Already the query about Barack Obama’s birth certificate is being declared ipso facto evidence of “xenophobia” by those who see a “racist America.” Well, I did grow up in a small town…
Hawaii’s State Department of Health explains the policy on releasing vital records here. Unless you’re a relative of Obama, your request will be denied.*
A few readers and other bloggers have wondered aloud what information possibly could be on the birth certificate that would make it worth keeping from the public. Beyond yesterday’s (mostly unlikely) possibilities — a foreign birth, a different middle name, or a different first name at birth — there are a few others. (I have been unable to determine precisely what information was recorded on a birth certificate in the state of Hawaii in 1961; any reader insight would be appreciated. I would note that what kind of information was on other state’s certificates isn’t all that helpful.)
Today’s standard certificate of live birth, as issued by the CDC, includes a wide variety of information.
Some states include data on the marital status of the mother. As mentioned in the previous post, details on the marriage ceremony and legal paperwork of the marriage of Obama’s mother and father are fuzzy. (It is now clear that Obama’s father was not legally divorced from his first wife in Africa at the the time.) All things considered, the possibility that his parents weren’t married seems like small potatoes in terms of scandals — not much of a reason to vote against Obama — but perhaps Obama’s campaign doesn’t want to open that door.
Some states record “religion” on the certificate. If Obama’s certificate said “none,” it’s hard to imagine that being a major scandal; Obama has talked about being raised in a home without much influence of organized religion. I suppose if next to where the religion it says “Muslim”, it would generate a predictable brouhaha, but it would reveal more about the beliefs of his father at that time than the candidate. It’s not like one-day-old Obama filled the form out himself.
(Perhaps the campaign fears opening the “will the Muslim world see him as an apostate?” can of worms again. But it’s hard to see how this revelation would be a bigger deal than his attendance of a Muslim school in Indonesia, that he talks about in his book.)
Then there is the strong possibility that the document asked for “race.” I encountered this comment in a web site detailing a research effort at the Family Health Services Division at the Hawaii State Department of Health:
Hawaii is a very unique population. Some of this uniqueness is reflected in that the majority of all births in Hawaii can be considered multi-ethnic. The impact of this heterogeneity on outcomes is not known. The Department of Health seeks a graduate student to evaluate the birth certificate file for birth outcomes of Preterm delivery and Low birth-weight with a particular interest in changes depending on classification based on reported child’s race, compared to mother’s race, father’s race, and both the father’s and mother’s race.
It seems likely that the certificate would record baby Obama’s race. While Obama’s biracial heritage is pretty obvious, is it possible that the certificate records him as only one or the other? Would that be enough of an embarrassment to keep the certificate sealed? Again, one would think that possibility would reflect worse of the doctor/document preparer or (perhaps) Obama’s mother, but not much of a serious gripe with the candidate.
The only scenarios that could really be damaging to Obama himself were if he was born overseas (again, pretty darn implausible) or if he legally changed his name sometime in young adulthood. The idea that he was given some other name at birth and chose to rename himself after his father doesn’t seem unthinkable, considering his complicated relationship with his father and sense of identity…
* UPDATE: “Mr. Vice President, it’s up to you to solve the mystery.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Craig, a Campaign Spot reader born in Hawaii in 1962, offers the type of information on his birth certificate:
The ‘Certificate of Live Birth’ contains nothing that could be considered controversial. Some sample entries: #3. This Birth (box to check) Single, Twin, Triplet #9. Race of Father #10. Age of Father #11. Birthplace (of father) #12a Usual Occupation #12b. Kind of Business or Industry #14. Race of Mother #17a. Type of Occupation Outside Home During Pregnancy #17b. Date Last Worked #18a. Signature of Parent or Other Informant (with check box to signify which has signed) The word ‘religion’ does not appear on the form in use in April 1962.
And a reader brought up a surprisingly plausible scenario. We know that by high school, Obama was identified in yearbooks, etc., as “Barry Obama.” But we know the relationship between Obama’s parents was rocky at times (Obama describes a short article about his father, profiling the Kenyan foreign exchange student, in the Honolulu Advertiser that doesn’t mention his wife or newborn child). What if on his birth certificate he was identified by his mother’s maiden name… Barack Dunham?
Or Barry Dunham?