The latest Obama nontroversy continues, as conservatives continue to pick at his story that his great uncle helped liberate Buchenwald (yes, he said Auschwitz first, but once again I don’t think that’s a significant enough gaffe to give any measure of a crap about). The ironically titled Sweetness & Light blog is now claiming that a Charles W. Payne of Kansas, Obama’s alleged uncle, served in the Navy and couldn’t have been at Buchenwald.
The 89th Infantry Division of World War II web site, a site that honors the 89th division, claims that Charles T. Payne, Obama’s actual great uncle, served in Company K of the 355th Regiment of the division. A “Cigarskunk” from Sweetness & Light recently emailed Mark Kitchell, one of the site’s webmasters, claiming that the Kansas Historical Society’s index of WWII veterans only listed a Charles W. Payne, the name listed on some online geneology charts of Obama, as serving in the Navy.
Unfortunately, Cigarskunk’s logic is spurious at best. We know very little about Charles T. Payne or what his life was like before WWII. By sticking to the Kansas Historical Society, it’s assumed that Payne stayed in Kansas and enlisted in Kansas. It also assumes that the Kansas Historical Society’s records are complete and are missing no detail. If Charles T. Payne moved out of Kansas when he came of age and enlisted in another state, the entire argument is meaningless.
According to the National Archives, 157 Charles Paynes enlisted in the Army in World War II. Out of those, 6 are Charles T. Payne and 19 are Charles W. Payne. On top of those 25, another two Charles Paynes with different middle initials are listed on the Kansas Historical Society’s list as enlisting in the army.
Even if none of those are Obama’s great uncle, it doesn’t mean his story has been disproven. The National Archives recorded these records into their system from microfilm photographs taken of the original punch cards used by the U.S. Army. According to the National Archives, about 1.5 million (or 13%) of the punch cards could not be scanned into the database. On top of those, another 4 million (or 35%) have scanning errors. It’s not a perfect system, though it’s the best one we can have online after several generations of archiving. A Charles T. or Charles W. Payne of Kansas might be among those 1.5 million lost records, or changed to Charles A. or Charles H. Payne as the result of one of 4 million scanned errors. Or maybe he simply enlisted in another state. Perhaps they simply spelled his name wrong on the enlistment form. There are many, many possible reasons to explain this “controversy.”
I contacted the webmaster of the 89th Infantry Division site to see if I could get more information. He simply said that the site stands by its previous statement that Obama’s great uncle, Charles Thomas Payne, served in Company K of the 355rd Regiment of the 89th Infantry Division.
The sad thing is that people are taking this seriously as some sort of horrible sin committed by Obama. If you count this somehow as evidence that Barack Obama will make a bad president or that he is some sort of gaffe machine, I can only conclude that you’ve been comatose for the last decade.
Note from Hanlon: it really depresses me that an article like this is necessary. This is the kind of unbalanced see-saw politics has. An attack this completely off-base on McCain would never gain traction, even his legitimate speaking blunders are gone in a few days.