Posted Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, at 3:49 PM
I went on MSNBC's Countdown last night to talk about Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie's* decision to start opening up access to Barack Obama's birth records, if he can. It's such a large yet stupid controversy that I don't feel like I was perfectly clear in explaining why this wouldn't work. So: Here's why it won't.
The "birther" movement began not because Barack Obama's campaign refused to show proof of his citizenship, but because it did show proof. In June 2008, it responded to some rumors about whether Obama was born a Muslim or had different parents than had been reported by releasing the short-form certificate, the sort of form you get if you lose your driver's license and need to prove your identity to the DMV to get a new license. This launched a cottage industry of hilarious "document analysis" attempting to prove that the certificate was forged by the Obama campaign. And this is exactly what would happen again if the governor of Hawaii, who knew the Obama family in the 1960s, let reporters photograph more of Obama's documents. The birther crowd would cry "forgery," as the Kennedy assassination and moon landing hoax crowds look for anything that could unravel the official story in every new official analysis.
This seems pretty obvious, although, as I said right as the segment ended, there's going to be a problem when heavily-Republican states pass laws demanding new proof of citizenship from presidential candidates. It's very hard to write such laws so that the form Obama produced in 2008 wouldn't be enough. But hard isn't impossible.
*Does anyone know what both Alaska and Hawaii start their newly elected governors' terms only a month after their elections?