Saturday, April 30, 2011

On the Birth of Obama

As there’s nothing much of interest happening today I thought I would reflect on Obama’s birth. I think we can all agree that he was in fact born, and that he managed to get the necessary number of his fellow-countrymen to vote for him, and that, whatever happens, he isn’t going anywhere, at least not until next year.

The exact circumstances of his birth have been placed in doubt, almost since he declared his candidacy. The reason for this is that his father was not a US citizen, and Obama was brought up partly abroad, an unusual situation for a US politician. This opened a line of criticism, for his opponents, because until yesterday he hadn’t provided documentary proof that he was born a citizen of the country he now rules, and it matters. In fact, apart from getting those votes, it is the only constitutional condition that a President has to satisfy. Hardly surprising that there are people who are interested in making an issue of it.

For those who think the world is run by fluffy bunnies with hearts of pink candyfloss, let me remind you of something important: politics is about power and money- enormous power and phenomenal quantities of money. It is, therefore, an extremely nasty business.

All presidents are attacked by their opponents with any weapon available and this is not going to change. A president whose legitimacy can be questioned is going to find his legitimacy questioned. George Bush’s legitimacy was mercilessly questioned throughout his term of office because of the closeness of the result in Florida. We can imagine that if McCain had beaten Obama: his birth in the canal zone, to a US serviceman, did not make him a citizen automatically. The anomaly was later rectified, but it could be argued that, although a posteriori he was declared a citizen from birth, he was not born a citizen. And it most certainly would have been so argued. It could well have gone to the Supreme Court, which would have decided in his favour, because let’s face it  they wouldn’t kick out a sitting President who’s been voted in and has been acting executively for a number of years. But the opposition would call him illegitimate for the rest of his term, because it would be useful for them to do so.

I am an English hedgehog (and an Algerian species). I don’t care much who is President of the USA or where he was born. Al Gore would have invaded Irak, John McCain would have bailed out the banks. Obama has had some very unpleasant friends in the past, but so did Bill Clinton, and John Kennedy, and doubtless Bush and Nixon and ... I don’t doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961 when it was a state of the union. The document has been released now as part of a game. It’s a PDF of a scan of what purports to be, and presumably is, the original birth certificate of the President.

There are problems with it. Most of these seem to arise as artefacts of the way that the PDF software creates files from a scan, but there is just enough to make some people wonder. The absence of letters in some layers responds to different ink densities. It was written by typewriter, and some keys strike more firmly than others. A chap called Euripides (the greatest of the Greek dramatists, though the blogger does not justify his nick) says that he is not a birther, but is an expert in document creation software. I link to what he says because it might be of interest. A much more clearly partisan blogger gives his own analysis, which I think is not to be taken seriously.

What I notice about the document as released is this, and again I insist that I have no dog in this fight: the date of the copy at the bottom is also typed, rather than printed, which is very odd, and at an angle. It isn’t the same typewriter as used for the other dates. The date written by Mrs Obama is wrong, she gets the wrong number for the month, which is a very authentic looking slip.

The Constitution requires that the President be a native born citizen, but it does not say to whose satisfaction this must be proved. If the people knew that there was, at the very least, the shadow of a doubt, and they voted for him anyway, their satisfaction in the matter is proven. Perhaps nothing else should matter, but it is not up to me to decide. In the end, the importance, even the truth, of this business, will be determined by lawyers and politicians. Which doesn’t fill me with much hope.

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