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Thu, 23 Jun 2011

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:

As a sealer, you can reasonably be expected to answer three questions. First: why do you think B.H. Obama is withholding his birth documents and other vital records? Second: why do you feel these records should remain sealed? Third: if B.H. Obama's records should remain sealed now, at what point should they become accessible to historians? The end of his term? The end of his political career? The end of his life, plus 100 years? The end of the Solar System?

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:

The people whose opinion counts, the Democratic Party and the voters, accept Obama's citizenship as genuine. He doesn't owe hard-core denialists the time of day.

And Dutch even goes on to anticipate the obvious rejoinder from birthers (as you can see, I decline to adopt Mencius' revised terminology):

B-b-but he's the President. He's answerable to the people. Yes. He's answerable to their representatives in Congress, and ultimately to the voters. But he's not answerable to every crackpot on the far fringes. He's not answerable to 9-11 conspiracy theorists, or people who believe we have frozen aliens at Area 51 (next to the Ron Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks). And he's under no obligation to produce an original birth certificate to placate people angry because they couldn't win the election the right way.

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.

Posted at 18:43   |   Category: opinions   |   Tags: politics   |   Permalink
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