TOP 2011 STORIES: Obama’s birth certificate blunder: Nothing silly about the questions still to be answered

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Monday, May 2, 2011

By Grace Vuoto

Related: Lt. Col. Terry Lakin’s letter to President Obama April 8, 2010

On April 27 President Barack Obama issued a copy of his long-form birth certificate and declared: “We do not have time for this kind of silliness.” He said “We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do.”

Indeed, the American people have better things to do and we are wondering why it has taken the president so long to comply with this basic constitutional requirement.

Many in the media, including leftists like MSNBC’S Chris Matthews, have called on the president to reveal the long-form certificate, as the birthers have demanded, rather than only the certificate of live birth that he provided. It was ultimately a media campaign spearheaded by Donald Trump that led to the White House disclosure.

Lt. Col. Terry Lakin’s stand on the status of his commander in chief resulted in his imprisonment.

Yet, it is unlikely the birth certificate controversy will now come to an end. The Internet is a-buzz with claims by bloggers that the document is a forgery. Regardless of whether this proves to be the case, the president’s actions have raised more questions than they have answered.

Even if we accept his narrative and consider this document to be authentic (which is still open to further inquiry until experts have fully vetted the certificate provided), Mr. Obama’s behavior has been highly irresponsible.

In the first place, if we all have better things to do, why did he pay thousands of dollars in legal fees in several court cases where the request for his certificate was made? Why was even a team of government lawyers used, at public expense?

In addition, this birther controversy has been a public relations disaster for Mr. Obama. On the one hand, the president insisted for years that he would not release the long-form birth certificate. And then, he suddenly did so because of mounting public pressure. This makes the commander-in-chief appear to be whimsical, an incompetent buffoon — not a man of gravitas. Either there was some matter of principle he was standing for by not disclosing the document or there was not. But to invest time and energy taking a stand on this, only to ultimately cave, makes the president look weak and inconsistent. It is he who looks like the maker of the silly season, not those who made the simple request for more information.

Furthermore, the president’s intransigence has caused real harm. Consider the case of Lt. Col. Terry Lakin. He has been in prison for six months at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas. The decorated army doctor refused to deploy to Afghanistan unless the president, who is at the top of his chain of command, revealed his eligibility for office and displayed his long-form birth certificate. The doctor’s case made national headlines. Why did Mr. Obama allow this man to suffer the indignity of a court martial and a prison term if revealing the long-form birth certificate was no big deal after all?

Mr. Obama’s intransigence allowed the controversy to mushroom. And by doing so, he cast doubt on his own legitimacy.

“If [Obama] is ineligible, then indeed, all orders are illegal because all orders have the origin with the commander in chief,” said Col. Lakin in defending his actions. “Seeking out public office, especially the highest in our land, means you must uphold the Constitution, Mr. President and confirm your eligibility,” said Col. Lakin in a YouTube video.

If the president did not care about one man in the chain of command, he should nonetheless have cared about the message he was sending to the troops. Instead, he remained aloof, causing doubt and division in the armed forces — when he should have immediately responded and asserted his legitimacy. A vital part of his role as wartime leader is to maintain high troop morale. To have allowed this type of controversy to possibly infest the military at a time of war was grossly negligent of his duties. This is leadership101.

Moreover, rather than nipping this story in the bud, the president allowed it to fester, giving rise to more and more concerns about his legitimacy among the public at large. An April 20-23 USA TODAY poll revealed that only 38 percent of respondents said Mr. Obama definitely was born in the USA, 18 percent said he probably was. Fifteen percent said he probably was born in another country, and 9 percent said he definitely was born in another country. How could the president be effective — that is, bring about dramatic change, end the gridlock, solve the nation’s problems — with so much doubt about whether he was even allowed to be in office?

Finally, Mr. Obama’s actions in not being immediately forthcoming were selfish, to say the least. As one whose 2008 election marked a national watershed — the first African American president in this nation’s history — he should have abhorred even the slightest whiff of illegitimacy so as not to tarnish in any way his stunning achievement. If not for the sake of his detractors, then for the sake of his most ardent fans and supporters he should have addressed the issue immediately. Why allow, for example, an African-American little boy or little girl to wonder for even a split second: “Is it not really so? Might our great victory not be legitimate after all?”

In short, the president’s actions make little sense. One can respect Mr. Obama more, ironically, if the certificate really had something on it that was worth hiding. In that case, his intransigence would at least be rational. Yet if the document the president released on April 27 is legitimate, his behavior has been sloppy and foolhardy. The birther controversy has exposed the cardinal limitations of a man who should not have been elected to the highest office in the land, whether or not he was born in the U.S.A.

Dr. Grace Vuoto is the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.