Here’s a disturbing statistic:

In the U.S., 58% of Republicans either believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, or say that they aren’t sure.

This, despite the fact that President Obama has a U.S. birth certificate which has been verified by the Republican governor of the state in which he was born.

This, despite the fact that if the president’s U.S. birth certificate is a forgery, it must represent a massive, and utterly pointless, conspiracy going back to 1961, when newspapers in the city of his birth printed announcements of his (local) birth.

The real question, of course, is why are so many Americans inclined to believe this falsehood about their own president? This is, naturally, fuel to the fire for those who believe that much of the vehement opposition to President Obama is based on his race.

There may be explanations, at least in many cases, which aren’t based on race. At a minimum, however, it seems to me that this meme couldn’t possibly hold such attraction, and be so convincing despite the overwhelming weight of the evidence, unless there were a powerful sense among many Americans that President Obama is, somehow, un-American.

What makes Obama seem un-American, in ways which other presidents have not? Is it simply the suspicion that he could be of foreign birth? That seems unlikely, since that would be circular reasoning. Is it because his father wasn’t American? That’s hardly unusual in American presidents. Having an unusual name is perhaps less common in our chief executives, but that hardly seems sufficient. Is it because Obama has Muslim roots on his father’s side? Perhaps the suspicion that he is secretly a Muslim himself? In that case, why wouldn’t attention focus more on his Muslim connections, rather than the hopeless quest to show that he is of foreign birth?

In light of the lack of other explanations, it seems plausible to me to argue that Obama’s race may be disturbing to many Americans, and that their inability to articulate this feeling leads to nonsensical arguments about matters which can at least be spoken aloud. I think it would be wrong, however, to assume anything about how important a factor this is. It seems likely to me that several factors, including discomfort with race, religion, and foreign ties, may all play a role here.

17 Responses to “Where was President Obama born?”

  1. inbrooklyn says:

    James, you have one factual error in your piece. Mr. Obama does NOT have a 'birth certificate', at least as seen in most other states. No hospital is named and there is no signature. Ignoring the fact that a Certificate of Live Birth is indeed an acceptable legal document in a court of law, this is how the right wing leadership has stoked the coals of misunderstanding, division, fear and hatred. They can 'legitimately' point out those missing items, and the fact that it is not called a 'Birth Certificate', and claim none exists, conveniently omitting that it is an acceptable legal document. Even somewhat honorable Republican leaders have used this ploy. It is disgraceful! And, yes, it is based on race, as they know saying this will rile up those who are racist.

  2. James says:

    Thanks for commenting, inbrooklyn. I think you raise an important issue, and capture the spirit of this debate perfectly, even though I'm going to differ with you on one critical point.

    President Obama does have a birth certificate, in the standard format issued by the state in which he was born. The fact that birth certificates vary in content from state to state, and that their titles vary slightly ("certificate of birth," "certification of live birth," etc.) does not change the fact that he has a birth certificate.

    You raise a very important point, though: those who refuse to believe that their president was born in this country have, indeed, seized on the differences among birth certificates in the various states to try to make their case.

    However, this is nothing more than ignorance on their part. There is nothing "legitimate" about pointing to a valid U.S. birth certificate, which proves a person's birth as well as any other, and arguing that it can't be valid because it doesn't look exactly like the birth certificates issued by some other state.

    Now, it would be different if there were any question of Obama's birth certificate being a forgery. But it can't be. The State of Hawaii has confirmed, repeatedly, that what has been shown to the public is, in fact, the birth certificate issued by the state. This is, by definition, what makes a government document valid and not a forgery.

    The situation would also be different if, despite the authenticity of the birth certificate, there were any reason to doubt that the information recorded on the birth certificate were true. However, there is no such reason. Indeed, it staggers the imagination even to discuss the difficulties involved if Obama were really born in Kenya … not to mention the improbability of such a conspiracy existing in 1961 or the utter pointlessness of such an exercise.

    As I said at the end of the original post, I can't say how much of a role is played here by racism, and how much by other factors. It's striking to me, however, that so many of Obama's detractors feel comfortable making these claims.

    For instance, can you imagine if there had been an organized opposition to President George W. Bush, saying that he wasn't legally the president because he was secretly born in France? That his Connecticut birth certificate was forged, because it doesn't look quite like those of other states?

    Such claims simply wouldn't have resonated in this country, and wouldn't have connected with any fears about Bush.

    John McCain was not born in the U.S. and was not even born a U.S. citizen. This means that he was not constitutionally qualified to be president. Why did this not become an issue, and why did it not even resonate with any fears about Senator McCain? I think the answer has to lie somewhere within the mix of race, culture, and religion.

  3. Self says:

    Actually, Sir,

    It is my understanding Mr. O has SEALED All his records.

    What's hidding?

  4. Self says:

    Mr. O is NOT working FOR the American people, as some of the voters put him in office to do.

  5. James says:

    "Self," you've been misinformed: President Obama has not had his birth records sealed.

    As to whether or not he's working on behalf of the American people, all presidents have been accused of serving not the people they represent, but special interests of one sort or another. Whether you're more inclined to believe this about the current president, or, say, his predecessor, says more about your own political leanings, I think, than it does about either chief executive.

  6. Super5o says:

    Well if u play Obama saying "yes we can" backwards he is saying thank u satin.So that said I can't wait till 2012 to get a real pres in the white house.

  7. Super5o says:

    Thank you and GOD help us all!!!

  8. me says:

    Super50, what kind of statment was that. what are you 15? President Obama is by far, the best president we have had so far. Lets see you fill his shoes and see what happens.

  9. Thomas says:

    Have we lost our minds? The president is not a man, but the office. and even if you don't like the man, respect the office. Every time I turn around I see people disrespect the office. I AM A SERVICE MEMBER. If you don't like the our US president, If you don't like what he is doing…. MOVE!!!!

  10. Super5o says:

    Well if your Obama is such a good pres,then tell me why he is doing not a dam thing to help Isarl r try to stop Iran from making nucaler weapons.O MY BAD ITS BECAUSE HE'S A [expletive deleted] MUSLUM HIM SELF.I belive he supports IRAN

  11. Super5o says:

    So yalls Obama supports Iran big surprise right he a muslam also I never that United States would put a muslam in the white house I can't wait till2012

  12. Thomas says:

    Super5o LEARN HOW TO SPELL!!!!

  13. James says:

    Super50, I can respect that you disagree with our current president's particular mix of policy options with regard to Iran's nuclear weapons program.

    However, the president's policy is not one of encouraging an Iranian nuclear weapon, or of doing nothing to stop it. He has, among other steps, tightened U.S. sanctions and worked to strengthen international sanctions. So I don't see how you can claim that he secretly supports Iran.

    I just don't know what to make of your bizarre belief that our president is secretly a Muslim, despite having practiced Christianity all these years. Do you believe that's all been an elaborate deception on his part, dating back to his youth? To what end? What would he gain, and why would it matter if he were Muslim?

    Would you accuse George W. Bush, or John McCain, or Sarah Palin, of being secretly Muslim? If not, why not? Why shouldn't we believe that this reflects some prejudice on your part towards those who are not of purely European descent (as well as towards Muslims, of course)? What else would cause you to suspect this particular president of being secretly of another faith, other than his ancestry?

    Thomas, I prefer accurate spelling, as well, but I think it's important to try to avoid personal criticism in discussing difficult issues like these.

  14. Thomas says:

    "James". I can understand what you are saying and we shall agree to disagree at this moment.(avoid personal criticism in discussing difficult issues like these). Although we both agree that accurate spelling is important, I believe that "Super5o" has chosen to make this personal. Lets not forget the scare tactics that was…. Correction. Is used as a tool to reflect deeper political and racially motivated issue. In other words I am calling a Duck a Duck.

    I did not agree with my brothers and sister fighting and losing their lives in Iraq, but I supported the war in Afghanistan. I did not like Bush as a person, but I have and will always, as long as I have breath in my body support the Office of the President. As I have said before; "The president is not a man, but the office, and even if you don’t like the man, respect the office".

    I know that was off topic, but I said that to introduce this.

    Its is OK as an American to disagree with the President's Policies. It is OK to disagree with the President's Decisions. BUT!!!! Where is the respect for the office. Has anyone ever heard of the word tactful?? "Having or showing a sense of what is fitting and considerate in dealing with others". There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. I place the first set of blame on The GOP congressman from South Carolina who blatantly disrespected the Office of the President and shouted out during President Obama's health care address "You Lie". People now think… If Congress doesn't respect the office… Why should we?

    Thank you James for your Blog and doing things the right and tactful.

    "Super5o" Join the Military… Fight for your Country. Learn how to spell, then come back and talk to me.

  15. Super5o says:

    my bad Thomas I was drinking a few cold ones when I was typing o and I am in da military. I'm in da navy reserves and when I'm not serving my country I'm working 40hrs a week partoling the streets in the city I live. So stick that in ur pipe and smoke it!!!!!! All i'm saying I can't what till "2012". O and I respect Obama as a man but, for what he stands for that's way different. I belive I'm intitled to my say so just like u r Thomas,like [expletive deleted] everyone has one. So Mr.Thomas I do fight for my county it my b only one weekend a month but, I do my part thank u laying da law down!

  16. Thomas says:

    President Obama was born in Hawaii.

  17. Diane Pearce Votes f says:

    All I know is that I am eployed at a big biotherapeutic company in Clayton NC and I support Barack Obama with all my being. I encourage all my friends and colleagues to re-elect Obama in 2012!! I LOVE YOU OBAMA

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