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July 27, 2009

Obama Birth Certificate Controversy In the News

The controversy--some would say conspiracy--surrounding the President's citizenship was in the news today. It's been slowly breaking into the main stream over the past few weeks. Rush, Coulter, and Medved have all discussed it. It's been on FoxNews. Today, someone finally asked Gibbsy about it. He responded with sarcasm:

I transcribed the key bit:

Question: "Is there anything you can say that will make the Birthers go away?"

Gibbs: "No. I mean, the God's-honest truth is 'no.' I mean, Bill, let's understand this. I almost hate to indulge in such an august setting as the White House--and I mean this in seriousness--the White House briefing room discussing the made-up, fictional nonsense of whether or not the President was born in this country.

"A year and a half ago, I asked that the birth certificate be put on the internet. because Lord knows, if you've got the birth certificate and put it on the internet, what else could be the story? Here's the deal again: if I had some DNA it wouldn't assuage those who don't believe he was born here.

"But I have news for them and for all of us. The President was born in Honolulu, Hawaii."

Setting aside for a minute the fact that DNA damn sure shouldn't convince anyone as to the location of the President's birthplace (WTF?), Gibbs pretty much said this is the last time he wants to hear about the President's citizenship.

Meanwhile, I appreciated this column last week which reviews the entire situation, from the McCain campaign's investigation to the present. I thought the summary of the lawsuits was noteworthy:


“We monitored the progress of these lawsuits against the Obama campaign,” said Trevor Potter, a Washington attorney who served as general counsel to the 2008 and 2000 McCain presidential campaigns. “The McCain campaign faced a series of lawsuits like this, too, alleging that he could not be president because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Both campaigns took the position that these plaintiffs lacked standing.”

But the flawed conception of the many “birther” lawsuits, coupled with the inexperience and foul-ups of “birther” lawyers, have only fed the frenzy over Obama’s legitimacy to serve as president of the United States. A survey of the lawsuits filed against Obama reveals a reliance on widely debunked rumors, bogus stories sourced back to web sites, affidavits from “experts” who refuse to provide credentials or even their real names, and frequent and blatant misunderstandings of basic constitutional law. The dismissal of “birther” lawsuits has allowed conspiracy theorists to believe that the information in those suits is accurate–a belief that manifests itself in the emails, phone calls, and town hall meeting rants that have pushed the theories into the mainstream media and the halls of Congress.

While they ruled out any chance of the “birther” lawsuits holding up in court, lawyers for the McCain campaign did check into the rumors about Obama’s birth and the assertions made by Berg and others. “To the extent that we could, we looked into the substantive side of these allegations,” said Potter. “We never saw any evidence that then-Senator Obama had been born outside of the United States. We saw rumors, but nothing that could be sourced to evidence. There were no statements and no documents that suggested he was born somewhere else. On the other side, there was proof that he was born in Hawaii. There was a certificate issued by the state’s Department of Health, and the responsible official in the state saying that he had personally seen the original certificate. There was a birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser, which would be very difficult to invent or plant 47 years in advance.”

“Birther” lawyers and bloggers, who gained an unexpected prominence in the mainstream media, have consistently denied Hawaii’s own records of Obama’s birth. They have also built up a corpus of information which, they argue, would invalidate Obama’s claim on the White House even if he was born in the United States. These rumors, and the inability of “birther” lawyers to test them in court, have proven pervasive enough to fuel the conspiracy theories.

Read the whole thing, particularly for the observation that the issue can never be closed as long as the suits are dismissed for procedural reasons and that the failure to close the issue is taken as (or perhaps mistaken as) proof of its accuracy.

Overall, that column is highly critical of those who believe in shenanigans when it comes to Obama's citizenship, though it takes pains to keep the name "Birthers" in scare quotes. For rebuttal, check out Tom Maguire.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:00 PM

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