I would like to thank Citizen Wells for his review, and for taking the time to read the book. However, I can certainly say that many of his conclusions and points don’t match my own perspective. And I will explain why.
Before I get into the areas in which we differ, though, I’d also like to thank Mr. Wells for the following comment:
“Mr. Woodman has done a good job of analyzing the PDF file and explaining his methodology.”
One of my fears has been that people would find it difficult to follow the technical analysis. I’ve tried hard to put it into clear English. It’s gratifying that Mr. Wells, at least, felt I did a good job in that.
The Book’s Purpose and Approach
Mr. Wells says: “John Woodman has stated and the premise of his book is debunking the debunkers. He seems more concerned about doing this than arriving at the truth about Obama’s eligibility and whether or not the image placed on WhiteHouse.gov proves a Hawaiian birth for Obama.”
He also later adds, “Mr. Woodman stayed true to his objective of debunking the debunkers.”
It doesn’t seem to me that Mr. Wells has well understood the purpose or approach of the book — at all — so I’d like to clarify that a bit.
Contrary to Mr. Wells’ review, I have never stated that my purpose or premise was to “debunk the debunkers.” In fact, I’ve pretty clearly stated that my purpose was entirely different!
Below are some of my actual statements, which differ significantly from Mr. Wells’ interpretation.
The first comes from Tuesday’s press release announcing the book — which Mr. Wells probably did not have access to — but the remaining statements come directly from the book itself that Mr. Wells has just reviewed.
And as far as I’m aware, I’ve omitted no statements where I might have implied anything different.
“I didn’t set out to disprove the forgery claims. I set out to discover the truth. And truth, even when some may find it inconvenient, is definitely one of the values we need to preserve and restore in our society.”
“I was fascinated by the immediate flood of accusations that [the birth certificate] was a fake. I was also interested in finding out the truth for myself. It was this interest to get to the bottom of the mess, to work out the truth, that led me to dig deep into the allegations — just to see if any of them could really be sustained.”
“Quite a few people, it seems, would like either to discredit the ‘birthers,’ or to discredit Mr. Obama. My goal was a little bit different: it was to sort through all of the arguments and see what made sense.”
“I began under the personal assumption that Barack Obama had been dodging the issues — and that therefore he probably either had not been born in the United States as he claimed, or there was something else regarding his long-form birth certificate that he didn’t want revealed.”
“In order to prove a forgery… all we need is one single irrefutable proof. And we will do our best to find such a proof. If we can’t find one, though, we won’t be allowed by the rules of honest investigation to manufacture it — because ‘manufacturing proof’ doesn’t lead to establishing truth.”
“Our major goal is to unravel a mystery.”
“If it’s the truth we want to get to, then we need to start without a commitment to any particular conclusion.”
Now it’s true that in the quest for truth, I took every allegation and theory of forgery I could find, and tested each of them one by one. And that process of testing may be the basis for Mr. Wells’ position.
But in fact, the only way that I know of to actually really, genuinely prove a forgery (which is, after all, what Mr. Wells would presumably like for us to do) is to find some good, strong theory that fraud has occurred, test that theory, and then show that whatever tests you apply, it simply can’t be broken.
In other words: if you truly want to prove something, take a hammer and keep banging on stuff until you find some evidence that is really solid.
The major alternative, of course, is to simply assume that any and all negative allegations made are true — and proceed on that basis instead.
If someone claims, for example, that the layers are proof of fraud, then we might just assume that the allegation must be true, or either accept it on the basis of flimsy evidence — and therefore, our next step is simply to impeach Mr. Obama, arrest and sentence him, and throw him in jail.
That’s the alternative to actually proving our allegations of fraud.
But I don’t think that simply assuming proof of criminal allegations is the direction we want to go. I don’t think it’s the direction Mr. Wells would want to go, either, if someone were to accuse him of serious crimes such as forgery and deliberate, massive fraud. And I don’t think conservatives in general support finding anyone guilty of a crime if the evidence simply doesn’t support such a judgment.
Regarding the Burden of Proof
Mr. Wells says, “My biggest overall criticism of Mr. Woodman is this. The burden of proof is on Obama. Even Little League participants are required to submit a photostatic copy of an original birth certificate.”
I do actually agree with Wells, up to a certain point, about the burden of proof being on Mr. Obama.
A candidate for President is required (in at least one state, and probably in quite a few) to submit a sworn statement that he is a natural born citizen eligible for the office.
Mr. Obama did make such a sworn statement. Of course, in this case, no birth certificate was required as proof.
Party officials are also required, in various states, to submit statements (whether in the form of a letter or otherwise) that their candidates are Constitutionally eligible to serve.
And again, the appropriate officials of the Democratic National Convention took that required action (again, so far, no birth certificate was legally required as proof).
Some in the public then questioned whether Mr. Obama was really and truly born in the United States.
As a result, the Obama campaign acquired from the State of Hawaii that State’s standard birth certificate, and publicly presented an image of it.
In the next step, the State of Hawaii officially confirmed that Mr. Obama’s standard (short-form) birth certificate was valid. For example, Janice Okubo, the official spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Health stated clearly and unambiguously in June of 2008, “It’s a valid Hawaii state birth certificate.”
The certificate itself confirmed Obama’s place of birth as being, quite specifically, Honolulu — rather than any foreign city.
Still, people questioned whether a foreign-born child might have obtained a fraudulent certificate based solely on the testimony of someone falsely reporting the actual place of birth. Wanting to see the hospital and delivering doctor, they asked for a long-form birth certificate that would reveal those details.
I myself was one of those who questioned, who wanted to see further proof.
In April of this year, Mr. Obama produced a long-form birth certificate, and posted an image of it on the White House web site.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Department of Health once again affirmed that they had sent Mr. Obama a valid copy of his long-form birth certificate, showing that he was born in the USA. They also created an official link to the White House web site that offered Obama’s image, thus putting their stamp of approval on that one specific document.
Even so, people — myself included — still suspected, because of other things we had heard, that the document just might be a forgery.
For this reason, I investigated every single possible theory of forgery evidence that I or anybody else could come up with. After testing more than 30 different claims and theories of evidence of fraud, I found none that could truly stand up under scrutiny.
I didn’t set out looking for those results in particular, but those are the results I obtained.
The entire body of evidence we have, then, seems to me to now be well beyond Mr. Wells’ “photostatic copy of an original birth certificate” that the Little Leaguer is required to present. We not only have a birth certificate, we have an extensive string of official testimony that it’s perfectly legitimate, and we have a failure, as far as I can see, of literally every supposedly good proof that anybody has come up with to suggest that it isn’t.
Now as I clearly stated in my book, the results of my investigation don’t “prove” that the document is actually genuine. But I have personally concluded, to my own satisfaction, that at this point the burden of proof shifts in the other direction.
Might the document still be a fraud? It’s possible. But I certainly haven’t been able to prove that it is, despite three entire months of testing. And I’m now convinced that at this point in time, nobody else has the goods, either.
So with the adamant testimony of the Hawaii Department of Health — across two governorships, one from each major party — that the document is authentic, and with the fact that every significant fraud theory has failed to prove the point, it now becomes the burden of persons alleging fraud to come up with some fresh new evidence that isn’t going to fall apart when you kick it.
I would also like to note in passing that while Mr. Wells has presented criticisms aplenty in his review, he has produced no evidence of any significant flaw whatsoever in any of the extensive analysis in my 221-page book.
Other Problems and Issues
1. Mr. Wells claims there is “absolutely no proof of chain of document.” And to some degree this is true.
But as we’ve seen, we have clear statements both before and after the release of the long-form birth certificate from multiple officials at the Hawaii Department of Health (several of these are documented in my book) that Mr. Obama does indeed have a valid birth certificate, and was indeed born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
That being the case, “chain of document” becomes largely irrelevant.
2. Mr. Wells states, “Even if proven to have come from the Hawaii Department of Health, it may simply be an abstract.”
The stamp says “copy or abstract,” indicating simply that the same stamp is used for both.
And an abstract, of course, is a summary of a larger document. Wells contrasts the Nordyke and Obama certificates, acknowledging freely that the Nordyke certificate is a full copy, while stating that the Obama one “may be simply an abstract.”
Yet the Nordyke and Obama documents use the exact same form, and display the exact same categories of information!
Logically, then, if the Nordyke document is a full copy, then the identical-information Obama one is a full copy as well.
3. Wells states that the correct question to ask (rather than whether the birth certificate is a fraud) is:
“Is the image placed on WhiteHouse.gov a photostatic copy of a legitimate long form birth certificate for Obama proving birth in Hawaii?”
By this, I’m sure what he really means is: “Does the image placed on WhiteHouse.gov portray a genuine copy of a legitimate long form birth certificate for Mr. Obama, legitimately showing that Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii?”
Personally, I think the analysis in the book comes as close to answering this question as we can come based on the evidence we have available.
And I know that Mr. Wells, and others, would like to see an independent forensic examination of the original document stored by the Hawaii Department of Health. That would probably help to diffuse the remaining skepticism, but I think it’s unlikely to happen. That being the case, we are probably going to be limited to the information we now have.
4. Mr. Wells states that I made a “hasty conclusion” on page 205 of the book.
To this I must reply: any reader who is interested in the issue should get the book, read it carefully and with an open mind, and judge for themselves the degree to which any of my conclusions have been hasty or unfounded.
I spent three entire months of my life, working in many instances late into the night, and in quite a few cases until morning light, very carefully investigating the birth certificate.
This represents 1/4th of a year of careful analysis on this single question. And I put in enough hours each day, in addition to my regular occupation, for this investigation to be legitimately considered a “full-time” occupation.
Some might question my sanity for doing so. But if I had found good evidence of forgery, it would’ve changed history. And of course, I would’ve become quite famous in the process. And even if I didn’t, I gained the opportunity to publicly demonstrate my expertise in computer technology, and in clear thinking, and to make a very significant contribution to our understanding of the issues.
But because of the fact that I did spend those three dedicated months, I can’t agree that Mr. Well’s charge of a “hasty conclusion” is justified.
5. Mr. Wells states, “Some of Mr. Woodman’s assertions are wrong or misleading.”
Wells fails to identify any specific statement at all I’ve made in my entire 221-page book that can be shown to be wrong or misleading.
He does attempt to do so, however, by saying, “Tim Adams affidavit and Governor Abercrombie’s statements are highly relevant.” But he entirely omits the fact that I clearly and specifically dealt with the statements of both persons!
I spent more than two pages and eight footnotes on Mr. Adams, and devoted a similar amount of space on the Governor. In the Governor’s case, I publicly brought to light for the first time the rather remarkable full story of what actually seems to have happened — as opposed to the internet meme of what supposedly took place.
And in neither case does Wells have anything to say about the very substantive points I made regarding either Adams or Abercrombie.
Instead, he claims, “Governor Abercrombie stated that he could find no birth certifcate for Obama. Only a notation,” — completely ignoring the evidence that I presented in the book as to what Governor Abercrombie actually did and did not say.
We might ask Mr. Wells to provide proof of his statement, to give us a direct and verified quote from Governor Abercrombie in which the Governor specifically stated that he found no birth certificate, and that he instead only found a notation.
But he can’t, because it doesn’t exist. I’ve looked.
6. Wells asks: “And has Mr. Woodman viewed any hospital records for Stanley and little Obama?”
Once again, Mr. Wells simply and completely leaves out the fact that I’ve dealt with that issue in my book as well.
I take Mr. Wells to be an intelligent person, and have frankly enjoyed conversing with him via email.
However, the book he has reviewed is simply not the book I wrote.
And note that I’m not accusing Mr. Wells of having deliberately constructed his review with that result in mind. But as I said to another correspondent earlier this week, there are two different dangers in regard to the book that I actually did write.
The first is that some folks won’t understand it from a technical point of view. This is somewhat unavoidable, because many of the issues are, in fact, technical.
The second is that many of us are so invested, both emotionally and in terms of having our minds already made up, in the belief that Obama is ineligible, that some simply won’t be able to accept the investigation’s conclusions.
It goes, actually, beyond that: We won’t be able even to clearly hear the rationale. We will quite naturally, even unconsciously, brush over the arguments in our minds — instead of understanding them fully, pulling that understanding deep into our minds, taking the author at his word when he says “this was my motive,” testing our own assumptions as well as the author’s, acknowledging that our previous theories are failing, and having the courage to replace them with new ones.
And this is not because we lack anything in the way of intelligence. It’s not because we’re deliberately choosing to believe things that aren’t true. It is because the human mind, once it has been very decisively made up, and once that decision has been committed to with strong emotion, is often very, very difficult to convince otherwise.
Thursday night on an internet talk show, I spoke briefly of the cognitive dissonance that I myself went through in the process of investigating the birth certificate and finding that none of the theories of forgery were holding up. I asked myself why I was writing the book (one obvious answer was that I had so much of my life invested in the investigation already). I wondered whether telling the truth might significantly help a politician who is, I feel, leading our country in the wrong direction. I talked about it with my wife. I weighed such values as political expediency and truth.
One of the things I didn’t mention in the interview was that I probably have a much higher-than-typical talent for letting go of one conclusion, in the light of good new evidence, and replacing it with a different understanding. Even so, I myself experienced a bit of difficulty in moving from investigator to presenter of the results.
I have advised a few people to go about detaching themselves in the following way: pretend to yourself — no, convince yourself, as much as you can — that you’re not reading a book about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Get it into your head that you’re investigating someone neutral, like Alexander Graham Bell, instead. Then read the book in that mindset, and look carefully and dispassionately at the evidence.
For some of us, too, it simply takes time to accept new ideas that run quite contrary to our current and preferred beliefs. Perhaps Mr. Wells will eventually revisit the questions, reexamine the evidence, and come to a different conclusion.
In the meantime, his review (to me at least) is a reminder that it is often easier for us as humans to accept conflicting and not-entirely-accurate ideas, than it is for us to make a sudden and wrenching 180 degree turn in our understanding. When we choose to hang on to our preferred beliefs, we might save ourselves some unpleasantness — but we can also easily, inadvertently, cut ourselves off from the truth.