Why do bloggers continue to press issue of Obama's birthplace?

Kansas City StarDecember 4, 2008 

In the outer cosmos of the blogosphere, the presidential election isn't over.

Barack Obama, now busily forming his administration, isn't just the wrong person to lead the nation, claim Web sites such as America Must Know and Right Side News.

He is, they contend, constitutionally ineligible to be president.

The argument is over his place of birth — Hawaii, if you accept statements by Hawaiian officials, his 1961 birth notice in a Honolulu newspaper and a certified document his campaign obtained 18 months ago.

Still, legions of anti-Obama bloggers are so convinced he was born in Kenya that they've filed more than a dozen lawsuits nationwide.

They cite the Constitution's requirement that presidents be "natural born citizens." They want the election declared void if Obama doesn't deliver an original birth certificate — subject to an inspection by forensic experts — to be sure.

One litigant's U.S. Supreme Court filing is scheduled to be discussed in private by the justices later this week.

Justice Clarence Thomas distributed to his colleagues a request that the high court weigh in before the Electoral College makes Obama’s victory official later this month. The justices may decide in a Friday conference whether to hear or cast away a lawsuit dismissed in a lower court and appealed by a retired New Jersey lawyer named Leo C. Donofrio, who also has his own Web site.

Yet another site, PeoplesPassions.org, beckons the president-elect: "If you're eligible, show us the proof!"

Obama's campaign tried to settle all doubts months ago when it digitally scanned for all Web browsers to view a "certification of live birth," signed by Hawaii’s registrar of vital statistics and carrying the state's seal.

The skeptics response of "fake" prompted Brooks Jackson, who directs the nonpartisan FactCheck.org, to call the entire affair “the stupidest, silliest thing.”

FactCheck.org's research into Obama's birth records — and its rejecting of rumors that he was born anywhere but Hawaii — has been the most-viewed article in the history of the Web site. The site was launched five years ago by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

There, online visitors can see Obama's birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser on Aug. 13, 1961, along with photos taken from all angles of the campaign’s certified copy of the birth document.

The original is said to be safely stored in Hawaii records vaults, though it, like other birth certificates, is inaccessible to the general public.

Tangled conspiracy

In the view of fact-checker Jackson, "it all reflects a surge of paranoid distress among people who don’t like Barack Obama" and who want the election results to go away.

To others, the scintillating saga is just another product of the instant, unstoppable and often unverifiable ways of Internet culture. "There's such a blitz of material, it's hard to keep track” for anti-Obama blogger Joan Swirsky, a New York author who said she answered 300 e-mails daily in response to her reports about the birth certificate.

L"When it's something unresolved, when it's a mystery, it's very provocative."

Obama's supporters said there was no mystery. But true believers of a cover-up cite a YouTube video of his paternal grandmother in Kenya speaking in a tribal tongue and purportedly saying she witnessed his birth.

And if that doesn't keep him out of the White House, they point to the decision of Obama's mother to marry an Indonesian man and travel to his country, with young Barack, in 1965. School records that give Barack his stepfather's last name, Soetoro, screams to connoisseurs of the plot that the child had become a naturalized Indonesian citizen.

According to the skeptics, FactCheck.org and other spoilers of the rumors are part of a tangled web of conspiracy and silence. Some of the accused co-conspirators include:

•Election officials nationwide who put candidates' names on the ballots;

•Judges who throw out the lawsuits;

•Mainstream media (not even FOX News has done much with the story);

•Obama’s family, who must have begun to execute the scheme 47 years ago, when the Honolulu newspaper for some reason agreed to go along and print the newborn’s name;

•Hawaiian authorities, plus their Republican governor.

Hawaii officials insisted they had verified the existence of the original birth certificate but, citing privacy laws, said they could not just hand it to anyone who asks. As Hawaii health director Chiyome Fukino, overseer of the files, told the Honolulu newspaper:

"This has gotten ridiculous."

Started by Democrats

This week a full-page ad in Obama's local paper, The Chicago Tribune, demanded that the president-elect produce not only a certified copy of his "vault" birth certificate but copies of his "certificate of citizenship" and college admission forms.

The sponsor of the ad, We the People Foundation for Constitution Education, Inc., paid for it through Web-generated donations. The organization currently is raising money to hire a forensic expert who can analyze the documents Obama turns over, said foundation chairman Bob Shulz.

The Constitution states that "no person except a natural born citizen" is eligible for the presidency, even though foreign-born U.S. citizens at the time of the drafting were grandfathered in. (In Sen. John McCain’s case, it's OK to be born on a U.S. military base in Panama. But his eligibility, too, is challenged in Donofrio's lawsuit before the high court.)

Arguments over Obama's country of birth were first raised by supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton when the New York senator was fighting for the party's nomination.

Democrats remain among those suggesting a cover-up, including Philip J. Berg, former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general. After a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed Berg v. Obama as "too vague," Berg petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to halt tabulation of the election results.

Justice David Souter rejected Berg's appeal the day before the vote.

Among the secretaries of state who have been sued is California's — by Alan Keyes, the presidential candidate of America’s Independent Party.

Because he competed against Obama on the state ballot, Keyes may have the strongest legal standing of all the post-election litigants to have his day in court, legal experts said.

Now even Hawaiian officials are shutting up.

"Because of the legal filings … " a health director spokesman told The Kansas City Star, "we have been advised by our attorney general not to conduct interviews."

That surely will make the rounds of the true believers.

"You can quote me," said Willard S. Norton, a Kansas City consulting engineer who has followed the allegations. Obama "has either got to produce some evidence or we’ve got to shut this down."

His presidency, that is.

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