What's in a Birth Certificate?


So, Barack Obama released his “long form” birth certificate and bought himself some temporary tactical advantage against Donald Trump and millions of angry conspiracy mongers out there. The document confirms, as much as any such item can, that Barack Hussein Obama II was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961 at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu.

The lingering question of whether the man meets the constitutional requirements to be President of the United States — specifically, that he is a native-born citizen — is answered. He does. And, specifically, he is.

But, if you look a little more deeply into the hard typeface of the Certificate of Live Birth, you can see some evidence of the background that drives a person like Obama. Indulge me in a little armchair Freud.

According to the document, the president’s mother — Stanley Ann Dunham — was 18 years old when she delivered him. That’s very young by any reasonable standard, young enough to make the baby’s arrival seem reckless and ill-advised. A heavy burden to bear, especially when you were the baby in question.

And there’s the bureaucratic judgment in the Certificate’s explication that the mother’s name did not match the name of the child’s father. The 18-year-old girl signed the Certificate “Ann Dunham Obama,” a small act of revolt against the officious document’s implication of illegitimacy.

Good for her.

Many ask, now that Obama has released this Certificate, why he didn’t do it sooner. I have an idea. He’s been protecting his mother from the harsh judgment of petty tyrants.

How many bureaucratic sneers did she suffer, bearing and raising a mixed-race child in the early 1960s? How many dirty looks, when she carried him on buses or airplanes? Brought him to campus at the several universities she attended? Applied for passports? Applied for food stamps?

And how soon did little Barack II realize that authority figures judged his mother harshly? That official forms made unfriendly assumptions about her marital status? How quickly did other kids say unkind things about his . . . unconventional . . . mom? Kids in Hawaii. Kids in Kansas. Kids in Indonesia.

The facts around Stanley Ann Dunham’s life are hazy and are likely to remain so. This is the haze created by family members protecting a loved one they know needs the help. A foolish daughter. An eccentric mother.

There are different versions of when or even whether Stanley Ann and the elder Obama married. Apparently, they never lived together as husband and wife; and the President’s own wife has said that his mother was “very single when she had him.”

There’s a hard edge in that last bit, even from his wife. Young Michelle Robinson — from an intact, upright, churchgoing family headed by a father who was a civil servant — had plenty of occasions to judge foolish teenage mothers on food stamps. You can practically hear it in the very that she uses to modify single. Michelle wasn’t going to bounce around a bunch of motley state schools with a baby on her hip; she was going to Princeton.

For most of his 50 years, Barack Obama has been protecting his mother from judgments and slights. Since she passed away in the ‘90s, he’s been protecting her ghost. He’s the archetypal high-achiever from a dysfunctional family. That’ll never change.

And that archetypal sort is precisely who seeks the presidency in this dysfunctional age.

Trump and Obama’s other antagonists have already moved on to press the President to make public his transcripts from college and law school, as previous presidents have. Their assumption, which Obama himself has tacitly acknowledged in his memoirs, is that he was a mediocre student who advanced through elite academia on affirmative action preferences.

Here’s a prediction: Obama will never release those transcripts. His birth certificate — his entrance into this world — is a testament to what the Babbitts deemed his foolish mother’s recklessness and immaturity. But his Ivy League degrees are the armor he built to protect her and himself from those judgments. And slights. And dirty looks.

He’s not going to lower that.

And, in this narrow Freudian context, good for him. It isn’t a good idea, tactically — and it’s poor form, personally — to mess with a man’s coping mechanisms.

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Pamela Maltzman

I will just keep it brief here, but simply objecting to Obozo's various actions (or lack of actions) emphatically does NOT make one a racist.

For starters, he's an out-and-out Marxist. By all that I have read about him, he seems anti-American. He seems determined to shove Obummercare down our throats. He seems bound and determined to kill what's left of our economy. He promised a transparent administration, but has delivered anything but... not to mention the pesky little item of having sealed off all his records from public view (even though McCain was put through the wringer).

I could go on and on, but I think you might have gotten the point. For the most part, it's NOT about his skin color.

However, if you're going to call anyone racist, how about all those blacks who voted FOR him simply BECAUSE of his skin color? Goose. Gander. Does that not make those blacks racist? In my book it does.

I can think of half a dozen or more black men in public life for whom I'd vote for president and who would do at least some semblance of justice to the office... Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, Larry Elder, Ken Hamblin, etc. Any one of these gentlemen would at least seem a plausible candidate.

As to the birth certificate, you might try reading some of the aricles on http://FreeRepublic.com and elsewhere. There are several people who post there regularly, some of whom are graphic art specialists, who have demonstrated many discrepancies between the so-called Obozo birth certificates and real birth certificates known to have come from Hawaii in the same time period.

I would urge you to get your facts straight before shooting your mouth off and before smearing people with a label of "racist."


"Many ask, now that Obama has released this Certificate, why he didn’t do it sooner. I have an idea. He’s been protecting his mother from the harsh judgment of petty tyrants."

I tend to agree, and further agree that the man has many faults which can be addressed; this is a minor one.
But, if you are to run for and assume the highest elective office, you can't claim secrecy for something like a birth certificate, regardless of your motives.
"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen".

Federal Farmer

This is a wonderful article, Mr. Walsh.

Jon Harrison

The "birther" controversy was nonsense from the beginning. I never agree with James Carroll, but I had to concur with his recent piece calling the whole business pure and simple racism. Many lower class whites just can't stomach a black or mixed-race president, and there are people who will exploit that feeling by any means available. Hence the birther business. There are many good reasons to oppose Obama, but questioning his citizenship, dwelling on his middle name, or caricaturing him as a chimpanzee are lowbrow tactics motivated by a combination of racism and what Nietzsche termed ressentiment.


This would be reasonable 'Freudian' imagination - only if you let your disapproval of Obama impair your rationality to seize a set of facts that contradic the main logic underlying your speculation.

1. He'd already released the "short form" certificate earlier. You ignore the fact that the Hawaii Health Department does not release "long form" as a matter of policy (read the director's letter to Obama's special request for waver of that policy). Did he have to pressure Hawaii then?

2. On the birth certificate, a mother is asked to record her "maiden" name, which also is the case in California, where I live. They often sign, however, the way they typically do after adopting their husband's name, which was my wife's case as well. This is not necessarily a sign of "revolt."

3. His eligibility does not depend upon where he was born since his mother, whether her marriage was legitimate or not, was clearly a U.S. citizen. You used "native" born; but it is "natural born," and it is a term of art just as it is a matter of legal interpretation by the court. So long as one of your parents is a U.S. citizen, no matter where you are born, you are considered a "natural born" citizen. Though the precise fact pattern of Obama's was not litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court, it is an overwhelming majority view of mainstream legal scholarship that his birth place is irrelevant for his eligibility for president.

4. Obama graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, which means that your GPA belonged to (typically) the top 1% of the class. He might have benefited from being admitted to HLS, which he often admitted, because of Affirmative considerations. But it only means that Affirmative Action was the right thing to do since it would otherwise have excluded a gifted student who made the editor-in-chief of the school's law review.

I respect the libertarian view and its underlying morals and philosophy. But please argue based on the grounds of a moral worldview and policy. By smearing a person like Obama who rose from a family you described as "dysfunctional," you end up diluting the genuine moral forces of a libertarian view by degrading yourself to the level of those ultra-Right Birthers who cannot fight without the pathetic weapon of disguised racism.

J Eyon

Stuart -

youre agitation can only be described as mystifying for those who read Walsh's article carefully - unlike you - Walsh quickly dismissed the issue of the birth certificate - treating it as moot

instead he examined the document for clues explaining the Obama's behavior - which he a prefaces with a can't-miss disclaimer - "Indulge me in a little armchair Freud"

in the process - he may have made a mistake when comparing the signature to the "maiden name" entry - but he offers other evidence - anecdotal to be sure - but this IS an armchair analysis

i found what Walsh did very surprising - he offered a somewhat sympathetic view of Obama - as someone protecting his family - especially his mother - which Walsh sums up in "He’s the archetypal high-achiever from a dysfunctional family" - from the context - its obvious his use of "dysfunctional" is less venomous than you take it to be

Walsh may have went out on a limb predicting that the college grades will never be disclosed - for the same defensive reason - we'll see

Stuart - your reading between the lines - and your anger at what you perceived there - seems more wild and reckless then Walsh's - and without the disclaimer - if Walsh is "diluting the genuine moral forces of a libertarian view" - i'd say he still compares favorably to you

try reading the lines of the article first - before burrowing between

and be more careful when seizing your own set of facts - Summa Cum Laude - Editor-in-chief - you may regret making those pronouncements


@stuart: one solid point and lots of specious logic. your defense of obama plays right into the tactics of trump and the birthers. if obama did so well at university, why does he hide his grades? this reflection gives an answer. you don't.
reread the article and then your comment. if you're anything but a troll, you'll be embarrassed that you missed the point.
but your last few lines give it away. i think you're a "respect" troll. good luck with your government job in bankrupt cali.

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