Earth to birthers: the facts about Obama’s birth certificate

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A new poll shows just over half of likely Republican primary voters question where President Obama was born. What’s up with “birtherism” and why does it have such staying power?

The evidence shows Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama released a “Certification of Live Birth,” a document produced by the state of Hawaii certifying the state holds records that a person was born there.

Further, two Hawaiian newspaper announcements from 1961 tell of Obama’s birth. Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Health, told the Honolulu Advertiser in July 2009 that such newspaper announcements were based on notifications from the Health Department, which received information directly from hospitals.

The certification of live birth Obama released is legally sufficient documentation to apply for a U.S. passport, but it’s not the same thing as a “long form” birth certificate, called a “Certificate of Live Birth” in Hawaii. That document is issued by hospitals and includes additional information not on the certification.

“Birthers” and other critics have demanded Obama produce the long form birth certificate for reasons ranging from bizarre conspiracy theorizing to simple transparency.

In the early 1960s, the long form birth certificate would have included the following information that is not on the certification Obama released: the name of the hospital where he was born, the age, birthplace, and occupation of his father and mother, the signature of the attending physician and registrar and whether his mother’s residence is “on a farm or plantation.”

(Here’s an example of a 1963 long form birth certificate. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser located two examples from 1961, the year Obama was born. Here’s the certification of live birth Obama released and some more photos of it.)

Though Obama has not released the long form birth certificate, a state official in Hawaii says she has personally viewed it.

July 27, 2009, the then-director of the Hawaii Department of Health, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, stated she had personally viewed the long-form birth certificate.  “I…have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai‘i and is a natural-born American citizen,” she said in a written statement.

Though the evidence of Obama’s Hawaiian birth is ample, many wonder why he won’t just release the long form birth certificate, since so many voters continue to have doubts.

Political insiders posit several theories. One is that the issue serves as a means to discredit portions of the right wing as unhinged for delving into what is widely considered a fringe issue. A second theory is there is some kind of embarrassing detail on the birth certificate Obama doesn’t want to deal with. Another school of thought says further evidence could actually perpetuate conspiracy theories by giving the issue publicity. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Things got stranger when the Democratic Governor of Hawaii, former Congressman Neil Abercrombie, vowed to put the issue to rest by providing more information about Obama’s birthplace shortly after Obama arrived at the Aloha state for a 12 day vacation Dec. 22.

Dec. 24, Abercrombie brought up the issue of Obama’s birthplace unprompted in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, saying, “Now that I’m governor, I’m going to do something about that.”

The New York Times also reported Abercrombie saying he would “take care of that” – the doubts about Obama’s birthplace – and that Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama’s parents, said he had launched his effort without consulting the president.

Jan. 14, Abercrombie said his “investigation” was ongoing, alluding to a written record of Obama’s birth. “It was actually written I am told, this is what our investigation is showing, it actually exists in the archives, written down,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Abercrombie said his motive for releasing the information was to help Obama in the 2012 presidential campaign. “It has a political implication for 2012 that we simply cannot have,” he said.

But eight days later, the Associated Press reported Abercrombie had ditched the effort.

The Jan. 22 story said, “A privacy law that shields birth certificates has prompted Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie to abandon efforts to dispel claims that President Barack Obama was born outside Hawaii, his office says. State Attorney General David Louie told the governor that privacy laws bar him from disclosing an individual’s birth documentation without the person’s consent, Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said Friday.”

Under a Hawaii law, only someone with a “direct and tangible” interest can be issued a copy of a birth certificate. Those automatically considered to have such an interest include the person whose record it is, their spouse, and several other categories.

Abercrombie’s office did not respond to e-mails from The Daily Caller asking whether Abercrombie sought Obama’s consent to release the documents of persons.

Four days later on Jan. 26, Dr. Neal Palafox, interim director of the Hawaii Department of Health, which holds the state’s birth certificates on file, resigned at Abercrombie’s prompting. Abercrombie declined to state why he asked Palafox to resign. Newspapers alluded to rumors of an investigation into medical reimbursements. A lobbyist who vetted Palafox for Abercrombie said Palafox had a sterling reputation.

Feb. 15, Palafox’s lawyer Brook Hart told TheDC, “Dr. Palafox has no idea why he was asked to resign….there are claims that somebody is investigating something, but nobody has made any accusations against him.”

Abercrombie was known in Washington as a free spirit, someone who “thinks with his mouth open,” as one politico put it. Still, the chain of events is puzzling, even if no clear pattern emerges from it. There’s no reason to connect the embarrassing flub by Abercrombie over the birth certificate and the state official whose jurisdiction it is suddenly resigning, but neither is there an explanation for what happened. It’s a mystery.

We know Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, but not why he won’t release his long form birth certificate. Neil Abercrombie’s embarrassing flop on “taking care of that” is perplexing, if only because it’s amazing a veteran politician could fail so visibly. There is no explanation of why his health director resigned.

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