POSTED: 08:37 p.m. HST, Apr 23, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 08:45 a.m. HST, Apr 24, 2011
Lost in the renewed scrutiny into President Barack Obama's birth records is the fact that anyone can walk into a Hawaii vital records office, wait in line behind couples getting marriage licenses and open a baby-blue government binder containing basic information about his birth.
Highlighted in yellow on page 1,218 of the thick binder is the computer-generated listing for a boy named Barack Hussein Obama II born in Hawaii, surrounded by the alphabetized last names of all other children born in-state between 1960 and 1964. This is the only government birth information, called "index data," available to the public.
So far this month, only The Associated Press and one other person had looked at the binder, according to a sign-in sheet viewed Wednesday in the state Department of Health building. The sheet showed about 25 names of people who have seen the document since March 2010, when the sign-in sheet begins.
Those documents complement newspaper birth announcements published soon after Obama's Aug. 4, 1961, birth and a "certification of live birth" released by the Obama campaign three years ago, the only type of birth certificate the state issues.
So-called "birthers" claim there's no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president. Many of the skeptics suggest he was actually born in Kenya, his father's home country, or Indonesia, where he spent a few years of his childhood.
Possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly stoked the birther fires recently, and last month called on Obama to "show his birth certificate." Trump said he has investigators in Hawaii searching for more information.
"Nobody has come in and said they're investigating for Donald Trump," said Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo, who acknowledged they could've come in without identifying themselves as representing Trump.
What the would-be sleuths won't find is Obama's "long-form birth certificate," a confidential one-page document containing his original birth records kept on file in the first floor of the Department of Health.
Those original birth records typically include additional birth details, such as the hospital and delivering doctor, said Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the state's former health director who twice looked at and publicly confirmed Obama's original long-form birth records.
But those documents are state government property that can't be released to anyone, even the president himself, said Joshua Wisch, special assistant to the state attorney general. Obama would be able to inspect his birth records if he visited the Health Department in person, but original records of live birth are never released, he said.
Fukino, who served as the state's health director until late last year under former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, said in an interview with The Associated Press she's convinced the long-form document is authentic. She issued public statements in 2008 and 2009 saying she had seen the original records.
"It is absolutely clear to me that he was born here in Hawaii," Fukino told the AP. "It should not be an issue, and I think people need to focus on the other bad things going on in our country and in our state and figure out what we're going to do about those things."
Before Obama's campaign released his certification of live birth in 2008, he or someone with a tangible interest had to make a written request and pay a $10 fee to receive it, Okubo said. Wisch also said Obama obtained a copy of his own certification of live birth and publicly released it.
State privacy laws prevent a certification of live birth from being released to anyone except those with a tangible interest, such as the person named by the birth record or a close family member.
The document is generated by computer, based on original birth records on file with the state, Fukino said.
New Health Director Loretta Fuddy, a Democratic appointee, declined to comment.
Last week, Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have required presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the state's ballot — which was widely viewed as targeting Obama — calling it a "bridge too far."
But the birther conspiracy theory refuses to go away. The latest New York Times-CBS News poll found that 45 percent of adult Republicans said they believe Obama was born in another country, and 22 percent said they don't know. Only one-third of Republicans said they believe the president is native born. The same poll a year ago found that a plurality of Republicans believed the president was born in the U.S.
Obama said in an interview with ABC News this month that Republicans sowing doubts about whether he's American-born may gain politically in the short term by playing to their constituencies, but will have trouble when the general election rolls around.
"Just want to be clear — I was born in Hawaii," the president said at a fundraiser in his hometown of Chicago.
Newspaper birth announcements appeared in both The Honolulu Advertiser and The Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the weeks after he was born.
The Aug. 13, 1961, announcement in the Advertiser appears on page B-6 of the Sunday edition, next to classified ads for carpentry work and house repair.
It says, "Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy., son, Aug. 4." The address belonged to the parents of Ann Dunham, Obama's mother.
A similar announcement appeared the following day on page 24 of the Star-Bulletin.
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