Obama's Panama?

Was Barack Obama born in Hawaii or somewhere else, or did he just change a name? Jim Geraghty looks at rumors running around about Obama’s supposed secrecy on his birth, and runs down three scenarios of what the campaign may want to hide. Their refusal to produce a birth certificate has stoked some of the speculation:

Having done some Obama-rumor debunking that got praise from Daily Kos (a sign of the apocalypse, no doubt), perhaps the Obama campaign could return the favor and help debunk a bunch of others with a simple step: Could they release a copy of his birth certificate?

Reporters have asked for it and been denied, and the state of Hawaii does not make such records public.

The campaign cited the birth certificate in their “Fact Check” on William Ayers, so presumably, someone in the campaign has access to it.

Jim runs down three possible issues, finding them “unlikely” but still compelling:

  1. Obama was not born in the US, but in Kenya.
  2. Obama’s middle name was Mohammed, not Hussein (but then why change it to another Arabic name?)
  3. His real first name is “Barry”.

I guess having seen McCain run through the MSM wringer over his birth at a naval base in Panama, these questions should be more compelling to me than they are. Having debated the nature of McCain’s citizenship, Obama should produce his birth certificate to make it all even, redacting any information that could be useful for identity theft (although it won’t have a Social Security number on it as those were not automatically assigned in 1961). The campaign references his birth certificate as a strange defense of his association with William Ayers, so it should make the record public.

However, does anyone really believe any of these potential scenarios? As Jim points out himself, the first two almost instantly get tossed out due to statements by friends and family going back years. Presumably, the schools that Obama attended in Hawaii and later in the US would have seen his birth certificate during the enrollment process, and no one has ever implied that Obama was anything less than a natural-born citizen. If someone wanted to change their middle name from Mohammed to keep political options open, Hussein would not be the name that replaces it.

That applies to the third scenario as well, and changing a first name from Barry to Barack in order to match one’s father would mean nothing in terms of the political standing of the candidate. I’m reminded that Gary Hart changed his last name from Hartpence to Hart, and that turned into nothing more than a nine-day wonder when it came out in the 1984 campaign. Barry to Barack seems even less noteworthy.

I’d say this sounds like a distraction, but then again, I thought the entire McCain-Panama was a distraction as well, and the Senate wound up having to vote on his status as a citizen to quiet the media. Only the first scenario has any relation to Obama’s status as a candidate, and the release of his birth certificate will put an end to the distractions.