PJ Media

Dissecting Obama's School Record

Who are you, Barack?

I’ve found myself in the rather unlikely role of defending Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama during the past few days.

I’ve done so not out of any sense of loyalty to Obama — as anyone familiar with my blog or my work at Pajamas Media or the New York Post will attest — but out of pure curiosity about the many rumors swirling around the man who would be president.

One of the rumors I was able to personally debunk was that Obama never registered for the Selective Service, which would theoretically make him ineligible for executive branch jobs, including the presidency. As I’ve confirmed his registration and have even published his registration number via direct communications with the Selective Service, that particular rumor should be considered quashed for any reasonable person. Of course, “reason” and “politics” are all too often strangers, and so the comments thread of that article was quickly inundated with those enthusiastic people I’ll dub members of the Obama Truth Movement (hereafter, OTM).

The OTM quickly assailed my belief that Obama’s “proven birth in Hawaii” and his U.S. citizenship is legitimate, and many hold the belief that a copy of Obama’s certificate of live birth (COLB) is a fake. Sadly, this is a belief unlikely to ever be resolved to the satisfaction of the OTM, as the Obama campaign has already posted a copy of the COLB on the campaign website and is unlikely to address it again.

Pajamas Media attempted to have the Hawaiian Department of Health (DOH) verify that the information publicly released in the COLB on the Obama site was accurate, making the argument that a public display of the document was in essence “disclosed by a public figure in a public venue for examination.” Janice Okubo, director of communications for the DOH, responded in an email message this morning:

Our attorney general advised us that Hawaii state law prohibits the Dept. of Health from verifying information contained in a vital record for anyone without a tangible interest. If Sen. Obama or his official representative requests a public verification that can be legally provided. Practically speaking, I believe that only the individual posting a document on a website can verify its authenticity.

The Hawaiian government can only release Obama’s birth records upon Obama’s request, and Obama won’t. Though they have twice been contacted by Pajamas Media regarding these allegations over the past month — and no doubt by other journalists and bloggers — the campaign has thus far refused to release the DOH from its obligation. This in no way means the document is inauthentic. It simply means that if Obama’s enemies are barking up the wrong proverbial tree, his campaign will not dissuade them from wasting time and resources.

Anti-Obama blogger and No Quarter contributor “TexasDarlin” alleges proof of such a damaging document, a January 24, 2007, Associated Press photograph of a registration document for Barack Obama at Fransiskus Assisi school in Jakarta, Indonesia, under the name Barry Soetoro.

Jack Stokes, manager of media relations for the Associated Press, confirmed the legitimacy of the photo, but what does the photo of the document actually show?

According to “TexasDarlin,” the school registration document photo proves that:

  1. Barack Obama had Indonesian citizenship.
  2. Barack Obama had the legal name Barry Soetoro.
  3. Barack Obama was a Muslim, despite his “fight the smears” claim that he never has been.

“TexasDarlin” also alleges that this proves that Barack Obama

apparently lied to the Illinois Supreme Court when asked to provide former names, according to this attorney’s registration record.

Let’s go through these claims.

Did Barack Obama have Indonesian citizenship? We don’t know anything from this picture other than that his stepfather Lolo Soetoro apparently claimed that he did. Would it impact Barack Obama’s current viability as a U.S. presidential candidate if Lolo Soetoro or Obama’s mother changed Obama’s citizenship to Indonesian? Not according to the U.S. State Department, which states plainly, “In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.” As Barack Obama was a child, not of legal age to surrender his citizenship, then all further discussion of this point is irrelevant.

Was Barack Obama’s name actually changed to Barry Soetoro? Again, all we see is that this was what his stepfather allegedly wrote on his school registration, a document of far less formality than a birth certificate, passport, adoption form, or citizenship papers.

If documentation can be produced proving Obama legally took his stepfather’s name at some point, perhaps Obama can be fairly accused of misrepresenting himself by failing to note his name was once Soetoro in the Illinois attorney’s registration record, but it would most likely be viewed as a technical faux pas, not a mortal sin. The purpose of the name change form in the Illinois bar is to accurately reflect name changes associated with marriages and divorces of attorneys already registered on the roll of attorneys admitted to the practice of law in Illinois. Far from being a major offense, this charge is a perversion of the intent of why the roll of attorneys is maintained.

Was Barack Obama a Muslim? Again, just because his stepfather allegedly wrote that in the blank does not necessarily mean that he was.

This picture of a school registration page is a photo of something that is not a legal document. At best, it indicates the possibility that Lolo Soetoro considered Barack Obama his adoptive son, that Obama had Indonesian citizenship, and that Soetoro considered Obama a Muslim.

All of the claims hinge upon treating the photo of the school registration as unquestioned fact, but this is not documented proof of an official change in citizenship, an official change of his legal name, or an official determination of his religion.

It is, in and of itself, irrelevant to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.