It's Not Magic
Writings of a techie wizard
Thu, 23 Jun 2011
The Great Birth Certificate Controversy (Not)
CNN announced some time back that the White House had released President Obama's birth certificate. Donald Trump claims that he was the one who pushed Obama over the edge, but that's neither here nor there. I mention the story because just yesterday, while browsing around the "Unqualified Reservations" blog, I came across this post from last summer by Mencius Moldbug, in which he proposes two new terms, "sealer" and "opener", to replace the traditional "birther" and "anti-birther". A "sealer", according to Moldbug, is someone who thinks Obama's birth documents should remain sealed. Moldbug writes:
It's always fun when someone like Mencius, whose writing I enjoy reading, takes a position that makes me want to argue. In this case, I think the proper response to Mencius' questions at the time (of course now they don't really need a response, but this is my blog and I can pretend I saw his post when it was written) would have been to clarify the proper usage of two particular words in his vocabulary:
(1) To say that Obama's records are "sealed" implies that nobody has seen them except those few who are mentioned in Mencius' post (Obama himself and the governor of Hawaii), or at least very, very few others. Does anyone really believe this? Obama has a U. S. passport, so the State Department has seen his birth certificate, and apparently considered it sufficient evidence of citizenship to issue a passport. Also, do you think the Democratic National Committee would nominate a candidate without making sure their proof of natural-born citizenship was in order?
(2) To say that Obama is "withholding" the documents implies that Obama is somehow shirking an obligation to show his birth documents to any yahoo who posts on the Internet or works as a talking head on TV. No such obligation exists. As Steve Dutch noted back when the controversy was thick:
And Dutch even goes on to anticipate the obvious rejoinder from birthers (as you can see, I decline to adopt Mencius' revised terminology):
As for why Obama didn't just release his birth certificate anyway a long time ago, even if he wasn't obligated to do so, at least one commenter on Mencius' post gave the obvious answer to that one: because it was a great opportunity for Obama to make his opponents look crazy and waste their energy on silliness instead of actually doing something productive. Then why did he release it now? Probably because, as a shrewd politician, he judged that he'd gotten about as much mileage out of that strategy as he could, and it was time to put the issue to bed.
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