Reality is scarier than conspiracies

Barack Obama was born in a foreign nation as part of a genetic experiment, raised a Muslim and brainwashed by radicals. Think X-Men meets Malcolm X.

He was granted fraudulent college degrees and installed in public office with instructions to leave no trace of his associations. And in return for his ascendance to the White House, he had to promise the globalists and anti-capitalists who wrote his two books and ran his campaign that he would arrange the marriage of his two daughters to the sheik who funded the entire clandestine cabal.

It’s amazing what you can glean from a handful of e-mails and 30 minutes on the Internet.

Obama conspiracy theories have proved to be quite the stimulus to the far right. We’re nearly 200 days into his administration, and wild speculation about Obama’s academic record, religious faith and country of birth still consume vast swaths of cyberspace, occasionally stirring up questions from conservatives and allowing the empowered left to label them a bunch of deranged crazies.

It’s all a product of one indisputable fact: Obama has managed to control the narrative of his life better than any American politician of the information age. Through his books, he has laid bare parts of his soul. Through his politics, he has tried to slam the door shut on whole sections of his life. We see largely what he wants us to see.

And his eloquence and intelligence have left the mainstream media positively spellbound. Last year, when Obama refused to release personal information routinely disclosed by presidential candidates, the stories died quickly and quietly. That the Fourth Estate would fold so easily — and demonstrate obvious favoritism in the process — infuriated parts of the Republican base. So they vowed to keep the issues alive, which is why you still might get forwarded e-mails about Obama’s birth and baptism certificates and hear infrequent rants about them on talk radio.

Some of the issues are worth airing. Some are complete garbage. All are worth clarifying.

— College transcripts: Obama never released his grades from Occidental College, Columbia College or Harvard Law School. Obama wasn’t an exceptional student at Occidental or Columbia, as he has hinted and classmates and instructors have revealed. Indeed, Obama did not graduate with honors from Columbia. However, he was by all accounts an exceptional law student at Harvard — he graduated magna cum laude — and a fair, highly principled editor of the Harvard Law Review.

If Obama had released only his Harvard transcripts, he would have been accused of cherry-picking. If he released all of his transcripts, his admission to Harvard might have been viewed as affirmative-action charity. So he released none of them.

— Columbia College thesis: Obama wouldn’t provide a copy of his senior thesis on nuclear arms reduction because he claimed to have kept no copies of it. This prompted a lot of conjecture that the thesis was a simpering argument for disarmament. But no copy of the thesis could be found. Obama’s thesis adviser, Michael L. Baron, recalled that the paper was actually “an analysis of the evolution of the arms reduction negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States,” and that he gave Obama an A.

— Medical records: Unlike Republican Sen. John McCain, who released more than 1,000 pages of medical records during the 2008 campaign, Obama refused to provide detailed medical records in support of his fitness for the presidency. Instead, he released a 276-word statement from his personal physician declaring him to be in excellent health.

— Illinois state Senate records: Efforts to obtain any of Obama’s personal records from his service in the Illinois Senate — appointment calendars, policy memos, correspondence with the public, other legislators and state agencies — were derailed because Obama said he didn’t keep anything. “I didn’t have the resources available to maintain those kinds of records,” he said at a campaign stop in Iowa in November 2007. “It could have been thrown out.”

— Law practice client list: Obama won’t say who he worked for during his time in private practice with the firm now known as Miner, Barnhill and Galland, claiming doing so would violate client confidentiality.

— Christian or Muslim?: It is not in dispute that Obama attended services at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ for more than 20 years. Obama says he was baptized by The Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But in some Christian and conservative circles, that’s not satisfactory proof that Obama is a Christian. They want to see Obama’s certificate of baptism, and he either won’t release it or doesn’t have it. Because Obama hasn’t released this certificate, and because his middle name is Hussein and he spent some of his childhood in Indonesia, plenty of people have leapt to the conclusion that he’s a covert Muslim, even though no one — not even the nuttiest, basement-dwelling blogger — has produced the tiniest shred of evidence that he’s lying about his Christian beliefs.

(For what it’s worth, I don’t have the slightest idea where my certificate of baptism is or where I might get a new one.)

— Birth certificate: Obama’s campaign released a copy of his certification of live birth from the state of Hawaii, and Hawaiian officials verified the existence of Obama’s original birth certificate, but it did nothing to squelch viral rumors that Obama was not born in the United States and was not eligible to run for president. The rumormongers are still demanding a certified, embossed, signed copy of his birth certificate. Two federal lawsuits seeking as much have been dismissed as groundless. No one has provided any evidence that Obama was born in another country.

Regardless of the degree to which each of these matters were vetted last year, voters ultimately decided they trusted Obama with the presidency. And hard-core conservatives are crazy if they think keeping these legends around will help them retake the White House in 2012.

Why would anyone waste their time perpetuating the myth that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim when his policy ideas provide more than enough easy targets? Why would anyone continue worrying about Obama spinning his life story and hiding some personal records when he’s spinning his hostile takeover of the private sector and hiding his plans to control your health care?

Forget what he didn’t say or didn’t show on the campaign trail. Now that he’s president, start paying attention to how often he says one thing, does another, then denies what he said and did.

If Obama keeps getting a pass for piling up our debt and driving down our standard of living, then we’ll have a real conspiracy to talk about.

Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial writer.

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