Obama and the Matter of Trust
Ronald Reagan was fond of saying: "Trust, but verify."
President Obama told us he released his official long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011. Can we trust him, and should we verify?
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his "Cold Case Posse" attempted to answer that question, with the intended goal of verifying the authenticity of the certificate presented by the White House to the public.
At the March 1 press conference, Sheriff Arpaio concluded that there is "probable cause" to believe that the document is a "computer-generated forgery." Additionally, the sheriff stated: "I do not believe that it is a scan of an original 1961 paper document, as represented by the White House when the long-form birth certificate was made public." The Sheriff's Office released a formal report of its "preliminary findings" and indicated that its investigation is continuing.
Most of the reporters' questions at the end of the press conference were statements in defense of Obama, and the subsequent coverage by major news outlets asserted that rumors about the president's birth certificate were "debunked" and "discredited," but gave no details of the debunking or discrediting. As the sheriff also noted at the conference, no specific or official investigation has ever been reported, unless we can count Savannah Guthrie, apparently the only reporter allowed to touch and photograph the original long-form certificate after it was released, or the two representatives of Factcheck (neither noted as having any relevant professional experience in document examination) who photographed the short-form certification posted in 2008.
To paraphrase another favorite Reagan quotation: "It isn't so much that the mainstream media are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so."
Assuming the mainstream media's assertions of what is "so" fail to satisfy your own definition of "verified," then Sheriff Arpaio is right. The birth certificate released by the White House has not been verified as trustworthy.
After attacking the message, the reporters at the press conference next questioned the motives of the sheriff and even the political affiliation of the posse's lead detective, Mike Zullo. Although Sheriff Arpaio's history with this administration is indeed contentious, the media would likely assail anyone who attempted to conduct such an investigation. "Joe the Plumber" or "Joe the Sheriff" -- it makes no difference. Both "Joes" fail to toe the politically correct line.
Back to the question on which the posse focused: Was the document posted by the White House a scan of an original certified document? Based on the analysis of the posse's experts, it was not. In fact, the posse has traced the image to a specific computer where it resided a mere 20 minutes before it was uploaded, and has identified a "person of interest."
To whom did this person report? And what was the purpose of presenting such an image to the American people? Surely the President's staff would have recognized the amount of scrutiny the document would receive. According to the Sheriff's News Release:
Investigators advised Sheriff Arpaio that the forgers committed two crimes: first, in creating a fraudulent document which the White House characterized, knowingly or unknowingly, as an officially produced governmental birth record; and second, in fraudulently presenting that document...as "proof positive" of President Obama's authentic 1961 Hawaii long-form birth certificate.
Why would this happen?
Three possible scenarios come to mind. The first, that the anomalies noted by the posse were purely innocent, merely some kind of touch-up to make the most famous birth certificate in the world appear more presentable to the millions who wish to view it. If so, then we could argue that the president should, as Arpaio noted, show us the microfilm -- the entire reel -- and also release other relevant records. Assuming bloggers and a large percentage of interested citizens refuse to let the posse's findings be thrown, as the sheriff remarked, "in the wastebasket," the negative publicity will continue to grow and become too large to sweep completely under the rug of the Oval Office. The White House needs to come clean and show some transparency.
A second possible explanation -- perhaps someone purposely tinkered with the document in order to make it look...suspicious. At the press conference, Obama described the attention to his birth certificate as a distraction, a "sideshow," and "silliness," and apparently referred to Donald Trump (who had been calling for its release) as a "carnival barker." Just two weeks prior, George Stephanopoulos observed that for the first time he saw himself, Karl Rove, and a smiling Obama agree on something: the birther controversy hurt the GOP. Prominent pundits, conservative and liberal alike, noted that the issue caused a serious divide within the Republican ranks, and assisted the liberal media crowbar in ridiculing the "birthers." Such a politically motivated explanation for the anomalies, though, as part of some type of political stunt, should result in outrage, as it would dishonor the office of the presidency.
And third, if the certificate is indeed an intentional forgery, we have witnessed the greatest fraud of the century.
In analyzing whether either of the last two scenarios is possible, it is an interesting exercise to dissect the actual transcript of the untaped portion at the beginning of April 27 press conference, prior to Obama's speech. In fact, Dan Pfeiffer, the president's Director of Communications, when asked by an unidentified reporter: "Will the President be holding [the certificate]?" answered, "He will not, and I will not leave it here for him to do so." Why not, really? No one was asking Obama to plaster it on his forehead.
In addition, if the document is indeed proven to be "fake but accurate," would such a situation still be characterized as fraud or forgery? Where does the buck start and stop along its path from Hawaii to the White House?
As I closed my last column reporting on the posse's findings, this situation is indeed a matter of trust and verification. The identification in 2010 of the "journolists" and Daily Caller's recent investigation into Media Matters confirmed our suspicions that we can no longer trust the mainstream media. In my local paper, there was not even a single line devoted to the posse's stunning assertions. What happened to "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! The posted birth certificate of a sitting president a possible forgery!"?
According to Zullo: "I could not come to [Sheriff Arpaio] and say [Obama] cleared a background to be an employee of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. There's just too much missing information." Really, even if we were told that Obama passed the security clearance of the State Department (which also recognizes the potential security implications of dual citizenship), he doesn't work for them. He works for us. Even those who didn't vote for him.
Sheriff Arpaio admitted he doesn't know where to present his findings, but he insists they cannot be ignored. Imagine if you found a piece of evidence that would rock the establishment to its core. Where would you take it? Who would believe you? Are there any more Bob Woodwards or Carl Bernsteins out there?
There may be no one left to trust anymore -- except We the People.
As Thomas Lifson wisely commented, "skepticism is contagious in a time of disillusionment." A healthy dose of skepticism, an "injection of fortitude," might just be what this country needs right now. The search for, and discovery of, the truth in this election year may in fact become the shining and courageous idea that instead of causing division, actually unites us.