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Birthers Appear Unimpressed with Obama Birth Certificate

The release of President Obama’s so-called “long form” birth certificate may convince a lot of straddlers on the issue that indeed, the president is eligible to be, well, president. But the surprise release by the White House of a document that conclusively proves that the president of the United States was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, at 7:24 PM local time isn’t satisfying those whose standards of proof lie in the ethereal world of religious revelation rather than the more mundane plane of existence where facts and logic dominate.

For the true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool, never-say-never birthers, the only thing that will apparently convince them of the provenance of Obama’s birth is a document that tells them exactly what they believe — that the president wasn’t born here and is therefore ineligible to hold office. Any evidence to the contrary is dismissed as fake or forged, or is simply ignored as not worthy of their attention.

To wit: When confronted with irrefutable proof that you have been wrong all along, concentrate on minutiae that, at least in your own mind, can keep the theory alive. Here’s a comment from Roger L. Simon’s “Teachable Moment” post on the Tatler:

A color copy, and everyone uses black ink to sign their name? 90% of pens in the world are blue.

This is an obvious forgery.

It is sad and pathetic, yes. After having gone through several hundred comments on sites ranging from Hot Air to Newsbusters, the only conclusion I can draw is the astonishing fact that not one single birther admits to error. I would hope that there are some birthers who have seen the light and are too embarrassed or depressed to comment about it. But those that took the trouble either searched valiantly for the kind of detail our friend above found, or speculated about ways the certificate of live birth could have been forged:

Witness Protection forges documents all the time. Whose [sic] to day [sic] this is not one? Same for CIA. BUT – the big question is why hide it?

The answer to that question was given by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer:

Earlier Wednesday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the debate has been “really bad for the Republican Party.”

The so-called “birther” debate is “good politics” but “bad for the country,” said Pfeiffer.

With 75% of the country believing that President Obama was either definitely or probably born in America, and 45% of Republicans believing the opposite, the White House didn’t have to lift a finger to “prove” anything. The GOP was doing a bang-up job of making themselves look like paranoid nutcases without any help. The old political adage that states “Never get in the way of your opponent when they are self-destructing” applied here.

No doubt it was Donald Trump who forced the issue. Trump, with his genius for self-promotion, was sucking all of the oxygen out of the room with his birther challenges, pushing Obama’s demagoging the Ryan budget off the front pages and making it harder to demonize the GOP as killers of your gramma. Now that the cat is out of the bag, Trump has become a mouse. He pointedly told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that what the White House released was “missing.” No doubt there were a few smiles in the White House when the news hit the nets about the “missing” birth certificate being “found.”

Trump tried to make the best of an embarrassing situation. He told a New Hampshire crowd he was “very proud of myself, because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else was able to accomplish.” Oh, I don’t know, Donald. Lots of people are perfectly capable of making spectacular asses of themselves.

Then, a sliver of hope for the birthers:

“I hope that it’s true so we can get on to much more important matters. So the press can stop asking me questions,” he said.  “I am really honored to have played such a big role in hopefully getting rid of this issue.”

Indeed, the birthers are striving mightily to keep “hope” alive. A comment at American Thinker:

Granted different doctors and places would be filing and there would be one central office that would be filling in the handwritten information, but…look at the dates in Blocks 17b and 18b. Look closely at the way the numbers are formed. Very, very similar, but then look at block 21 – The registrar. DIFFERENT names, yet how could the handwriting of two different registrars be so similar??? And further, would Hawaii really (a) not have changed their form in almost 50 years, and (b) would they have kept up with all the changes and archived all the different templates over the years so they could produce an EXACT replica with the relevant information? (I can see it being done in 1966 for a 1961, but in 2011?) I smell a rat.

Grasping with invisible hands at non-existent straws. Good luck to ya.

So why do people believe such silly things in the first place? An interesting piece by Chris Mooney earlier this month in Mother Jones about the scientific basis for what’s known as “cognitive bias” reveals that most of us respond to scientific or technical evidence in ways that “justify our pre-existing beliefs”:

In a classic 1979 experiment (PDF), pro- and anti-death penalty advocates were exposed to descriptions of two fake scientific studies: one supporting and one undermining the notion that capital punishment deters violent crime and, in particular, murder. They were also shown detailed methodological critiques of the fake studies — and in a scientific sense, neither study was stronger than the other. Yet in each case, advocates more heavily criticized the study whose conclusions disagreed with their own, while describing the study that was more ideologically congenial as more “convincing.”

When confronted with proof positive of Obama’s origins that contradicts their cherished beliefs, birthers filter the information through a cognitive lens that places the evidence safely outside their belief system where it can do no harm, while grasping ever tighter to their own paranoid fantasies.Richard Hofstadter:

One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows. It produces heroic strivings for evidence to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed….The difference between this “evidence” and that commonly employed by others is that it seems less a means of entering into normal political controversy than a means of warding off the profane intrusion of the secular political world. The paranoid seems to have little expectation of actually convincing a hostile world, but he can accumulate evidence in order to protect his cherished convictions from it.

A similar cognitive bias is at work on the “natural born citizen” issue. Tracts of thousands of words have been written, going into tremendous detail about what the Founders thought about it, quoting the Federalist Papers, obscure scholars, even a Swiss “legal philosopher.” Unfortunately, all of this beautifully manicured “evidence” is a crock. There is no stipulation against “dual citizenship” for a president’s eligibility anywhere in the Constitution or American law. If it were true, then we have to go back and undo all the laws ever signed by President Chester A. Arthur. Arthur’s father was an Irish citizen at the time of his election. And I wonder what the birthers will make of a presidential run by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal? Both of his parents were born in India.

The only requirement found in law for a citizen to be natural born is that they be born in the United States. Unfortunately, this simple, declarative explanation lacks the drama of poring over legal precedents, researching the work of unknown scholars, interpreting the minds of 18th century geniuses, and compiling stacks and stacks of useless papers on an issue that was decided 222 years ago. Thus, it too will live on in infamy despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

I like Mitt Romney’s Tweet when the birth certificate was released: “What President Obama should really be releasing is a jobs plan.” And that’s why the birther issue matters. It distracts attention from the kind of criticism that would make Obama howl — a rational and logical attack on his utterly failed economic and energy policies, as well as the massive amount of debt he has rung up since his taking office.

The birther issue has been a sideshow that the White House has welcomed with great relief. Ironic, isn’t it? The birthers have been assisting their enemy all along while discrediting those whose criticisms might actually accomplish what they thought their delusional scribblings were doing: discrediting the man and the politician who is Barack Obama — American citizen.

(Also read Bruce Bawer: “Ten suspicious things about Obama’s birth certificate.”)