As Barack Obama settles into his role as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, his opponents on the right are circulating rumours questioning his eligibility to hold the highest office in American politics.

The controversy centres around whether or not Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, as his biography claims, or in Kenya, the birthplace of his late father, Barack Obama, Sr.

To date, the Obama campaign has refused requests to release a copy of the senator’s birth certificate.

According to the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Republican party operatives were sent to Kenya months ago to dig up any useful “dirt” on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, Jr.

Back in February WMR reported:

“Intelligence sources in Africa are reporting that amid the post-election turmoil wracking Kenya, a three-person team (including a possible Korean-American woman) arrived in Nairobi last week and began asking questions about Barack Obama’s father, the late Barack Obama, Sr.

“The team also inquired about the Senator Obama Secondary School in Nyangoma-Kogelo in northwestern Kenya, the area where Obama’s father, an ethnic Luo, hailed and where his grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango, still lives.”

In an update this week, WMR reported:

“It now appears that this same team traveled to Mombasa and dug up a certificate registering the birth of Barack Obama, Jr. to his father, a Kenyan citizen, and mother, an American citizen.”

The article then goes on to suggest that the Rebuplicans hope to use the information uncovered in Kenya to make the claim that Senator Obama is not eligible to become President of the United States because he was born in a foreign country.

If they can’t do that, at the very least, insiders seem to think it will plant the seed in the voter’s minds that Obama is a foreigner even if the charge is false.

There seems to be little proof to the charges that some on the right intend to make, but some expect that they will be part of a broader campaign by some conservative corners to raise questions about Barack Obama’s patriotism and ties going into the general election.

In stark contrast, however, one conservative pundit has offered Senator Obama some advice on quelling what he describes as the ‘unlikely’ rumours surrounding his birthplace that are gaining currency in conservative corners of the web.

Jim Geraghty of National Review Online’s Campaign Spot blog thinks Barack Obama would be well advised to simply release his birth certificate. One by one, Geraghty dissects the Obama birth certificate rumors as follows:

Rumour one: Obama was born in Kenya.

Rather unlikely, as it would require everyone in his family to lie about this in every interview and discussion with those outside the family since young Obama appeared on the scene. However, if it were true, it would probably raise a major question of “does he qualify as a natural-born citizen”? If Obama were born outside the United States, one could argue that he would not meet the legal definition of natural-born citizen under because U.S. law at the time of his birth required his natural-born parent (his mother) to have resided in the United States for “ten years, at least [five] of which had to be after the age of 16.”

Ann Dunham was 18 when Obama was born – so she wouldn’t have met the requirement of five years after the age of 16.

(Interestingly, apparently there isn’t much paperwork on Obama’s parents’ marriage. Obama: From Promise to Power, page. 27: “Obama later confessed that he never searched for the government documents on the marriage, although Madelyn (Obama’s maternal grandmother) insisted they were legally married.” Also note that Obama’s father apparently was not legally divorced from his first wife back in Kenya at the time, a point of contention that ultimately led to their separation.)

Rumour Two: Obama’s middle name is not “Hussein” but “Muhammad.”

As Politifact notes, all available public records going back to 1991 refer to the candidate as “Barack H. Obama.” It is theoretically possible, if not plausible, that Obama changed his name at some earlier point in his life, as he was sorting out his issues of culture and identity. But this would mean that Obama recognised how emotionally-charged the name “Muhammad” would become in American life long before the 9/11 attacks. And if you’re going to change your middle name from that of the central figure in Islam because you fear controversy, picking the last name of the highest-profile anti-American dictator in the Middle East (Saddam) doesn’t seem like a huge improvement.

Rumour Three: His mother did not want to name him after his father, and his birth certificate says ‘Barry.’

Perhaps the most plausible of the rumors, as Obama was known by that name through much of his childhood and young adulthood. If true, this would spur a new round of “When Barry Became Barack” stories – a minor headache for the campaign, but hardly a major scandal.

When Senator John McCain became the likely nominee to become Republican candidate for president, the birthplace question was previously used against him, albeit unsuccessfully.

The Senate wound up having to vote on Senator McCain’s status as a citizen to quiet the media back then and perhaps they may have to do it again for Senator Obama.

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