The issue of Obama's refusal to disclose his citizenship history is finally drawing mainstream attention, but the story has been amazingly distorted. The discrepancy is sharp.
McCain's citizenship is simple... although he was born on a military base in Panama, Senate Resolution 511 (April 2008) has already established his birth as a "natural citizen". OpenCongress.org has a summary of SR-511, and lists blogs which discuss it. He released his actual birth certificate as a matter of course, and there has been no evidence of changes in nationality over the years.
The "McCain was born in Panama" line comes up in many, many comment threads though. No clear identity to the commenters. Serves to diffuse the discussion. Also serves to give True Believers an out, so that they can keep Believing without excessive cognitive dissonance.
Who are the Spinners who insert "panama" on online discussions? I suspect it varies -- some Axelrod contacts, but some freelancers too. It seems unlikely that all of them would be honestly ignorant that their argument could only fool the rubes... I suspect some who write "but mccain was born in panama!" are knowingly deceptive. Hard to tell in each case, though.
But the issue of Obama's refusal to establish his eligibility for the office... that's a complicated one, lots of little angles, lots of novel attempts to reality-hack.
Some things particularly surprised me: the final forced jump into AP/UPI news, but with the headline "HI says he was born there"... big questioning bloggers like Glenn Reynolds and Charles Johnson dismissing the story... the behavior of some of the principals among the questioners. And now I'm wondering what scenarios come next. There's a lot to think about here.
First, the Hawaii Reporter has the statement issued by Hawaii's Health Director, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, which I copied in full below:
State Can't Legally Release Barack Obama's Birth Certificate, But State Health Department Verifies The Original is On File
By Dr. Chiyome Fukino, 10/31/2008 5:28:13 PM
There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate. State law (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes §338-18) prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.
Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai‘i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai‘i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.
No state official, including Governor Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawaii.
Dr. Chiyome Fukino is the director of the Hawaii Department of Health
.. and here's how the Associated Press reported it:
State declares Obama birth certificate genuine
HONOLULU (AP) — State officials say there's no doubt Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Health Department Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said Friday she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama's original birth certificate.
Fukino says that no state official, including Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, ever instructed that Obama's certificate be handled differently.
She says state law bars release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who does not have a tangible interest.
Some Obama critics claim he was not born in the US.
Earlier Friday, a southwest Ohio magistrate rejected a challenge to Obama's citizenship. Judges in Seattle and Philadelphia recently dismissed similar suits.
That "State officials say there's no doubt" lead line got the most reprints and exposure. That was the take-away. But Fukino just said that she saw the original 1961 document, and released no details about its content. Hawaii does issue out-of-state birth certificates... seems neither Stanley Anne nor Barack Sr. met the residency requirements, but there didn't seem to be much checking either.
Read Dr. Fukino's words again. She says she saw the candidate's 1961 document, but has not received special instructions for it. She is very careful to say little else.
And look how far the Associated Press took it. Then look at how the blogosphere took it, calling those with real questions "idiots".
They maintain a strong offense, playing for Nov 4.
In what situations would any campaign have failed -- even refused -- to establish citizenship by this point? The campaign's motions for dismissal are the most salient fact in all this.
They're sending legal teams to each of the citizenship challenges... here's one from Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Oct 31:
Counsel for Obama and the DNC had argued earlier today that the emergency motion should be denied because (1) it stated "effectively a new original case" than what had been included in his complaint, (2) Berg failed to comply with a rules which require him to "move first in the district court for any order granting an injunction while an appeal is pending," and (3) because his claims were "patently false" and he could not prevail if the case were heard on the merits.
It's much simpler to just release the documentation, answer the questions. Instead... look at how they reply. That tells me more than all the little details do.
Bloggers? Strange. Charles Johnson picked up on a rewrite of the AP story, and added "Will this put a stop to the idiotic rumors? Of course not!" Glenn Reynolds echo'd it, without original commentary.
I remember both these guys being pretty on-top of the questions actually raised by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (although my memory could be off). But these guys aren't asking "Why is the Obama campaign refusing to release basic qualifying documentation?" this time. They ignored it, then seemed to ridicule it.
It might be because they were following the "obama early years" story back in June, when school records showed him as an Indonesian Muslim. Back then the "muslim" issue was the focal point, and this was more an issue of electability than eligibility. Possibly Johnson & Reynolds attended to it then, and have since tuned it out. Seems strange, though.
Andy Martin and Phillip Berg aren't bloggers per se, but they've played a big role in the story. I can't get a good read on either of them. Martin seems like a self-promoter, and Berg was associated both with Hillary and with the Truthers. Their court work hasn't been effective, but they've both drawn attention to the issue. But both mix up the solid issues with distracting incidentals. I can't get a good read on them.
.The campaign? Still telling acolytes to believe the COLB is the BC. (If that is so, why are the lawyers in half-a-dozen courthouses, filing to dismiss claims to release the BC?) Fans are being played for patsies.
There's a canny angle in all this. Who *does* have "legal standing" to require a presidential candidate to establish his required qualifications for the office? From all the commentary I've read, nobody else really knows either. The most persuasive case I've seen says that Congress is culpable, as is everyone else who has taken an oath to "uphold the Constitution". (I don't think that'll fly. ;-)
I'm wondering whether the Clinton campaign realized this "lack of standing" issue back in June. But even if they couldn't press it in court, I'm still puzzled why they didn't bring it out through other means. There must have been discussions at some level about Obama's questionable past and his refusal to provide normal disclosure. But the Clinton campaign is still hard for me to read.
If Obama is proclaimed as the winner, then at that point will the RNC have legal standing to sue? It looks to me like they'd then have demonstrated a clear injury.
- The Obama campaign has shut all its records, and has refused court orders of discovery on such public basics as birth certificates and passports. It doesn't seem like any campaign would afford the negative publicity of court refusals, but this campaign has. This is the most significant fact in the whole debate.
- McCain hasn't taken advantage of it. I don't know what they know, but I also don't have much faith in McCain or the RNC.
- Clinton didn't press it. And she has killer instinct. I can generate hypotheses, but cannot choose among them.
- Corporate media didn't ask the questions, and then misreported the answers... bankruptcy on multiple levels.
- David Axelrod has established tactical savvy within the blogosphere.
If Obama is proclaimed the loser, there will be riots. If Obama is proclaimed the winner, then it's messy -- I can't tell whether his eligibility will then be challenged, and if so, whether the challenge will succeed.
I have a very strong gut feeling that the principals already have plans for these contingencies. They're just not speaking yet.