Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birther Bother

Since even before Obama was elected President, some people fussed that he might not be a U.S. citizen, raising the birth certificate issue, while Obama's supporters belittled their concern. Then he won the election, and the issue heated up. Eventually, a certificate of live birth was released for Obama. A certificate of live birth, however, is not the same thing as a birth certificate. Some cried that a certificate of live birth wasn't good enough to prove Obama's citizenship. Obama's supporters insisted that it was good enough. Nothing came of the ruckus, and the noise eventually died down, even if the issue never went completely away.

Recently, Donald Trump has raised the issue again on a popular talk show, and Obama supporters have gotten defensive again. Trump later provided what he called his birth certificate to the media as proof that he is a U.S. citizen. Except that what he actually provided was a certificate of live birth. That's where the funniest part comes in: Some Obama supporters then howled that Trump's certificate of live birth was insufficient proof. (In so doing, they weakened their own argument in favor of Obama.) Trump quickly came up with his actual birth certificate. So far, President Obama hasn't.

What's my position? The same as it always has been: I believe in rule-of-law, and that we should enforce the requirement that a person must be a U.S. citizen to be President. Seems to me like a certificate of live birth is adequate proof, so that's good enough for me unless someone proves otherwise. So, I'm satisfied that Obama is a natural born American, and entitled to be President on that count.

It does still puzzle me, however, why he won't authorize the release of his actual birth certificate. I used to suspect it must have something on it that he might find embarrassing, so a while back I looked up an example copy of Hawaiian birth certificates, and I didn't see anything that could justify much embarrassment. Because I believe a certificate of live birth should normally be adequate, I don't care much about the issue, other than it's entertainment value.

Since the actual birth certificate wasn't released, however, there are people who have spent a lot of effort investigating to try to determine his citizenship based on other facts. While I'm not concerned about the issue of citizenship, I am concerned about some of the issues run into by investigators. They have apparently been actively opposed, with someone paying lawyers to fight the release of information like the following:

Passport files
University of Chicago Law School scholarly articles
Harvard Law Review articles
Harvard Law School records
Columbia University records
Columbia University senior thesis, "Soviet Nuclear Disarmament"
Occidental College records, including financial aid that he may have received
Punahou School records, where Mr. Obama attended from the fifth grade until he finished high school
Noelani Elementary School records
Complete files and schedules of his years as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004
Obama's client list from during his time in private practice with the Chicago law firm of Davis-Miner
Illinois State Bar Association records
Baptism records
Obama/Dunham marriage license
Obama/Dunham divorce documents
Soetoro/Dunham marriage license
Soetero/Dunham Adoption records

For someone who promised unprecedented openness, we find unprecedented hiding instead. This bothers me. I'm curious. Most people seeking the limelight would be happily inclined to release such records, and running for President is clearly seeking the limelight.

President Obama is a pretty bright guy. Surely he knows that most, if not all, of this information will become public sooner or later, and much more like it. So I keep asking myself... why doesn't he release such information himself? Why pay people to fight its release?

If anyone has any rational explanations and can express them calmly, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Presidential Candidates for 2012

There are generally two strategies in voting for a presidential candidate for a party:
1. Who can beat the opposing candidate?
2. Who do we want to be the president?

The first concern often relegates the second concern to a footnote, and sometimes results in choosing the strongest campaigner rather than the person who would be the best president.

In 2012, President Obama will almost certainly be the Democratic candidate for president. The 3rd-party candidates aren't likely to be significant in any way. That leaves the Republican candidate as the next big choice.

I suggest that the campaign ability of the Republican candidate won't matter a great deal, because I think President Obama will win or lose based primarily on how the economy is doing. If the economy is doing well, Obama is likely to win no matter who the Republican candidate is. If the economy is doing poorly, Obama is likely to lose no matter who the Republican candidate is. If the economy is muddling along, then it might be closely contested and the campaigning skills of the Republican candidate might be important, but I project that our economy will be doing quite poorly in the months leading up to the next election a year and a half from now. The long-term economic factors are headed in that direction, and has too much momentum to turn around before then.

If I'm right, then Republicans (and Independents who vote in Republican primaries) should focus their attention on which candidates would make the best president, because no matter who it is, that person is likely to become the next president rather than a footnote in history.

My favorite for the Republican candidacy at this point? Mike Huckabee. Not because he used to be a preacher, which is irrelevant in my view. The leading reasons I prefer Huckabee are because he's knowledgeable on both domestic and foreign issues, I agree with his big-picture positions (the ones I'm aware of), he has a little more humility than most presidential candidates, he's optimistic, he knows how to build consensuses well enough to manage large organizations such as the State of Arkansas, he has personal integrity, and he's cordial even with his opponents. Does he have flaws and past failures? Sure -- but as long as we're electing humans, that will be the case, and I think Huckabee's flaws are less serious and less numerous than most other contenders. So I hope Republicans and Independents give him serious consideration.

One last thought, just for Democrats who live in States with open primaries (anyone can vote in any party's primary). You don't need to vote in the Democratic primary, because no one is going to beat Obama in the primary anyway. So you could vote in the Republican primary and try to vote for whoever you think Obama could beat most easily in the general election. Well, I'd like to ask you to consider the reasoning I provided above, because we may have a Republican president next time no matter who it is. So if you vote in the Republican primary next year, don't vote for who you think would be most likely to lose, vote for whoever you would like as president the most. Or at least the person you would hate the least! And right now I hope that's Huckabee.