" has been a successful message. To flash back to Andrew Sullivan as a classic dupe, in his article Sully admits to having no understanding of the birther controversy, demonstrates his ignorance, and explains that it is due to anti-Obama racism. Uh huh. And that has been the default Times posture up to now, as well.
But is it ever so slightly possible that the Times is taking a more questioning view of the most transparent Administration in history? They do have that special relationship to protect, and I have no doubt that some of their reporters value their special access as they work on their book deals.
On the other hand one of their star reporters, James Risen, has been subpoenaed in a "tell us your sources" case. And today we sense a note of frustration in their story about their attempts to cover the Elena Kagan Supreme Court nomination:
White Houses traditionally put a muzzle on their Supreme Court nominees, to keep them from saying anything that might jeopardize Senate confirmation. But the Obama White House has taken it one step further. It is limiting, if not blocking, access to the nominee’s family.
The reporter was going to watch Ms. Kagan's brother teach a high school class and then chat with him, but the White House put the kibosh on it. And there was this:
A cousin of Ms. Kagan, Gail Katz-James of Minneapolis, was quoted in a profile in The Times the day after the president announced the nomination. She described the “verbal sparring” around the dinner table in the Kagans’ Upper West Side apartment, saying that the family “just really enjoyed debating and discussing everything.”
But two days after the article appeared, when contacted again by the same reporter from The Times, Ms. Katz-James said: “I’m sorry. I’m not able to talk to you.” She was asked if the White House had directed her not to talk to the press. “Nope,” she said, and hung up the phone.
In happier days the Times would have denounced the anti-Semitism of anyone with any questions at all about Elena Kagan, and then denounced the racism of anyone wondering about Obama's choice. This is a little crack in the wall.
And lest we forget, a bigger crack is their front-pager about putting Americans, specifically the American Muslim cleric in Yemen, on the drone kill list. We can't eavesdrop on his cell phone without a court order, but we can blow him up. Troubling. And interesting - picking up the Times is almost like reading a newspaper sometimes.
SINCE YOU ASKED: My official editorial position is that Obama was born in Hawaii and anyway was endorsed by the Congress sworn to uphold the Constitution when they accepted the results of the Electoral College. As to the Death Drones, if Bush did this targeting Americans we would read about nothing else, and I would support it. But don't look for me to exert a lot of effort splashing pixels on Obama's behalf - he can deal with his crazed base himself.