It seems that a certain group who deny (mistakenly) that Barack Obama is eligible to be president of the United States extend their point of view to denying every aspect of President Obama’s life including his birth certificate, his religion, his political views and, most recently, his US Passport.
Barack Obama traveled to Indonesia as a child, and to do that he needed a passport. To obtain a US passport, one needs to be and to prove that one is a US citizen. This is a sticky problem for the birther’s “Kenyan-born Obama,” one that would seem insoluble for birthers in an age before short form birth certificates. This is why false claims of lax birth registration laws in Hawaii and lying grandmothers were invented.
Later when it was learned that Barack Obama visited Pakistan as a college student, this offered another opportunity to deny Obama held a legitimate US passport, an opportunity that manifest in a demonstrably false story of a travel ban to Pakistan for persons traveling on US passports.
A recent White House video shows President Obama’s US Diplomatic Passport, and entry/visa stamps from various countries that he’s visited since becoming president, that carried the statement, anathema to the birthers, “the bearer is President of the United States.” Not surprisingly, this document is being “questioned” on the Internet including the web site: White House Fraud.
Let’s put the Obama Conspiracy Theories magnifying glass on this story.
One hardly begins to read when the first odd statement appears: “They never showed the cover of the passport from which they showed his picture (which is significant since it would show if it was a diplomatic one or not ).”
Well, it is a diplomatic passport, and they did show it at 1:47 in the video. This is not, however, the sloppily stupid remark that it appears to be at first glance. Later in the web site, the assertion is made that the passport cover perhaps doesn’t match the passport photo page.
The web page goes to considerable lengths to examine the blurred out date of issue. They assert that there is no good reason for this date to be blurred out in the White House video, but fail to provide any “bad reason” either. (In the normal world, unknown is not the same as evil.) They go to considerable length to show that the passport was issued in a month starting with “M” and then they look at blurry images and come to the conclusion that the possible dates of issuance for the passport do not match the dates visible (maybe) on a visa. They ask the question: “How can a visa that was issued in January be affixed to a passport that wasn’t even issued until the following March?”
One possible answer is the two-passport hypothesis
I haven’t completed my own fly speck analysis of the images (they see things that I can’t so far), but let’s assume that the web site is correct and that everything they conclude is true about what they see on the paper. The obvious explanation is that Barack Obama used his official passport (from when he was a senator) to supply the passport number used for the visa, and then got his diplomatic passport later. Folks are supposed to keep their current passport when receiving a diplomatic passport, so nothing irregular or illegal is implied. The video story works better (since its purpose was to show that US Presidents get their passports stamped just like everyone else) by conflating the current diplomatic passport with hypothetical one that had all the stamps. Introducing two passports would just have confused a story that only lasted a couple of minutes. This would be honest from the point of view of the question the video was trying to answer, although some license might have been taken with the images.
That said, it is my personal view that this explanation is wrong. I say that because of the visa and stamps on pages 6-7 of the passport. A current US passport for a private individual starts visa and entry stamps on page 8. While an official or diplomatic passport may start on an earlier page, I can’t fathom that Barack Obama’s travel as a Senator wouldn’t have filled up enough of the official passport to get them past page 6.
The White House Fraud page comes to the conclusion that the visa was issued in January based on things that look like blurs to me. I think their conclusion is dubious. The visa stamps on page 7 are for March 31, 2009, earliest. That would coincide with a March issuance date for the passport. Everything 100% legit. The same argument WHF makes that it doesn’t take 2 months for the President to get a passport also applies to a visa. There was no reason to apply for either until closer to the date of travel–which explains the March issuance date for the passport, and argues against a January interpretation of the blurs on the visa.
The fact that there is a break between the video frame of the passport cover and the view of the internal pages is not significant. After flipping pages, the resulting page isn’t going to be in position and focused. Any video editor is going to edit out the part where they fumble to get the page exactly in position.
While the birthers go to great lengths to point out these little things, they have no coherent explanation of how they support their own views. It’s great for the conspiracy minded, though.
I wanted to make one note, and that is that we can tell from the video images that Barack Obama carries a “long form” (52 page) passport rather than a “short form” (32 page) passport based on the reference to “Page 51” at the bottom of the photo page and the endorsement “President of the United States” endorsement on page 51.
Rather than rely on the fairly low-resolution videos on YouTube, I downloaded the 180 MB MP4 HD version from the White House web site. Oh, didn’t you know about the HD version? 😉 I then used Apple Quick Time to single step through the video, frame by frame (use the arrow keys). There are three frames that are candidates for reading the visa valid dates from. I used the Quick Time copy function to capture the frames, cropped and saved them as 100% quality JPEG files. That’s the most faithful replication of the video frames I know how to do that you can see in your browser. The three frames follow. The digit we’re all trying to read is the one directly below the “S” in “ETATS”.
When I glance at the image hastily without concentrating, I see “06 – 03” (March 6). When I stare at it, I see nothing. I tried every photo enhancement tool I have, and didn’t get much. However, in just about every enhanced version, I saw what looked like a small “>” in place of the all-important digit. That leads me to “3” instead of “1” (your mileage may vary). I put the HD video up on our big screen TV and asked Ms. Conspiracy what she thought the digit was (she had no idea what it should be) and she said it looked like a “3” to her too.
I would invite others with perhaps more sophisticated video and photo enhancing skills than I to take a shot at the higher resolution version and let me know what you see. Maybe we’ll find the canals of Mars.