Everyone has gotten the memo by this point: Do not question Barack Obama. Even conservatives have been warned by other conservatives about mentioning the secrecy issue: It's pointless and can only harm conservatism.
Recently, Rusty Humphries broke the rule and asked Sarah Palin if she would make the "birth certificate an issue" if she runs for office. In her answer, she noted that people "still want answers" and "it's a fair question." Her enemies pounced quickly, casting her as a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist.
The real issue, however, is not about birthers or theories or racism or whatever else you want to add. The real issue is about the secrecy of Barack Obama, and it involves more than the release of his complete birth records. Hospital records; high school, college and law school records; transcripts; writings; and passport info have been requested, and all are being withheld by Obama.
Mr. Obama is presented as the smartest man in the country, yet we have not seen his college course list or grades. Hmm, hmm, hmm.
A normative democratic society cannot allow a president to continue to speak disingenuously about transparency while withholding basic information.
We happen to have a president who touts openness, accountability, and transparency in a way that is unparalleled when compared to all previous presidents. Yet we know less about this man than about his predecessors. Consequently, there are twists of irony and feelings of distrust at almost every turn in the Obama presidency.
I therefore suggest a couple of reasons for the president to hit the reset button and release the requested information.
People have asked to see the records.
That doesn't seem to be too much to ask from a man of outspoken transparency. And these are not just any people, but citizens of the U.S., over whom he presides, who have asked. They're not asking for the moon and the stars -- just simple documents.
The "natural born" requirement of the U.S. Constitution was inserted to prevent conflicting loyalties and ideologies in a president. Citizens have the right to feel assured in that constitutional protection.
Mr. Obama is the only president in U.S. history whose father was a foreign national in the U.S. on a student visa. His father was a non-practicing-Muslim-turned-atheist, and his mother later remarried another foreign national, this one from from Indonesia, who was also a Muslim.
Some believe Obama was adopted and became a citizen of his stepfather's country. Obama's mother moved him to Indonesia in 1967 to live with his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. While other children Obama's age in America were pledging allegiance to the U.S. and learning to respect America, Obama as a schoolboy (grades 1-5) registered as Barry Soetoro, was reading from the Koran, reciting Muslim prayers, and learning the civics of Indonesia (the Indonesian school records were released independently prior to Obama's blockade).
Mr. Obama is the only president in U.S. history to have been raised in nontraditional/non-Christian homes. Based on what he's said, his mother was an agnostic. Obama's grandparents, with whom he lived for a period, were extremely left-leaning in their religion and politics. As Obama admits in one of his two pre-accomplishment autobiographies, he associated with Marxists and radical leftists during his college days.
The president's situation is remarkably unique, and his uniqueness has nothing to do with the color of his skin. People have an assortment of reasons for wanting to see Obama's complete birth certificate and other records.
Yes, Mr. Obama has posted a bare-bones "certification of live birth" (which doesn't name the hospital or physician), and Hawaii has confirmed that it exists. However, it is no secret that births were routinely registered in 1961 by affidavit under the laws (Act 96) of the newly admitted state. On affidavits of non-hospital deliveries, certifications of live birth were generated in Hawaii.
Now, my argument is not that a foreign birth was registered as Hawaiian on a false affidavit. (Also, I don't argue that dual citizenship or a foreign adoption disqualify Obama.) That misses the point. My argument is that because Obama says he is transparent, he should be transparent -- especially when people have asked for the info.
No one should have had to file in court for Obama's records, including his birth records showing his hospital and delivering physician. And taxpayers should not have to foot the Justice Department's efforts in defending the withholding of basic information. Releasing the information would cost virtually nothing. The president should want to provide all the requested documents, especially when doubt exists. By withholding the requested information, Obama is slapping transparency in the face while trying to make it a feature of his presidency.
Mr. Obama might want to reconsider releasing simple documents to show that he respects the people. By refusing to do so, it sort of makes him look really arrogant, as if releasing the information would be beneath him. If he has nothing to hide, all that remains is inexplicable arrogance.
Do it for the historians.
Approximately one year ago, the Honolulu Advertiser ran a piece about Obama's fans who were attempting to find his hospital of birth and retrace his steps, visiting as many of his boyhood homes as possible. The piece opens with these words:
Birthplaces and boyhood homes of U.S. presidents have been duly noted and honored for nearly as long as America has been a nation. In the case of such towering figures as Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, those early locations have been deemed national treasures and historic sites ...
At least Obama's reported place of birth has been narrowed to one of two Honolulu hospitals (Kapiolani and Queens). At the end of the Advertiser piece, the author's awkwardness is palpable as he tries to explain why no one knows for sure where Obama was born. The author thinks that it might be Kapiolani because it was the most recent hospital the campaign had identified. But:
While most Obama residences can be traced, the hospital where he was born is difficult to document. The desire of historians to pinpoint where Obama's life began has crashed head-on with the modern American propensity toward confidentiality. The federal Health Information Privacy Act of 1999 -- a law passed to protect medical records from public scrutiny -- prevents hospitals from confirming births, administrators contend.
I have to wonder whether the author is a staunch Obama supporter, is simply naïve, or is both. Surely he must know that historians are crashing head-on into Obama's refusal to release any information. He must know that Obama's signature on one form would override the privacy act. Release-of-information forms are signed every day; the act is only for those, like Obama, who wish to keep all information sealed.
The author concludes the piece by quoting a hospital official saying, "Our hands are tied." Mr. Obama is the only one who can untie their hands. With permission, the hospitals could confirm or deny Obama's birth in two seconds. Without permission, the hospitals can neither confirm nor deny.
At a press conference earlier this year, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Obama's detailed birth certificate. His response? He laughed. And he laughed some more. The room filled with journalists laughed heartily with Gibbs. The question continues to "astound" him. After all, it's posted right there online.
As long as it's a laughing matter, why not humor us, Mr. President? Humor us with your complete birth records, naming the hospital and physician. Humor us at least by giving your hospital of birth permission to release a simple yea or nay. Humor us with your college grades and financial records. Humor us with your Columbia thesis. Humor us with your law school records and writings.
You see, the issue is whether the White House will take serious the doubts and requests of American citizens or laugh at them. Some doubt his birthplace and/or eligibility; others doubt his transparency, and hence, his character.
Even if Obama was born in Hawaii, he still looks unreasonable by not releasing basic information. Maybe he is natural-born, but has a radical ideology to hide and has been counseled to seal everything in an effort to appear consistent.
Future historians far removed from the fantasy and fear of Obama will no doubt be astounded at the Obama phenomena. But they may never know of the secrets hiding in his birth, college, and/or other records. Do it for the historians, Mr. Obama: Tear down your wall of secrecy.