April 29, 2011
The Obama Lie That Drove the Birther Movement
Newly released documents from Barack Obama Sr.'s immigration file, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, justify "birther" doubts about the nativity story on which Barack Obama based his presidential campaign.
The documents were posted Thursday in an article by Heather Smathers on the Arizona Independent web site. When I checked with Brian Wedemeyer, the Independent's managing editor, he confirmed, "They are legitimate documents."
A memo dated Aug. 31, 1961, from William Wood of the Immigration and Naturalization Services, does verify that Barack Obama, Sr. fathered a son, Barack Obama II, who was born in Honolulu on Aug, 4, 1961. For the record, most birthers of my acquaintance believe that Obama was born in the United States. That is not their issue.
Wood adds, however, that the child is "living with mother (she lives with her parents & subject resides at 1482 Alencastre St.)." He adds that Obama's citizen spouse plans "to go to Washington State University next semester."
This document thoroughly undermines the Obama nativity story, a story that has been told almost as often as Jesus's but with nowhere near the accuracy. Obama led with it in his 2004 convention speech and repeated it in the first sentence of his 2008 speech.
Friendly biographer David Remnick describes this story as Obama's "signature appeal: the use of the details of his own life as a reflection of a kind of multicultural ideal," and he underscores its essential role in Obama's ascendancy.
As Obama told the story in 2004, his father had grown up in Kenya "herding goats." His mother he traced to Kansas, as he always did. "My parents shared not only an improbable love," Obama continued, "they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation."
Obama refined his story for a critical speech in Selma, Alabama in March 2007, a speech that would define his presidential campaign.
"Something happened back here in Selma, Alabama," said Obama. This something "sent a shout across the ocean," which inspired the Barack Sr., still "herding goats" back in Kenya, to "set his sights a little higher."
This same something also "worried folks in the White House" to the point that the "the Kennedy's decided we're going to do an air lift."
Something about Selma apparently inspired Obama to manufacture facts more flagrantly than usual. Obama Sr. grew up speaking English and attending Christian schools. He was working as a clerk in Nairobi, not a goatherd, when he came to Hawaii in 1959. He came not on any formal airlift but as an independent student. The Republican Eisenhower, not the Democrat Kennedy, was the president when he came to the United States.
Although born in Kansas, Stanley Ann Dunham (Ann), Obama's mother, was not exactly Dorothy. She spent her formative years in the Seattle area where she earned the nickname "Anarchist Annie" under the tutelage of her hipster teachers. Selma had nothing to do with Obama's birth in any case. He was conceived four years before anyone outside of Alabama ever heard of the town.
The problems, of course, go deeper. According to divorce papers filed in 1964, Barack Sr. and Ann Dunham married in Wailuku, Maui, on February 2, 1961. One has to wonder, however, whether it was a marriage in anything but name or whether there was a marriage at all.
The immigration authorities certainly wondered. An April 1961 memo notes, "If his USC [United States Citizen] wife tries to petition for [Obama Sr.] make sure an investigation is conducted as to the bona-fide of the marriage."
In his memoir Dreams from My Father, Obama says, "In fact, how and when the marriage occurred remains a bit murky, a bill of particulars that I've never quite had the courage to explore."
No family or friend attended a wedding. In fact, no one in Obama Sr.'s clique seemed to know there was a relationship, let alone a wedding. Clique member Pake Zane could not recall Ann at all.
When current Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie and Zane visited their friend in Nairobi in 1968, Barack Sr. shocked them by never once inquiring about his presumed wife and 6-year-old son.
The facts get more problematic still. After the birth of baby Barry in August 1961, Ann left for Seattle as soon as the doctors cleared her to travel. Once there, she enrolled at the University of Washington, not Washington Sate. Barack Sr. stayed behind in Hawaii.
The apolitical Washington state historical blog, HistoryLink, now confirms Ann's presence in the fall of 1961, identifies her Capitol Hill apartment in Seattle, names the courses she took, and documents an extended stay by Ann and little Barry into the summer of 1962.
If that is not proof enough, the 1961-1962 Polk Directory confirms an "Obama Anna Mrs studt" at the Capitol Hill address.
Somehow, this information escaped Obama's official campaign biography, Dreams, and four book-length biographies I consulted when researching my book Deconstructing Obama. Remnick's 2010 biography, The Bridge, concedes Ann's escape to Seattle but fudges the dates.
Even Janny Scott, the New York Times reporter who wrote the new biography, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother, plays with the timeline. Ann Dunham promptly became pregnant, Scott writes in a New York Times excerpt, "dropped out of school, married him and gave birth shortly before their union ended." No, based on these documents, the union, if there was one, ended before Obama was born.
By the time mom and son returned to Hawaii in the summer of 1962, Barack Sr. had long since left for Harvard. There was no Obama family, never was, no "abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation" save on the teleprompters at the 2004 convention.
Obama knew all of this when he gave his televised Big-Brotherly talk to America's coerced schoolchildren in September 2009. It did not stop him from dissembling.
"I get it," he told the kiddies. "I know what that's like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother." Does it get lower?
For the last two years or more, many in the birther community knew that Obama's "multicultural ideal" was based on a lie. Knowing that Obama was capable of lying about the first two years of his life, they had no reason to believe he was telling the truth about his birth, especially given the lengths he had gone to in order to protect his birth certificate.
For their part, the major media -- almost to a person -- were doing everything in their power to protect the lie. This was unprecedented on the sunny side of the Iron Curtain. The birthers had absolutely no reason to believe the media.
The media proved especially ignorant in their discussion of Obama's birth certificate. Last week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos set a new media low in his ambush of Rep. Michele Bachmann. In full partisan fury, he waved a copy of Obama's certification of live birth in her face as excitedly as if he had just discovered Al Capone's vault.
"Well I have the president's [birth] certificate right here," crowed the clueless Stephanopoulos, utterly unaware he had no such thing. Worse, what he did have had been floating around the Internet since 2008. "It's certified, it's got a certification number." Neither he nor his media colleagues seemed to know how foolish this spectacle appeared to the millions of Americans who knew better.
Given the historic performance of the president, and of the media, I think our birther friends are allowed a little grace time before they accept this new immaculately conceived certificate of live birth as Gospel. We would hate to have this too prove "fake but accurate."
See also: Race, Fantasy, and the New Yorker's Editor
See also: Race, Fantasy, and the New Yorker's Editor