The Birth Certificate and Legacy of Presidential Rumors

Friday, April 29, 2011

Transcript

On Wednesday, the White House released President Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Obama said he hoped the move would finally allow the country—and the media—to focus on more important issues. James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, says this isn’t the first time a president has dealt with irrational rumors, and that this one in particular isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

Comments [27]

Travion Mallette from Southeast

Thank you, Charles, for setting me straight about Mitt Romney. Let's hope this whole thing is put to rest, the sooner the better.

May. 24 2011 11:38 AM
Jasmine Holton

ldn't be where he is if he was not born in the US. People aren't use to the changes that are going on like not having a white president. And also if you don't vote then you really cant make a comment on what's going on in the government. Thats just my personal feelings.
I feel like Obama handled this is a good way to. He could have came out and been ugly about the situation but instead he made it all into one big joke and laughed about it. He took the saying "kill them with kindness" and it was affective. Not only did it put the situation to rest but he made Donald Trump look stupid and mad.
In all this could have been avoided but since Donald Trump "wanted to run for President" he felt like he need to blast Obama and try to get everyone to doubt him. In the end he just looked stupid and ignorant.

May. 10 2011 10:44 AM
Jasmine Holton

Donald Trump has been blasted by the media for making a big deal about President Obama's birth certificate. ONce he started to see how people were viewing him and he was saw as someone people do not like he tried to say that he never started this. He tried to say the media made a big del about it and he would just comment on what was being said.
So when I was watching this on TV the first thing I thought was I cant believe Obama is responding to Donald Trumps stupidity. I don't understand why it matters to see his birth certificate. If there was a problem with it or anything that was hidden I doubt that Obama would have became president. Secondly, the only reason he is making a big deal about it is because he is running for president. I don't think that no one is taking him seriously. Now that Donald Trump is looking stupid for what he did is he trying to blame other people. No, it was not the medias fault. You made a big deal about Obama's birth certificate. I just feel like Obama wou

May. 10 2011 10:40 AM
Beth Peterson from United States

I am rather surprised and disappointed, like several others here, that racism was not even mentioned in this story. While I agree that Americans believe all sorts of nonsense and that this is not a new phenomenon, we cannot ignore the fact that doubting the citizenship of the first President of color is rooted in this nation's despicable racist past and present.

May. 06 2011 11:52 AM
Jasmine Holton

os when I was watching this on TV the first thing I thought was I cant believe Obama is responding to Donald Trumps stupidity. I don't understand why it matters to see his birth certificate. If there was a problem with it or anything that was hidden I doubt that Obama would have became president. Secondly, the only reason he is making a big deal about it is because he is running for president. I don't think that no one is taking him seriously. Now that Donald Trump is looking stupid for what he did is he trying to blame other people. No, it was not the medias fault. You made a big deal about Obama's birth certificate. I just feel like Obama wouldn't be where he is if he was not born in the US. People aren't use to the changes that are going on like not having a white president. And also if you don't vote then you really cant make a comment on what's going on in the government. Thats just my personal deelings.

May. 06 2011 10:47 AM
Mary

Why did it take so long?
What's he hiding?
Was the ink dry?
He calls himself an African American. Which comes first? African. Interesting...

May. 05 2011 05:10 PM
Travion Mallette from southeast Raleigh Highschool

Asking a person of color for their "papers" is rooted in racism. Period. This is part of the coded message of the right-wing to oppose Obama because of his race alone. I'm wondering how this part of the discussion is not addressed. The ONLY commentator I have heard on this issue is Randi Rhodes. Too bad the rest of the media is so lacking in historical perspective.

May. 04 2011 05:57 PM
Charles from Michigan

"Kathy" wrote that "Releasing the long-form required legal activity in Hawaii and was not something that was easily or quickly accomplished - nor should it have been necessary."

Actually, Kathy, according to the correspondence between Obama's personal counsel and the Hawaiian authorities, it was a releatively easy process. It was done in a matter of days, although part of the speed involved Obama's personal attorney traveling to Hawaii to pick up a certified copy himself. Not sure why that expense was neccessary, but it was Obama's choice.

Others posting comments here have commented that Obama "cave" or "gave in" was somehow othrewise forced to release the long-form certificate. And that part, I do not understand. The release of the document at this time was entirely Obama's decision. Obama could have released it two years ago. Or he might have chsen to never release it. Or he could have done it next month. All of those times would have been within his power to choose.

So while I view the entire controversy as being completely Constitutionally irrelevant and unimportant -- I have never been a Birther -- I do think that it begs a larger question to pronounce that Obama was "forced" to do what he did, when he did it. Obama had his own political reasons to respond to the questions as he did.

And one simply cannot be a fair minded observer of the media, and not see that the Birther story has been mostly kept alive by the left-leaning media, as a means to ridicule Birthers and, by extension, to ridicule all Republicans. It is an illegitimate "extension," insofar as the mainstream conservative press (The Wall Stree Journal editorial page, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, etc.) have all declaimed and denounced Birtherism.

May. 02 2011 06:08 PM
Pat from New Hampshire

Thank you, Charles, for setting me straight about Mitt Romney. Let's hope this whole thing is put to rest, the sooner the better.

May. 02 2011 12:53 PM
Joe from New York, new York

The clamor over whether President Obama's is a legitimate US citizen enabling him to legally hold the office of President of the United States was broadcast by main stream media and syndicated news outlets because it was SALABLE - it got viewers/listeners to pay attention while the networks ran ads for the products their underwriters SELL. Who won here? The advertisers. We are no longer a democratic republic, but have become an economic commercial hydra.

May. 02 2011 08:43 AM
Kathy from Ohio

David, the short form birth certificate was produced and examined (by many with knowledgeable authority) and known to be valid in 2008. The long-view historical perspective of why the continued call for more “papers” is the issue I raise – to me it's the use of racist rhetoric in the guise of politics as usual. Releasing the long-form required legal activity in Hawaii and was not something that was easily or quickly accomplished - nor should it have been necessary. You may be a totally disappointed liberal or a trolling right-winger intent on continuing the quest to discredit Obama on whatever level you can. Me? I'm old enough to now expect but also look with dismay at the continuing degradation of the broadcast media that has too few owners to have multiple voices and certainly not enough integrity. Politics has a history of being nasty but I continue to be more than sorry that we're still debating what’s racist.

May. 01 2011 07:24 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

On Wednesday, I witnessed, as many Americans did, a sad and shameful moment for America. President Barrack Obama, who was dually elected by the citizens of the USA, stood up and said "We don't have time for this silliness."

The national debt ceiling looming, taxing the rich, government spending, Libya, NO, these sadly were none of the REAL issues that our president talked about. He instead gave in and released his full long-form birth certificate from Hawaii to prove, we hope, finally that he is an American. He did not sneak in or pay someone to become an American, he is a natural born citizen proved by the US State of Hawaii fulfilling the US Constitutional requirement to be a "natural born citizen." America, the media, and Donald Trump: "Grow up" Americans are not stupid so let's all stop wasting time on this. As one former president said: "you may not like the president but he [or she] is the only one we got.

May. 01 2011 07:08 PM
Charles from Michigan

Pat, you are mostly correct. The "natural born" phrase in Article II of the Constitution does not necessarily equate to "Born in the United States." I too wonder why that fact has not gotten more discussion. Although I expect that one reason was that the Obama conspiracists had other questions about Obama parentage as well. But it is all ridiculous.

Your one error, Pat, is that Mitt Romney was NOT born in Mexico. Mitt was born in Detroit, where his father George was an executive with the old Nash Motors/American Motors Corporation.

It was Mitt's father, George Romney, later Governor of Michigan, who was born in Mexico where his parents lived in a Mormon colony in the early 1900's. When George Romney ran for Presdient in 1968 as a prominent and credible GOP primary candidate, people did raise questions about the location of his birth. It was widely understood that because Romney's parents were both U.S. citizens, the place of Romney's birth did not matter to his eligibility for the Presidency. He was a "natural born" U.S. citizen.

And in that respect, Romney was much like John McCain, exactly 40 years later, who was born to American parents (his father a Naval officer) at a naval base in Panama.

May. 01 2011 04:22 PM
Pat Anderson from New Hampshire

I wish the media would look at the Constitution to put this "birther" silliness to rest. The Constitution says the President must be a "natural born" citizen. That does not mean born in the US. Obama's mother was a US citizen who had spent 16 months living in the US prior to his birth. That makes him a citizen. The child of a citizen is a natural born citizen of the US.
Let's look at Mitt Romney. Where was he born? In the good old US of A? No, he was born in... Mexico! Do we question his citizenship? For some reason, no. Could it be that we only question a black man's citizenship? This sounds like it has racial overtones to me.
Nothing will stop this type of peson from trying to find a reason to discredit Mr. Obama. I guess you don't try to stop the wind, you just let it blow!

May. 01 2011 11:14 AM
Burns-Cole Publishers from Spokane

The President’s Defusing The Birther Issue Is A Brilliant Move And Will Further Marginalize The Right-wing Crazies.
By doing this, he discharges the issue and forces the Donald Trump Kluxers to become more strident, thus exposing their idiocy to an even greater extent. Since the birther aberration had some traction with a fair percentage of Republicans, the loss of the issue will force many to rethink their attitudes towards President Obama. At the same time, the truly crazy fringe will embrace more bizarre issues as they are doing now, the President’s Social Security number, draft registration, college grades and attendance, forgeries, etc. The result will be that the right fringe will have less and less traction with the majority of Republican voters, and more independents will swing into the Obama camp in disgust as the Ku Kluxers escalate their attacks on the President. Forge ahead, Crazies—your insanity is a blessing to America’s democratic and Democratic causes. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, Mr. Obama!

May. 01 2011 10:50 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

Chris-

You're begging the question. He was the only one to ultimately show this certificate because there was no other controversy about the birth of any other potential president besides Obama and McCain.

I'm not defending birthers, but this is silly to attack people as rascists when the guy attracted the vote of many of these same people. The fact is, the guy could have missed one golf game and put this to rest any old time.

Apr. 30 2011 08:16 PM
Chris from Chicago

David,

Obama released his legal birth certificate long ago. He was the only president to have ever done that. But then the conspiracy theorists said the legal document wasn't good enough, and they needed the unofficial, long form document. The president withheld because it was unnecessary. He had already proved his citizenship. As everyone predicted, if he caved into their demands and released the long form, they would come up with a new reason why it's not good enough.

And that's exactly what happened. Instead of accepting the proof, the birthers claim it's forged, or they move the goalposts and demand college transcripts and report cards. No amount of transparency could ever convince these people that a black man can legally be president. They will always swear it's impossible that Obama is an American just like the rest of us, and will come up with new hoops he has to jump through for no good reason.

Birthers are an embarrassment to this country and a waste of time.

Apr. 30 2011 06:17 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

Kathy-

I beg to differ. Your own post lacks historical perspective. The Clinton campaign asked for "papers" - a Clinton campaign supporter, Philip J. Berg, a prominent Pennsylvan­ia Democrat, pursued legal action to disqualify Obama. So that was left-wing. McCain's birth location was also examined.

The reason the right jumps on this it the hypocrisy watch that is political sport. Those on the left are quick to jump on right-wingers over ethical and moral hypocrisy because "values" is a pillar of right-wing politics. But transparency is the hallmark of the left, and the calling card of this hope and change president who promised the most open and transparent administration in history.

So for instance, last year Obama went 308 days between press conferences exceeding Bush's longest gap of 204 days. As a candidate, Obama, mused aloud about holding a news conference every month. Or how about how the Administration punished a reporter this week for using multimedia, then claimed they didn't!

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/bronstein/detail?entry_id=87978

That would have made a great OTM story. But that cover-up goes by unexamined. Racism is the memo everyone is getting on this, but don't get sucked in. It's the hypocrisy of the leader who says he's transparent, but isn't.

Apr. 30 2011 04:46 PM
Kathy from Ohio

Asking a person of color for their "papers" is rooted in racism. Period. This is part of the coded message of the right-wing to oppose Obama because of his race alone. I'm wondering how this part of the discussion is not addressed. The ONLY commentator I have heard on this issue is Randi Rhodes. Too bad the rest of the media is so lacking in historical perspective.

Apr. 30 2011 04:04 PM
Chuck Ward from Grand Rapids

Bob - You said you were loath to discuss the issue because you didn't want to give credence to the fringe rumor, yet you then cite a poll saying more than "half of registered republicans BELIEVED..." (emphasis mine).

They don't *believe* the president wasn't born in the US. They *responded* that he wasn't born in the US. Their responses are a form of loyalty to the republican message that they want to keep at the forefront of the debate.

Everyone knows that the most inflammatory response is also the most politically useful. When you say they believe this, you help their message gain credence.

Bob, what you should have said is they respond to questions this way and it should be clear to the unbiased listener that there is a distinct possibility that they are simply responding this way because it is politically useful.

Please do a segment on credulity in poll reporting.

Thanks

Apr. 30 2011 10:00 AM
Richard Brewster from Cutchogue, NY

Saying that folks are against President Obama because he is black is exremely inflamitory and is wrong for most people. We are proud that a black man became president but disappointed in his performance.

Apr. 30 2011 08:21 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct.

In regards to the Birthers, slanderous acts of Donald Trump and the irresponsible media,

How can you ask why people will believe silly unproven and then proved un true slander, when Millions of Americans believe in God, which is called Faith since it cant be proved or disproved
I mean I would be locked up in a psyc ward if , as a 48 year old man I said I believe in the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause, which by the way were the best kindest and most fun myths from Christianity.

With all due respect,
The Easter Bunny
Santa Clause

Apr. 30 2011 08:07 AM
Arthur

I find it revolting that two middle-aged white men fail to address the issue that is central to "birther-ism" with respect to Obama - racism.

Apr. 30 2011 08:01 AM
Howard M Thompson

We know that rebuttals reinforce false beliefs. OTM has done pieces on the phenomenon. Why didn't President Obama quietly release the certificate or continue to ignore the birthers?

Apr. 30 2011 07:58 AM
michael pettengill from merrimack, nh

The reporting on the birther nonsense by NPR, PBS, and everything else I've read fails to deal with the logic of factual evidence.

Reporters are normally required to verify facts with the best authority available with additional primary and secondary sources to eliminate as far as possible any fraud.

On Obama's birth, the eye witnesses are all dead, so the best source is the primary official document required by law filed near the time of his birth - that is the State of Hawaii vital records. The keeper of these vital records is sworn by the laws of the State of Hawaii and the US Constitution to provide true testimony on the facts of any birth in Hawaii as provided by Hawaiian law. The keeper verified the facts of Obama's birth several years ago.

Trump and others claimed these facts can not be trusted.

Yet a copy of a possibly forged document certified true by the same keeper of the record of Obama's birth, satisfies Trump and others who claimed that officer could not be trusted?

Apr. 29 2011 09:24 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

Wow. No mention that Hillary's supporters started this back in 2008, that a Fox News world is responsible when they reported that the President IS a citizen, and we can call Hoover a "gorilla" (wonder if Bob would ever call a democrat or an African American president a word like that). Ira Glass, are you listening?

One could at least ask why Obama, who has proudly vowed his administration would be the “most open and transparent in history,” waited so long, was then bothered that he had to do this, on his way to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show... All on a day when the White House announces the formation of new groups to help re-elect the president without disclosing donors, a tactic Obama and other Democrats decried just months ago. Yeesh.

Apr. 29 2011 07:32 PM
JP

Trump's popularity with Republicans proves that not a single relevant issue is significant to the Republican electorate... rather, all one has to do is be a racist and mindlessly attack President Obama with stupidities- don't even bother seriously addressing a single problem our country is facing.

... that's what Trump has done, and he's the Republican front-runner by a good margin.

Republicans have definitely become the party of the old, male, and white.

Apr. 29 2011 06:30 PM

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