The Long-Form Birth Certificate of Barack Obama

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 27 2011 9:02 AM

The Long-Form Birth Certificate of Barack Obama

Here it is , after Barack Obama himself requested it from the state of Hawaii on April 22.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


If you've done something with your life since 2008, and haven't tilled the vineyards of birtherism, I will explain why this matters. In June of 2008, to knock down a couple of rumors about their candidate, Barack Obama's campaign released his short-form certificate of live birth on the Fight the Smears website. Rather than nipping the conspiracies before they could grow, the COLB inspired new, more virulent strains. There was the theory, pushed most recently by Donald Trump, that there was something "Obama didn't want people to see" on the original form—some family illegitimacy, some secret Muslim faith. There was the theory, pioneered by an anonymous expert named "Ron Polarik," that the COLB was a forgery.

Does that seem crazy and wrong? Well, it is wrong. But it made the rounds on the conservative blogs. Before she led the Ground Zero Mosque movement, even Pam Geller promoted the theory. There were other theories, but those two, basically, were the rationale for years of "investigations" into Obama's citizenship. One of them is about to come out between book covers, when Jerome Corsi publishes "Where's the Birth Certificate?" One of the items likely to make it in the book is the affidavit by Tim Adams, a former Hawaii elections clerk (a short-term job created before elections), which asserts that this long-form certificate can't possibly exist .

"During the course of my employment," Adams swears in the affidavit (viewable in full as part 1 and part 2 ), "I became aware that many requests were being made to the City and County of Honolulu Elections Division, the Hawaii Office of Elections, and the Hawaii Department of Health from around the country to obtain a copy of then-Senator Barack Obama's long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate."

As he inquired about the birth certificate, he says, his supervisors told him that the records were not on file at the Hawaii Department of Health.

"Senior officers in the City and County of Honolulu Elections Division told me on multiple occasions that no Hawaii long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate existed for Senator Obama in the Hawaii Department of Health," Adams' affidavit reads, "and there was no record that any such document had ever been on file in the Hawaii Department of Health or any other branch or department of the Hawaii government ."

If you read far-right websites, you read a lot about Adams and other people with "proof" that Obama couldn't have possibly been born in Hawaii. You believed that the COLB was not real proof of citizenship, because it lacked some of the data of the long-form. Until today, you could speculate that the White House wasn't answering them because they couldn't. After today, you've got to be wondering if Adams just flat-out lied.
Does this end "birtherism?" I don't think it will. Surely more forgery gurus will tumble out of the woodwork and quibble with the kerning. This document includes the name of Obama's hospital and attending physician, but it doesn't include a footprint, and even though no Hawaii birth certificates like this included that, it'll be a reed for birthers to hang on to.
Does it end the "questions" about Obama? No. I'd expect the focus to shift now to Obama's college records and writings -- as Donald Trump has already been shifting them, by asserting that Obama must have gotten into Columbia via affirmative action to make up for what, he speculates, were bad grades.

UPDATE: After I posted this, Donald Trump gave—of course!—a press conference, taking credit for the release and asking why it didn't happen sooner. Look: There's really no way to spin this that doesn't reveal Trump as a buffoon or a conspiracy theorist. The White House's position for more than two years was that all "birther" questions were answered by the COLB. And the long-form certificate proves that the COLB was legitimate and answered all reasonable questions about Obama's birth. If you were "just asking questions" about the COLB, you were not a truth-seeker. You were a fool.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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