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Obama faces fresh questions over birthplace
London, May 1 (Agencies):
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Published on 1 May. 2011 10:23 PM IST
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Just a few steps from the authoritative hush of the Oval Office lies a series of rooms bustling with frenetic activity. The sharp-suited men and women who work there command the most sophisticated news-gathering technology on the planet. At a moment’s notice, they can summon the world’s Press to the West Wing, command front-page headlines or interrupt regular TV programming.
The officials in the Press centre of the White House like to say that they are the President’s last line of defence - and they probably believe it. Certainly it can claim to be the most powerful media-affairs office on the planet. Right now, though, its embattled occupants might be praying for cruder forms of protection - landmines and barbed wire, say.
However sophisticated their operation, there seems to be nothing that the Press secretary, his two deputies and five assistants can do about the barrage of strange, frequently outlandish accusations levelled against the 44th President of the United States of America. Obama is already stretched by the fight for Libya, the interminable battle for his healthcare proposals and the US economy. Now he finds that ordinary Americans are obsessed not with the policies that affect their wellbeing at home and influence abroad, but with a series of personal attacks - on him.
Most of the claims buffeting the President are so absurd as to defy rational debate. Obama has been described as Jewish, Muslim and a homosexual. It has been said that his influential memoir, Dreams From My Father, was largely fictitious and even that it was ‘ghosted’ by an urban terrorist.
Bizarre as such allegations might seem, however, their sheer accumulated weight is having an effect. In place of the self-possessed church-going lawyer who was elected to the White House amid such celebration in 2008, a very different image of the President is starting to take hold among some sections of the American public - and that is of Obama as a 24-carat fraud.
This is why, in a quite unprecedented act for a sitting President, he last week felt obliged to issue copies of his birth certificate to journalists. It shows that Barack Hussein Obama II was born August 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, to Barack Hussein Obama, a 25-year-old student, and Stanley Ann Dunham, 18, and includes the signature of the attending physician.
The stamp indicates that it was received from Hawaiian officials on Monday.
It is a belated and perhaps somewhat anxious attempt to head off a claim that has dogged his presidency even before his formal swearing-in: that Obama was not born in America and is therefore constitutionally barred from being president.
In particular, though, it is aimed at what promises to be the most damaging intervention yet for his hopes of re-election next year: a book by Jerome Corsi called Where’s The Birth Certificate?, which it is claimed will expose glaring holes in Obama’s account of his past.
The suggestion that, in the teeth of all the evidence, Obama was not born in Hawaii is far-fetched to say the least, and according to his supporters is no more than a politically motivated smear spread by those who cannot bear the thought of a black president.
His detractors, however, are unlikely to be deterred by anything as simple as a piece of paper. Already the new certificate has been denounced as a forgery and the publishers of the Corsi book say that they will press ahead, apparently unconcerned. It seems they will not even change the title, and in a statement issued last week asserted that the White House intervention will only serve to sell more copies. Indeed, Corsi himself summed up their attitude when he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Public pressure finally forced Obama to do what he did today. Now the game begins.’
There will certainly be an audience. A rising tide of fervent sceptics, known as ‘birthers’, has been gathering since Obama first emerged as a presidential candidate, and an industry has grown up attempting to prove that he was born not in the 50th state of the union, but in Kenya.
A recent CNN poll found that more than 40 per cent of Republican voters believe Obama was not born in the United States.
In some individual states, the figures are even more startling. In Iowa, for example, one of the first and therefore most strategically important states to select presidential candidates, a poll suggested that only 26 per cent of Republican supporters believe him to be a natural-born citizen. As many as one quarter of all voters across the country are said to share their doubts.
At least 12 of the states have been debating legislation to require all presidential candidates to provide their long-form birth certificate before they can be placed on the state’s ballot. It looks as though Obama will now prove acceptable on that score, at least.
In April last year, the US Army court-martialled Lieutenant Colonel-Terrence Lee Lakin, a surgeon in the Medical Corps, for refusing to serve in Afghanistan after he claimed Obama was not legally the Commander-in-Chief, and so lacked the authority to send him. The truly remarkable thing is Lakin received public support from three retired generals.
Donald Trump, the self-aggrandising property tycoon who hosts America’s version of The Apprentice, has taken a leading part in the furore. He has positioned himself to run for the White House next year with a campaign fuelled almost entirely by questions about Obama’s place of birth.
To Obama’s chagrin and the horror of his rivals on both sides of the political divide, the tactic is working: after touring the studios to announce his conversion to the ‘birther’ cause, the businessman is now front-runner among potential Republican candidates. Now he is taking credit for Obama’s decision to release the birth certificate.
Obama should have no problem choosing a line of attack against Jerome Corsi, the author of the forthcoming book. The 64-yearold is a gifted conspiracy theorist who at various times has been accused of attacking Muslims, Roman Catholics and homosexuals. He could hardly claim to be an impartial observer.
But Corsi and his books, much like the internet claims about Obama, have proved persistent and effective. He has written five alarmist bestsellers that struck a chord with popular fears, and he looks set to repeat the act with Where’s The Birth Certificate?
The White House will be more than mindful that a previous Corsi publication, Unfit For Command, changed the course of America’s 2004 presidential election. That book derailed Democrat John Kerry’s bid for the White House by accusing him of cowardice in the Vietnam War and of obtaining medals fraudulently - allegations that seemed quite absurd to many people, including former soldiers.
Indeed, the ‘Swift boat’ scandal was dismissed as nonsense by veterans who had served alongside Kerry, and Corsi’s claims were further undermined by official US Navy records.
Yet Kerry proved unable to recover from the assault on his reputation - and the book went on to sell more than 1.2million copies. Corsi attacked Barack Obama on a previous occasion, too, during the successful presidential bid of 2008: his book Obama Nation: Leftist Politics And The Cult Of The Personality sought to claim that Obama was a radical Leftist with ties to militant Muslims in Africa who were membersof his ancestral Kenyan tribe. Once again, Corsi’s allegations were comprehensively denied and attacked by a number of independent researchers. Once again, however, the book topped The New York Times bestseller list and Obama’s reputation took a hit.
Where’s The Birth Certificate? - subtitled The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible To Be President - already has advance sales of 150,000 copies and is likely to enter the market at the top of Amazon’s sales list. Joseph Farah, founder and chief executive of the publishers WND, claims that it will be one of the biggest books of the year, with sales of at least 500,000 copies.
Speculation about the contents is feverish. Farah says the author will not be conducting any interviews about the book until it is published on May 17. But fans of Corsi’s methods believe that he may have found immigration documents proving that Obama’s mother left the United States in the weeks before his birth.
Or, they speculate that Corsi has tracked down a copy of a different birth certificate from Kenya, the country of his father’s birth, where he still has many relatives. (It should be said that a number of forgeries of this sort have been found - and discredited - in the past.)
The publicity released so far claims that ‘there are glaring inconsistencies, blackouts and outright fabrications in his life narrative’. It suggests that ‘as a boy, Obama was officially registered in school as a Muslim and Indonesian citizen, another barrier to US natural-born citizenship’.
And, in conclusion, it is alleged that Obama, aided by the White House Press office, ‘has conducted one of the most audacious cover-ups ever perpetrated at the highest level of American politics’.

 
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