. . . Mean­while, where was the me­dia and the gov­ern­ment?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Many Amer­i­cans were shocked on April 27 when Pres­i­dent Obama fi­nally re­leased his long-form birth cer­tifi­cate from the state of Hawaii. The real sur­prise, how­ever, is that for the past three years, our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions did not ad­dress the mat­ter. The me­dia re­fused to tackle this is­sue with the same in­ves­tiga­tive drive with which they in­ves­ti­gated Water­gate, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s al­leged in­dis­cre­tions and the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mis­steps in Iraq; the courts de­clined to hear a sin­gle case on the is­sue; and Congress failed to hold any hear­ings on the mat­ter.

Per­haps the sad­dest part of this story is its end­ing.

Mr. Obama did not re­lease the birth cer­tifi­cate be­cause the me­dia pres­sured him or be­cause the courts ac­tu­ally lis­tened to one of the many cases that were filed. He re­leased it be­cause an ob­sessed bil­lion­aire threat­ened his electabil­ity in 2012, which forces us to ask the ques­tion: What good are our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions if they don’t stand up for the peo­ple?

Jour­nal­ists did not ad­dress the fact that the pres­i­dent was re­fus­ing to re­solve an is­sue about his con­sti­tu­tional el­i­gi­bil­ity. In­stead, they fo­cused on the “birther” move­ment in an ef- fort to dis­credit any Amer­i­can who had a le­git­i­mate ques­tion.

Main­stream news or­ga­ni­za­tions did not want to get grouped in with “birthers” be­cause they had been com­pared ef­fec­tively to the Sept. 11 “truther” move­ments, and any­one who raised birth-cer­tifi­cate ques­tions was la­beled para­noid, crazy and even racist.

How­ever, there’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween peo­ple who just wanted to see Mr. Obama’s birth cer­tifi­cate and those who be­lieve that our own gov­ern­ment caused the worst ter­ror­ist at­tack in Amer­i­can his­tory, es­pe­cially when there al­ready is a moun­tain of ev­i­dence point­ing to al Qaeda as the per­pe­tra­tor. With the Obama birth-cer­tifi­cate is­sue, the archive of ev­i­dence was slim, and his re­fusal to re­lease the more ex­ten­sive ver­sion of his birth cer­tifi­cate right­fully cre­ated more sus­pi­cion.

In fact, the Obama birth-cer­tifi­cate is­sue is more sim­i­lar to what hap­pened when Pres­i­dent Clin­ton re­fused to give a straight an­swer about his in­dis­cre­tions in the White House. The more the pres­i­dent evaded the is­sue, the more cu­ri­ous and up­set peo­ple be­came.

Amer­i­cans want to know who their pres­i­dent is, plain and sim­ple — and they have a right to know.

Cit­i­zens who wanted the is­sue re­solved were frus­trated be­cause they felt pow­er­less. The courts de­clined to hear cases filed, and the Fourth Es­tate re­fused to pur­sue the story to get it re­solved. Congress did noth­ing. The more our in­sti­tu­tions re­mained in­ac­tive on the is­sue, the more pow­er­less we felt and the an­grier we be­came, prompt­ing us to ques­tion what good it was to have demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions if they didn’t ex­er­cise their power.

The courts re­peat­edly used the ex­cuse that Amer­i­cans fil­ing suit in fed­eral court lacked stand­ing to get ac­cess to the birth cer­tifi­cate.

Al­though the doc­u­ment may have been a vi­tal health record pro­tected un­der fed­eral and state law, a higher con­sti­tu­tional is­sue of the pres­i­dent’s el­i­gi­bil­ity was at stake. If the peo­ple didn’t have stand­ing on that is­sue, who did?

Our gov­ern­ment and Fourth Es­tate failed Amer­ica in this case. We, the peo­ple of the United States, had a right to res­o­lu­tion on this cru­cial is­sue, but no one did any­thing about it. In the end, the White House only re­lented be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion knew it could cost votes and a much more ex­pen­sive 2012 pres­i­den­tial run for Mr. Obama.

Money, not democ­racy was the cur­rency that brought this is­sue to a fi­nal res­o­lu­tion.

Jef­frey Scott Shapiro is a for­mer Wash­ing­ton pros­e­cu­tor.

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