Or, an Entire Year’s Understanding of Obama Eligibility Claims Condensed Into One Single Article
For anyone who is interested in the conclusions of someone who has examined the claims regarding Barack Obama’s eligibility and the Birther Movement in great detail, and who was very willing from the beginning to believe — or not believe — any or all of the claims, based on whichever direction the evidence led, I would like to state the following conclusions of close to a year of investigation.
I have reached these conclusions after hundreds of hours of research, reading, and exploring the arguments on both sides. For a certain portion of 2011, particularly while looking into all the technical details and allegations regarding the long form birth certificate, my investigation was like a second full-time job.
The Two Issues: The Place of Birth of Barack Obama; and the Meaning of “Natural Born Citizen”
There are two basic issues regarding Presidential eligibility: Place of birth, and the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen.” I began my journey (back in the spring of 2011) with a tendency to think that Barack Obama was probably either born outside of the United States, or that his long form birth certificate probably contained information that he did not want publicly revealed. I didn’t start with any firm opinion, either way, on whether or not the Founding Fathers would have required two citizen parents to make a natural born citizen.
Obviously, conclusions have consequences. But an honest conclusion is not based on its consequence. In other words, you don’t choose your conclusion based on what you want it to be. Unless, of course, you’re like a lot of people with an axe to grind on this particular issue.
The following are not tentative conclusions. They are quite firm. I don’t care whether you like the conclusions or not. It doesn’t matter whether the conclusions are politically convenient or not. If you want to know the honest truth, here it is. If you don’t want to know the honest truth, then there are plenty of places that will quite happily tell you untruths in regard to the matter.
Note that this is just a bare-bones summary of actual conclusions. If you want any of the substantial evidence and reasoning behind these conclusions, you’re going to have to read a lot more of this blog (which has dozens of other published posts), read some of my writing at a few other locations on the web (you can start by searching for “John Woodman” and “Obama”), listen to a few of the interviews I’ve done at Reality Check Radio, and/or go through the 221-page book I wrote on the forgery theories. Reading the rest of this blog (including comments on both sides of the issue) is a very good place to begin. There are also other places on the web where some solid and truthful analysis has been done.
I don’t guarantee that I’ve put everything I know about the issue into the public realm. Most of it, though, should now be available.
Note that on every single one of these issues, a seemingly persuasive argument can be made by either side. Just because you showed up here quite rationally and completely convinced of a conclusion doesn’t mean your conclusion is right. Nor does it mean that you were wrong in drawing that conclusion based on the evidence you had! But an awful lot of apparently convincing statements have been pulled out of their proper context and twisted, leading otherwise rational people quite reasonably to conclusions that are completely wrong. Only by doing in-depth and HONEST analysis of both sides — or relying on somebody who has — can one come to a proper conclusion.
Note again: I am not presenting the details on this particular page — only my conclusions. For some of the more detailed analyses, see here (particularly in regard to the historical and legal meaning of “natural born citizen”), or get the book (particularly in regard to the forgery theories.)
On Claims That Obama’s Birth Certificate Is a Forgery
- In spite of what you may have heard, there is no credible technical or other evidence that Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate is a forgery (see the full explanations of technical issues in my 221-page book, and further comments on this site).
- There is no credible evidence that Barack Obama’s short form birth certificate is a forgery.
- The investigation conducted by Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Cold Case Posse” shows every sign of being a complete sham, effectively controlled by forgery-theory activists Jerome Corsi and Mara Zebest. All indications are that the posse made no attempt to look at both sides of the issue. I conclude that they simply ran with what Corsi, Zebest, and company told them.
For example, Jerome Corsi had 18 hours to present his “evidence” to the posse, and Mara Zebest prepared the official report. I twice contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to offer my help, mentioning that I had spent at least 500 hours of research into the specific matter and had authored the only book on the forgery theories. I was never contacted. Nor, reportedly, did they so much as place a phone call to the Hawaii Department of Health, who maintains the actual birth records.
The posse’s lack of hearing both sides is completely unprofessional. It’s kind of like having Crystal Gail Mangum’s brother in a key position on the investigative team looking into the Duke lacrosse case.
- I find it highly unethical that before the press conference was even held, an ebook (which would have found no significant audience if the posse had concluded differently) was already on sale — with the profits to be split between forgery-theory proponent Jerome Corsi and the posse’s lead investigator Michael Zullo.
- Virtually every claim of evidence for forgery, including those brought forward by Arpaio’s posse at their press conference, in Zebest’s official report, and in the subsequent for-profit ebook, has been factually debunked. Almost all of what Arpaio’s posse said had been factually discredited before they ever even started their “investigation.” There are one, maybe two, minor points — out of literally dozens of claims — that to my knowledge haven’t yet been debunked publicly. But those are just as factually debunkable as all the others.
- [Update:] The main specific item I was really referring to in the point above was the claim that the “clipping mask” in the PDF file is evidence of forgery. I have now commented on that. There is reason to believe that this, again, was the result of the scanning and optimization process. At most, it would seem to be the result of someone “cleaning up” the image to make it more presentable, by extending the blank margins to hide two small blemishes in the scan that do not appear in the photo by Savannah Guthrie. The people claiming “forgery” have no good explanation at all for why these blemishes should be there in the first place. By their theory, the supposed forger first created these no-purpose blemishes and then hid them (using different methods for the PDF, the AP document and the Guthrie photo) from all viewable images of the certificate. In the real world, it’s obvious why they’re there — as often happens, there were a couple of small bits of gunk on the scanner.
- [Update:] The Posse also claimed to have invalidated my evidence regarding layers, by making the false claim that optimizing a “more complex” file would necessarily produce dozens of layers — far, far more than those in the example I showed. Their claim is easily seen to be entirely false, based on the reasonable view that Obama’s birth certificate is roughly twice as “complex” as the example I presented. That being the case, we would expect somewhere around 10 layers (give or take) in the Obama certificate. It has 9. So their own reasoning confirms that my claim, and not theirs, is correct.
- There were very few new claims by Arpaio’s posse, and almost all of the few new things that they did put forth were debunked literally within days. This is not the mark of a credible investigation.
No evidence put forth by Zebest and the posse justifies any different conclusion than that which I had earlier reached: that Ms. Zebest’s claims of evidence for forgery, whether backed by Joe Arpaio or not, are complete rubbish. Her technical claims regarding the birth certificate have been refuted by multiple writers, including (at the very least) myself, a man named Frank Arduini, and a writer with the nickname of “NBC.”
- The claims made by the Arpaio “investigation” included some very easily debunked assertions. One was that a postmark on Obama’s selective service registration was created by a 2008 stamp — when the postmark itself said “USPO,” an abbreviation that was obsoleted by a name change in 1971 and that is not known to have occurred in a legitimate stamp since 1987. Another was the claim that a failure to locate immigration records of people flying into Hawaii during the first week of August 1961 was suspicious evidence suggesting a Kenyan birth. But any traveler going from Kenya to Honolulu would have cleared immigration in the Eastern United States, probably in New York City. (See also an additional debunking update in the following section on place of birth, below).
- In spite of their claims to the contrary, Corsi and Zebest have in no way answered the analysis and conclusions presented in my book.
- The sum total of the evidence, far from indicating forgery, is fairly overwhelming that all “anomalies” in the PDF file posted by the White House are artifacts of innocent processes, the most notable of which is optimization.
My overall conclusion is therefore that nearly one year after the publication of images of Obama’s birth certificate and many thousands of hours of examination and analysis by various persons, myself included, no one — specifically including Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse — has presented any credible evidence for forgery at all.
This is not a defense of Mr. Obama — whose policies I don’t even like and will be glad to be done with — and I am manifestly not an “Obot.” As for liking the man as a person, I can’t say, since I don’t know him. All of the above is simply a statement of my evaluation of the facts.
On Barack Obama’s Place of Birth
- We have plenty of decent evidence that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii — including:
- repeated, official and emphatic statements by a variety of Hawaii State officials of both Democratic and Republican parties,
- the State of Hawaii’s link to the birth certificate image posted by the White House,
- a personal statement by his high school English teacher who says an obstetrician friend mentioned the birth in Honolulu at that time,
- INS records of Obama’s father and stepfather which mention their American-citizen son/ stepson,
- a specific government statement from the 1960s that Obama was a US citizen,
- birth announcements from two newspapers, still available on microfilm in perhaps dozens of libraries across the United States,
- and the fact that his father is known to have been enrolled in school in Hawaii at the time of Obama’s birth.
- There is no credible evidence of birth in any other place.
- Specifically, for Obama to have been born in Kenya, as alleged by some, is pretty much a practical impossibility.
[Update:] We now have specific information from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service that their records showed a grand total of zero US citizen travelers embarking by airplane with a starting point of Kenya and ending anywhere in the United States during the entire year of July 1, 1961 to June 30, 1962.
My overall conclusion is therefore that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. All of the evidence, taken together, points strongly in this direction. This is even allowing for a healthy suspicion of government employees and government agencies, which I have from personal experience.
On the Claim that Two Citizen Parents Are Required to Produce a Natural-Born Citizen
The claim has been made by lawyers Leo Donofrio and Mario Apuzzo, and others, that the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution relied upon Swiss philosopher Emmerich de Vattel for their definition of “natural born citizen,” and that therefore “natural born citizen” means “someone who is born in the United States of two US citizen parents.”
- The idea that “natural born citizen” is restricted to someone who is born BOTH on US soil AND to two citizen parents is pretty much of a novel legal theory, in the sense that there seems to be no evidence at all of anybody making this claim at any time since 1900, until the last few years.
- The only other period of history during which there seems to have been substantial debate regarding these issues is between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the year 1898. This debate was sparked by the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court case of 1857 which found that black Americans, whether slaves or free, were not and never could become citizens of the United States. It continued with Congressional debates on whether black people (including the freed slaves) were or could be declared citizens, and with disputes regarding the exact status of children of Asian subjects resident in the United States.
- [Update]: I have now been through the long Congressional debates concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (the precursor to the 14th Amendment), and regarding the 14th Amendment itself.
Given some of the quotes produced by birthers, I was frankly expecting significantly much more support for their position than I found. Just as in many other historical instances, they have pulled quotes completely out of context. They have chosen quotes that when divorced of their context would appear to mean one thing, but when read in their actual context and together with other statements by the exact same speaker actually do mean something altogether different. They have therefore significantly misrepresented the views of some of those who made the quotes that they cite. I found virtually no actual support for the birther position or claims — and significant support for the traditional understanding of the meaning of “natural born citizen.”
This is frankly a different result than I was expecting. Quite honestly, I was expecting to find a small, anomalous pocket of support for the birther position which would go against the totality of the other evidence. I certainly did not expect anything that would warrant a change in any overall conclusions, but I did expect a bit of a “speed bump.” The “speed bump” never appeared.
- This debate (during which Vattel was appealed to) was settled by the United States Supreme Court in 1898, which included a review of past history and the intentions of the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution.
- There is no significant evidence whatsoever that the Founding Fathers or the Framers relied upon Vattel to define “natural born citizen,” or that they used his idea.
- There is plenty of evidence for the sweeping influence the English common law held for the Founders and for the Framers of the Constitution.
- The term “natural born citizen” INDISPUTABLY derived from English common law, and dates back for centuries.
- According to the common law, anyone born in the country was a “natural born subject” (or later, “citizen.”) It didn’t matter whether their parents were citizens or not.
- Vattel’s word “indigenes” wasn’t even translated as “natural born citizens” until 10 years AFTER the Presidential eligibility clause was written.
- Contrary to birther claims, the 1875 Supreme Court case Minor v Happersett created no definition for “natural born citizen” — and it absolutely didn’t create a “binding precedent” that only a person who meets the restrictive birther definition qualifies.
- Finally, directly contrary to birther claims, the Supreme Court quite clearly found that Wong Kim Ark, born in San Francisco to non-US-citizen-parents, was a natural born citizen. In doing so, they also mentioned the implications for Presidential eligibility, and established a clear and binding precedent that citizenship of parents is not a condition for natural born citizen status or Presidential eligibility.
- [Update]: I have now also gone through the dissent of Justice Fuller (who was joined by only one other Justice) in US v Wong Kim Ark, armed with a much better understanding of the history and law leading up to this case. Previously, I had understood what the Wong Kim Ark ruling was — that the Supreme Court found Wong to be a natural born citizen and thus established a binding precedent — but I did not have a good basis in the underlying history and law for stating whether I personally believed the ruling to be correct. In this tour through, armed with far more information, numerous errors seem evident on the part of Justice Fuller in his dissenting opinion. It is a novel and quite interesting thing for me to read through a judicial Supreme Court dissent and have a very clear and decisive experience of conviction that the judge writing the dissent has it all wrong, and to know exactly WHY he has it wrong. In any event, I have arrived at the personal conclusion that on the basis of previous law, history and precedent — yes, United States v Wong Kim Ark was correctly decided.
- [Update:] ehancock (who is a reader of this blog) and I have now engaged in a detailed debate of the two-citizen-parent claim with its major remaining proponent, New Jersey attorney Mario Apuzzo. Mr. Apuzzo did not fare at all well in this debate.
During the course of the debate, I identified a total of 11 specific claims on Apuzzo’s part that fail to match reality, the facts, and proper interpretation of history and the law; and I showed exactly why. Mr. Apuzzo has failed to justify any of these claims on his part. Also, when asked repeatedly by ehancock for an actual quote to back up one of these specific claims, he completely failed to produce it. He was asked for this quote at least five times. The fact that at least four state courts and three federal courts have directly refuted Mr. Apuzzo’s claim (and none have ruled in favor of it) makes up the twelfth “fail” that I mentioned in the debate.
- The core of Mr. Apuzzo’s arguments are found in the 42-page amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief that he filed in the 4th Circuit case of Tisdale v. Obama. A comparison of this brief with the points made in the debate mentioned shows that, with the exception of only a few minor points, Mr. Apuzzo’s claim that two citizen parents are required to make a natural born citizen has been utterly devastated. He has no leg left to stand on. Perhaps most embarrassing for Mr. Apuzzo is the fact that neither ehancock (as admitted in a comment below) nor I are lawyers. So it didn’t even take lawyers to show what a complete load of nonsense Mario Apuzzo’s claims are.
- [Update:] The research that I’ve personally done on the issue has really been completely independent from the separate report on the matter prepared by the Congressional Research Service, which comes to pretty much the same conclusions.
My overall conclusion is that Barack Obama, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio, born in the United States to one or both parents who were not at the time US citizens, are all perfectly qualified to run for and serve as President of the United States. This is a positive thing for conservatives, as it seems possible to me that Rubio’s selection as Vice-President could end up giving us a close 2012 election.
On the Birther Movement and Its Claims in General
- Those who are publicly pushing either the claims of forgery or that being a natural born citizen requires two citizen parents generally do not provide a look at both sides of the issue. Their purpose is not to allow their audiences to arrive at whatever conclusion is correct; their purpose is to push their particular agenda.
- Most of the blogs and forums run by birthers are heavily moderated or censored. This is certainly not a matter of limiting improper conduct; it is a matter of censoring contrary views and facts. I personally have had factual comments fail to show up at The Post & Email, BirtherReport.com, and a forum run by another birther whose name I will not give the dignity of a mention here. In the latter case, I made a factual reply to publicly-posted false allegations regarding myself. My factual reply was immediately and completely removed; I was banned from making any further posts or private-messaging any other member of the forum; and additional vicious and completely false personal attacks concerning me were posted. The only birther site I can think of offhand where comments are apparently unmoderated except possibly for spam, and uncensored, is WorldNetDaily.
- The birther “truth” is that Barack Obama is ineligible — period. It doesn’t matter what the facts or evidence — on both sides of the question, not just one — say. No facts or evidence against the proposition matter, only such facts and evidence as may be presented for the birther claims.
- Anyone who disagrees with the claims, no matter what the rationale for doing so, is an “Obot” (“Obama robot”) or Obama supporter, or is being paid or threatened.
- Contrary evidence is ignored, ridiculed, glossed over, or simply denied. I wrote close to 100 pages regarding the PDF file alone. The birther response (after first ignoring, then publicly ridiculing and literally shouting down my presentation of the results) was to publicly mount a completely invalid attack against ONE point made in the entire 100 pages — while being careful not to actually call attention to the fact that I disagreed with the birther claims! — and then claim that the entire 100-page argument had been comprehensively disproven based on the one invalid attack. One additional technique that is used, when someone’s claims have been factually disproven, even comprehensively and point by point, is simple, bald-faced denial: “You haven’t proven anything.”
- Any theoretical possibility that something supporting a birther claim could have happened, no matter how remote the possibility of its having actually happened, is often counted as “proof” that it actually did happen.
- [Update:] As I’ve noted elsewhere, conversing with the people producing these theories is a lot like playing Whack-a-Mole — except that you don’t get any points for whacking the moles.
We’ve been presented with false claim after false claim after false claim. It doesn’t matter how many false claims are presented, either that we have good evidence Obama was born abroad, or that we have good evidence his birth certificate is a forgery, or that evidence supports the two-citizen-parents-required theory. It doesn’t matter how many dozens of these claims are shown to be absolutely false. Nor does it matter that generally speaking, all of the debunkings have been completely factual and true. The people presenting the false claims will accept no penalty for their repeated presentation of literally dozens of proven falsehoods to the public. So you don’t get any points for whacking the moles, and there are always either new ones that they pop up, or — far more likely — old, disproven ones that have already been whacked back into the hole a few times, that they will soon present to the public once again… perhaps this time with a 79-year-old, computer-illiterate Sheriff to back them up.
- It is my firm conviction that many — not all, but many — of those still pushing the birther claims are doing so in full and absolute awareness that their claims do not hold water. Nonetheless, they continue to make the claims for agenda-driven reasons. This agenda, depending on the person involved, may include personal fame and popularity, personal financial gain (yes, there is significant money in pushing birtherism), political agenda, hatred, or sense of personal importance. In other words, many of those pushing the birther claims are simply liars. They know that what they’re pushing is false, but they continue to push it, encouraged by the number of people who give the claims credence and finding plausible deniability in the complexity of the arguments. There are others pushing the claims who do actually sincerely believe them, but who are sincerely deluded.
- Quite a few of the sources referenced by birthers are completely twisted. Most people won’t actually look up the sources referred to. I have particularly had the experience again and again and again of looking up a source that Mario Apuzzo or Leo Donofrio claim support their arguments, reading the entire thing in context, and finding that the authority claimed to support the birther position actually contradicts it. Just in the last few days, I’ve noted that Leo Donofrio pulled a quote from a major Supreme Court decision to claim that it supported him, selectively omitting from that very quote a phrase that completely and directly contradicted his claim. Earlier today, I looked up one of the earliest birther claims, claiming support from a Representative Smyth in 1820. What I found what that Smyth’s entire speech was quite specifically against citizenship for free black people — solely on the basis of their race — and that after the referenced quote Smyth quite specifically stated that anyone born on US soil of white alien parents was a citizen. Such discoveries are very typical.
- Birthers are not upholding the truth. They are not upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. And they are no friends to either. Nor are they friends to conservatives or the Republican party. In fact, they could do significant damage to conservatism by falsely depriving us of some of our best conservative candidates.
My overall conclusion is that the birther movement is not founded on truth, does not respect truth, and does not have truth as its goal. The birther movement is built upon a mosaic of goals including the personal benefit of individuals involved, political agenda, personal dislike of an individual President (for whatever reasons), and so forth.
Future Prospects for the Birther Movement
For the reasons stated above, the prospects of any birther claims succeeding in any court of law are essentially zero. And any such success would inevitably be overruled by a higher court. Their track record of the past — a loss on EVERY case ever filed — is completely predictive of their track record in any and all court proceedings for the future. And it’s not because the courts are rigged, or because judges have been bribed or threatened. It’s because their cases, even if admitted on standing, have no merit. When they presented the merits of their claims in Georgia, and lost to an empty table (Obama’s attorney refused to even show up), the ruling — on the merits of the case, even though they were not explored to the depth that the court might have done — was an accurate one.
The “political” or “popular myth” prospects of the birther movement, unfortunately, are somewhat better. Now that Jerome Corsi and Mara Zebest have enlisted an ostensibly credible political figure — Sheriff Joe Arpaio — to back their bogus claims of forgery, a certain number of people who would not have given the conspiracy theory any credibility in the past will now do so. It does not matter that Arpaio himself has no technical expertise at all. It does not matter that his “posse” did not conduct a credible investigation, as long as it can be claimed that they did. This is unfortunate, as the conspiracy theory, aside from being completely unsupported by the facts, is not in the interests of the country as a whole. It is only of benefit to a few people.
Both those birthers who know their claims are without merit, and those who are sincerely deluded, will continue to push the birther doctrines. The exploiters may be able to wring a bit more personal benefit out of the issue. The deluded are doomed to the frustration and despair of continuing on in a Quixotic quest of continual and ultimate failure.
By the way, a good example of birther fraud is an article this week by birthers Penbrook Johannson and Daniel Crosby of The Daily Pen, exposed as a lie by Kevin Davidson of ObamaConspiracy.org. One does not “accidentally” remove a single key word right out of the middle of a footnote in a government document image. I note that the neat and careful excision of that single word transformed the footnote’s meaning from failure to support the birther claim into a statement that supported the bogus claim.
To those who would disagree with any of these conclusions: Thoroughly research BOTH sides of the issue. You will find that the birther assertions are not only claimed to have been debunked. They actually have been debunked, again and again and again.
The conclusions above are honest, based on hundreds of hours of research, and firm.
At this time, while I am perfectly open to revising ANY of my opinions based on new evidence, all areas of question have been researched so thoroughly that I have no expectation whatsoever that any of these conclusions are going to change in the future.