RSS
Birthers' new fixation: Obama's Social Security number?
Hawaii is now ignoring repeat requests for Obama's birth certificate. But these days intrepid "birthers" are more interested in his Social Security number
 
"Birthers" are focusing on a new element of Obama's identity: his Social Security card.
"Birthers" are focusing on a new element of Obama's identity: his Social Security card.
Getty

With a handful of skeptics continuing to bombard the state of Hawaii with requests to see Obama's birth certificate, Gov. Linda Lingle (R) signed a law this week allowing officials to ignore repeat inquiries. Undeterred, some "birthers" — a fringe group that argues Obama was not really born in the U.S., and is therefore ineligible to be president — are now pursuing a new route to prove their theory: The president's supposedly "suspicious" Social Security number. (Watch an MSNBC report.) Here's a look at the latest birther theory:

First, what does Hawaii's new law do?
It creates a limited exemption to Freedom of Information rules allowing state agencies to ignore repeated document requests from the same person.

Will this convince birthers to stop asking about the document?
Probably not. Gov. Lingle — a Republican — asserted that the state health director had personally viewed Obama's birth record, telling WABC Radio: “The president was, in fact, born at Kapi’olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. And that’s just a fact." But state Senator Will Espero, who introduced the bill, says that birthers "are just rabid about this and I don't think anything we provide or give them will convince them otherwise."

What is the Social Security number claim?
Some commentators on the far right are suggesting that Obama has a fake or stolen Social Security number, which would be a crime. An article on World Net Daily by "birther" Jerome Corsi cites two private investigators who say that the first three digits of Obama's Social Security Number are 042, meaning it was issued in Connecticut, not Hawaii. They also claim it was issued between 1977 and 1979. 

Why is that (supposedly) incriminating?
The report says Obama's first job was at a Oahu Baskin Robbins in 1975 — when he was 13 — and since you need a Social Security number to get a job, the logic goes, his current number must not be his original one. Secondly, the claim continues, Obama has no known connection to Connecticut from that time period, and the Social Security Administration wouldn't issue a Connecticut number to a Hawaii resident. Susan Daniels, one of the investigators in the report, says she's "staking [her] reputation on a conclusion that Obama's use of this Social Security number is fraudulent."

Is there an explanation?
in 1975, Obama was too young to work legally, Carole Bengele Gilbert at Associated Content points out. She speculates he might have been paid "under the table" for his Baskin Robbins labors. In this scenario, he might not have been given a Social Security number until he was 16 or 17.

What about the Connecticut number?
Numbers are assigned based on the return address on the request envelope, not residency. And Gilbert notes that Obama's father, also named Barack Hussein Obama, lived in Connecticut for several years. "Dr. Conspiracy" at the site Obama Conspiracy Theories hazards the guess that — assuming the 042-xx-xxxx number really is Obama's — the president "got his SSN as a child living in Indonesia and the application was just processed in Connecticut."

Will this theory catch on?
"It’s currently making its way up the Google trends hot list," says Glynnis MacNichol at Mediaite, and "it might be just the sort of thing to bubble up on cable news between segments as a 'you decide' filler once people get tired of the depressing BP oil video."

Sources: Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Honolulu Advertiser, WND, Associated Content (2), Mediaite, ObamaConspiracy.org

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week