Call for Records Disclosure by Politicians Trivializes American Records

The so-called “Birther” movement — the people who insist that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born American citizen — have inspired a new class of political disparagement, a sub-field of negative political advertising. The demand for release of birth certificates in order to legitimize candidates for the Presidency of the United States (an office which the constitution requires be held only by “natural born” citizens) is a two-edged sword that is being used to distort the constitutional requirements for political candidacy into a weapon of propaganda.

Public records are not necessarily subject to all public scrutiny. There is a reason why we protect special records such as birth certificates. Identity theft has been around for many decades and birth certificates have often been used to secure false identification. Protecting these special records from abuse is a vital interest to all Americans of every political persuasion. Once someone has stolen your identity you may forever live in the shadow of their misdeeds.

Donald Trump’s recent demand to see President Obama’s college records and passport has extended the Birther movement’s reach into political dirty tactics. The demand for records disclosure is clearly an attempt to create a faux political embarrassment — the result of which, if this attempt were successful, would be to create a controversy designed only to break down the trust between Americans and their President.

The public always has a right to know the pertinent facts about the backgrounds of their political leaders but in the absence of any evidence of wrong-doing the public does not have a NEED to know the facts. Nor is there any indication that the public really WANTS to know what the facts are about President Obama’s college career. And as for demanding to see his passport, that is yet another crucial piece of private information that is normally used only by the government (or employers to verify citizenship).

These attacks are not just chiseling away at the political reputation of President Obama — they are also chiseling away at the trust between Americans and their government because every time these facetious demands for “proof” of citizenship are taken seriously the transparency we demand of our public servants is perverted into a political weapon.