Posted by Brad @ 9:06 am on April 27th 2011

The End of Birtherism?

In a surprise announcement, Obama asked his lawyers to request a special exception to Hawaii’s rules, and to ask that they release the long form birth certificate – not the “certificate of live birth” that had previously been released. And so they did. And here it is.

Remember, the certificate of live birth is the legal standard, but the long form is what the attending physician of the birth signs (and which is then used to draw up the certificate of live birth, which is for government purposes). I’m actually a little shocked that they hadn’t done this until now – it was my impression that they simply didn’t know if the long form even still existed. But, either way, here it is.

What was the difference? Donald Trump. As the WH Communications Director said:

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the decision to release the document came because “the president was struck by how this was crowding out the debate” on the budget.” He added that “it became an issue that transcended” the Internet and conspiracy theorists and had moved into the mainstream.

And, I have to say, in a weird way I think this gets more previously unwilling-to-denounce-Birtherism politicos off the hook, presuming they NOW shut the door on it. The “I’m just asking questions” defense works, and they can say “See? We asked enough questions that we finally got a transparent answer. Good for us.” And they’re kind of right.


  1. The full statement from the comm director:

    In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the Presidentís campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The state sent the campaign the Presidentís birth certificate, the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the internet. That birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).

    When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the President received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign website is what Hawaiians use to get a driverís license from the state and the document recognized by the Federal Government and the courts for all legal purposes. Thatís because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.

    The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasnít good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting. President Barack Obamaís long form birth certificate can be seen here (PDF):

    At a time of great consequence for this country Ė when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue. The Presidentís hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country.

    And here’s a copy of the correspondence with Hawaii on the matter (PDF).

    Winner: Donald Trump. Seriously.

    Loser: Jerome Corsi.

    Comment by Brad — 4/27/2011 @ 9:23 am

  2. Well, that resolves all of my concerns. I now support the national health care mandate, the bombing of Libya (but not Syria), and the torture of Bradley Manning.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/27/2011 @ 9:37 am

  3. I was a little intrigued in the final letter granting the request in the way that the President was addressed:

    Until some googling I wasn’t actually aware that the phrase ‘honorable’ was used with the President in this way. We so typically see them referred to as ‘the President’ or ‘Mr. President’ or ‘Mr. Taft’ that seeing it spelled out as ‘The Honorable Warren G Harding, President of the United States’ stands out.

    Comment by Cameron — 4/27/2011 @ 10:28 am

  4. I didn’t know that either.

    Comment by Brad — 4/27/2011 @ 10:31 am

  5. Oh that being said, this is one of the most moronic things to ever capture the public’s imagination. In an ideal world, there would be a constitutional amendment abolishing the requirement that the President be a natural born citizen. It’s a throwback to a different era and has no place in our world today.

    Comment by Cameron — 4/27/2011 @ 10:33 am

  6. Ezra Klein posits, half heartedly, that the White House released it now because the actually want Trump to the the GOP nominee.

    Comment by Jack — 4/27/2011 @ 12:09 pm

  7. James meant to hyperlink this but doesn’t understand HTML -Brad

    Comment by James — 4/27/2011 @ 12:12 pm

  8. Yeah, I’m used to posting on blogs and boards that were designed after Google was launched. My apologies for my lack of legacy skills.

    Comment by James — 4/27/2011 @ 12:20 pm

  9. Well, one of these days they’ll invent a way to edit text once it’s been posted. Until that day – when we’re all getting to work via personal jetpack, taking pleasure cruises to Mars, eating our meals in pill form, and communicating via telepathy – you’ll be able to rectify your paltry HTML skills.

    Comment by Brad — 4/27/2011 @ 12:23 pm

  10. Why? I have you to do it for me. :)

    Comment by James — 4/27/2011 @ 12:24 pm

  11. Back to the subject at hand, as Glenn Greenwald tweets, the Birther thing has been well polled – it will be interesting to see the extent that this will actually move the numbers.

    Comment by Brad — 4/27/2011 @ 12:28 pm

  12. I would just like to point out that Hawaii had only been a state for just under two years at the time Obama was born, so he just barely made it. Come to think of it, where’s Hawaii’s birth certificate?

    Comment by James — 4/27/2011 @ 12:42 pm

  13. To my 11, first poll out:

    Q: Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?

    Yes: 67 (55)
    No: 20 (27)
    Not sure: 13 (18)

    The group most moved by the new evidence?

    Yes: 45 (26)
    No: 32 (47)
    Not sure: 23 (27)

    That’s actually pretty definitive, all things considered. 20% of the country don’t believe that Obama was born in the United States, led by 32% of Republicans. That tracks pretty closely to Trutherism, save that’s led on the Democratic side (and, like this poll, you can reliably get a majority there too, if in this case you add “Not sure” and “No” together and in that case add “Very likely” and “somewhat likely” together (to the question of “Did Bush intentionally cause 911?”)). People were right to point out that Birtherism had gotten a lot more mainstream the last year or so – now it’s back down in the same general realm of every other conspiracy theory.

    People will still point out that a third of Republicans and a sixth of Americans think Obama is foreign, but frankly there’s always a segment of the population that you can get to agree to almost any statement. Right around 25% is nothing in the world of wacky stuff – that’s about where ghosts, Bigfoot, alien abduction, and the CIA killing JFK poll (actually in some cases – the first and last – quite a bit higher). For the record, that’s also usually about the percent of people who can’t name the current President, or the amount of states in the union, etc. 33% and lower usually tells you nothing about a question, but a lot about people in the absolute most general sense – namely, that there are a lot of really really dumb ones. I call it the Moron Quartile, the chunk of the population that will literally believe anything. Once something is down in that range, in terms of beliefs, it’s no longer a political question, becoming instead an anthropological one.

    Comment by Brad — 5/3/2011 @ 10:13 am

  14. Is this a bad time to admit that I’m open to the possibility that the CIA killed Kennedy?

    Comment by Rojas — 5/3/2011 @ 10:19 am

  15. Nothing wrong with that. I just throw that in there as something most people know about and reject – you could really just substitute anything though, and in that array of things (faked moon landings, 911 was an inside job, CIA killed Kennedy, aliens landed in New Mexico), probably one or two of them are even true.

    Comment by Brad — 5/3/2011 @ 10:38 am

  16. I suppose I would explain it in these terms: for almost every one of the conspiracy theories listed, there is an official or default explanation that is perhaps imperfect but nonetheless generally reasonable, internally consistent, and congruent with the principles of Occam’s/Ockham’s Razor. The official explanation of the Kennedy assassination does not stand up to the same scrunity.

    I really don’t know what happened to Kennedy, and the trail has gone cold enough at this point that I don’t suspect anyone ever will.

    Comment by Rojas — 5/3/2011 @ 10:48 am

  17. I’m pretty inclined to give audience to conspiracy theories on the JFK assassination too. Maybe I shouldn’t have used it as an example – my point was more that it’s not hard to find support for ideas outside the mainstream when you’re talking the 20th percentile. Pointing to a belief held by 20% of Americans as giving some underlying truth about a political system in America is pointless, because you can find 20% of believers in just about every “mainstream fringe” theory. That says more about the 20% than it does the theory.

    Comment by Brad — 5/3/2011 @ 12:03 pm

  18. Make that more like 10%.

    Comment by Brad — 5/5/2011 @ 10:28 am

  19. Whenever I catch myself being astonished at the popularity of foolish conspiracy theories, I remind myself that nearly 40% of the U.S. population believes, against the entire body of scientific evidence, that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

    Comment by Jack — 5/5/2011 @ 11:49 am

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