Jerome Corsi's much-anticipated book, Where's the Birth Certificate?, is important in ways that go beyond the eligibility of Barack Obama to be president of the United States. That question the book addresses but cannot quite resolve.
Perhaps more importantly, the book illuminates the David and Goliath dust-up between old school journalists like Corsi and the anti-journalists who now dominates the media. Although the outcome remains in doubt, the terms of battle do not. And unless those terms are changed, the Goliath media will continue its inexorable drift towards Pravda-style journalism.
Corsi's book could help level the battlefield. He is the Joe Friday of reporters, "Just the facts, ma'm." Even the skeptical reader will have to appreciate how conscientiously he makes his case that Barack Obama's eligibility is by no means a given. And for all its attention to detail, the book is well paced and always engaging.
In the way of disclosure, Corsi and I are both affiliated with the journal at the center of the controversy, WorldNetDaily (WND), Corsi more formally than I. WND Books, in fact, published Where's the Birth Certificate? I chose Simon & Schuster for my recent book, Deconstructing Obama, thinking that its reputation would help me penetrate the anti-journalism force field that protects the president. I was kidding myself.
As I have come to learn firsthand, the anti-journalist does not seek to report the news. The anti-journalist attacks the people who do report the news or, just as likely, ignores them completely. When in attack mode, the anti-journalist disregards the facts and dismisses the fact finder as partisan, whacko, reckless, and inevitably, in regard to Obama, racist. No reporter in America knows this form of abuse better than Harvard Ph.D. Jerome Corsi.
Corsi does not deserve it. In his book, he carefully walks the reader through what would seem to be an important issue, a candidate's constitutional eligibility to be president of the United States. As Corsi documents, that issue certainly seemed important when John McCain emerged as the likely Republican nominee for president in 2008.
"McCain's Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out," screamed a New York Times headline in late February 2008, one of many such articles questioning McCain's eligibility. The United States Senate took the question seriously enough to hold hearings on the matter, and even after the Senate decided in McCain's favor, the Washington Post questioned whether "Senate Resolution 511 was sufficient to prove that McCain was a natural-born citizen."
Corsi provides a useful history into the thinking that informed Article 2, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, the natural-born citizenship clause. In brief, the founders did not want a president with divided loyalties. Regardless of where Obama was born, the fact that his presumed father was a British citizen at the time of Obama's birth, and had every intention of remaining one, made Obama's case at least as worthy of adjudication as McCain's.
But that was not to be. From the beginning, one questioned Obama's eligibility, indeed any of his credentials, at his own risk. The introductory section of Corsi's book shows those who may have forgotten with what incredible impunity the Obama campaign was allowed to proceed.
In March 2008, contract employees for the State Department were caught breaching the passport files of the three still viable presidential candidates, Obama, McCain, and Hillary Clinton. While the media allowed Obama to pontificate about the sanctity of confidential records, they spared the public the knowledge that Obama's file was uniquely visited on three occasions and that that visitor just happened to work for Obama adviser John Brennan, now Deputy National Security Adviser. Two weeks later, Obama first disclosed that he had visited Pakistan in 1981, a fact curiously missing from both of his books. The media predictably averted their gaze.
Unlike every other candidate in modern presidential history, Obama did not choose to share any of his essential documents, and the media happily obliged him. As Corsi details, Obama has shielded those records involved with his adoption, his kindergarten, Punahou School, Occidental College, his passport and travel, Columbia University (including his senior thesis), Harvard Law School, his medical history, his Chicago law practice, his State Senate career, as well as his SAT and LSAT scores, and, until recently, his very birth certificate.
Then, too, there is the question of Obama's Connecticut-based Social Security number, a question that Corsi tackles, but the media inevitably dodge.
In a telling incident from late October 2007, the New York Times offered the then underdog Obama a chance to reconcile the account of his New York years in Dreams from My Father with the accounts of those who knew him. "Yet he declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend from those years."
A campaign spokesman, Ben LaBolt, offered a conspicuously lame explanation for Obama's reticence: "He doesn't remember the names of a lot of people in his life." Lame or not, it worked. Obama's indifference to the facts on the ground may have shocked the Times, but it did not exactly shock the Times or any other media outlet into action.
Ironically, of course, Obama won his U.S. Senate seat in Illinois only after the Chicago Tribune, likely at the prodding of Team Obama, forced both his primary and then his general election opponent to unseal their unseemly, and ultimately lethal, divorce records.
Of all the records, however, none is important as the birth certificate, the ultimate symbol of Obama's cryptic origins. Until the release of the birth certificate on April 27, I had assumed that Obama was born in, if not Hawaii, at least in the United States, the State of Washington, where he was first sighted as a three-week-old by his mother's friends.
A series of events has made me question my assumptions. One is the release a week after the birth certificate of A Singular Woman, the book about Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. I had expected the book's author, New York Times reporter Janny Scott, to clarify any remaining questions about Obama's birth given her two-plus years of research. In fact, however, she does the opposite.
Scott describes the Maui wedding of Obama's presumed parents with the word "reportedly." She tells us not one word about Dunham's whereabouts from the February 1961 wedding to the August 1961 birth. She offers no baby pictures, no tales of trips to the hospital or anxious grandparents, no account of how Dunham got from Hawaii to Seattle. Indeed, Scott purposely fudges the timeline of Dunham's Seattle exodus. Scott almost forces the informed reader to wonder what she is hiding.
The recent posting of Barack Obama Sr.'s INS records has likewise increased my skepticism. In September 2010, Heather Smathers of the Arizona Independent requested these records through the Freedom of Information Act. She received them in CD form on April 18, 2011, and posted them on April 26. The next day Obama produced his birth certificate.
In the 55-page release, only one page is fully handwritten by an INS official. That memo conveniently insists that "Barack Obama II" -- the same odd locution as on the birth certificate -- was born in Honolulu on "8/4/1961."
Most problematic is the content of the dramatically released birth certificate. Corsi does an excellent job documenting the many efforts made to keep that certificate from public view, efforts that put huge demands on Hawaii officialdom, engaged federal courts in needless ways, and, most inexcusably, sent Lt. Col. Terry Lakin to prison. If the birth certificate is, in fact, as innocuous as it appears, a real reporter has to ask why all the efforts to conceal it.
A real reporter also has to at least examine a document this controversial and long concealed. These past few weeks, Corsi and WND have been doing just that with interesting results. Meanwhile, the anti-journalists sit back and snipe at them. And the least sensible of these snipers, alas, are the anti-journalists of the right.