Barack Obama is ineligible to become president of the United States because he is not a “natural born citizen” according to the Constitution, having been born not in Hawaii, but in Mombassa, Kenya. Or perhaps, according to a developing theory in some circles, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Or maybe Obama was born in Hawaii, but he is ineligible because his mother wasn’t old enough to pass along citizenship to her offspring. Or perhaps the fact that his father was a foreign national holding Kenyan and British citizenships that he conferred to the future president-elect means these citizenships negated his “natural born citizen” status in the United States.
Or maybe Barack Hussein Obama Jr. was born a “natural born citizen,” but he lost his citizenship when his mother remarried Lolo Soetoro and they moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, which does not allow dual citizenship.
Am I missing anything?
In various courts, dozens of cases have been filed claiming that Barack Obama is not eligible to hold the presidency because of various alleged citizenship issues. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request to review one such case. Another case challenging Obama’s eligibility nearly identical to the first was immediately added to the Court’s docket for December 12, and yet another case looms in the wings.
What all these cases have in common is a sincere, often irrational belief that Barack Obama does not meet the Constitution’s minimal requirements to become president of the United States. Let’s look at those requirements and see if we can lay these to rest.
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of president; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.
Those are the only restrictions in the Constitution; everything else is statutory and easily changed in Congress by merely writing a new law.
Now, let’s look at the individual claims and see how they fare against the Constitution.
Obama is ineligible to be president because he was born outside the United States. If he was born outside the United States or U.S. territories, this might indeed have been a legitimate Constitutional issue. The problem with this theory is that no one has been able to provide any credible evidence that Barack Obama was born anywhere other than Hawaii. Claims that he was born in Kenya have been based on fanciful claims woven out of thin air and a faulty translation of a conversation with his grandmother purposefully taken out of context. There is no documentation or testimony to support this claim. None.
Obama’s mother wasn’t old enough to pass along her citizenship to Obama. This contention is based upon a belief that U.S. law stipulates that if only one parent was a citizen at the time of your birth, that parent must have resided in the United States for at least 10 years, at least five of which had to be after the age of 16. This was true between 1952 and 1986 — for people born outside of the United States and certain U.S. territories. As Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, a U.S. state, this isn’t remotely an issue.
Because Barack Obama Sr. was a Kenyan national and passed along citizenship rights to Barack Obama Jr., the president-elect could not qualify as a “natural born citizen.” This is the conjecture made in the case dismissed by the Supreme Court this past Monday and is the contention of the case likely to be dismissed out of hand next week. Barack Obama was born in the United States, which makes him a natural born citizen of the United States. Period. Any additional citizenship rights afforded him by other nations are in addition to his rights as a natural born U.S. citizen, and do not function in place of or take away from his U.S. citizenship.
Obama lost his U.S. citizenship when he moved to Indonesia and was adopted by his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. This is based upon the claim that Indonesia doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, and that when Obama was adopted as a minor by Lolo Soetoro, the future president-elect lost his U.S. citizenship. Variations of this theory claim that since there is no evidence that Obama was naturalized after returning to Hawaii, he is an illegal alien and can be deported. But this theory hinges on Indonesian immigration law overriding U.S. citizenship status in the United States, which it very clearly does not. U.S. law is very specific, stating that the only way a U.S. citizen can lose his citizenship is to renounce it following very specific steps:
- appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer;
- in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. embassy or consulate); and
- sign an oath of renunciation.
Barack Obama never renounced his U.S. citizenship. Also, as he was a minor when he moved to Indonesia, neither he nor his parents could have renounced it. Period. As far as U.S. law is concerned, Barack Obama never lost his U.S. citizenship even as he gained Indonesian citizenship. Indonesia’s laws on the matter simply don’t apply in this country.
And so while multiple lawsuits challenging his eligibility still have appeals left to be exhausted, the simple fact of the matter is that there is no credible evidence that Barack Obama is anything other than a U.S. citizen “natural born” in a Hawaiian hospital in 1961. As a result, none of the cases submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to be heard.
But will the quashing of the various legal challenges be enough to satisfy those that have bought into these unsupported theories?
If past conspiracy theories can be a guide, then “no.”
If, for example, the Supreme Court dismisses the remaining cases without hearing them, conspiracy theorists will argue that the justices of the Supreme Court are part of the plot — much as some liberals argued that the justices were part of a conspiracy to end the Florida recount and put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000. Even if the Court took the case, if they ruled against the case it would still be viewed as evidence that the justices were part of the plot. The only possible outcome for people of this mindset is a complete vindication of their viewpoint or “proof” of a wider conspiracy.
Some will argue — as I did earlier in the week — that Obama should, of his own volition, ask the state of Hawaii to release his long-form vault copy birth certificate to settle this matter once and for all. While the state doesn’t presently have a procedural mechanism in place to make the long-form copy available, it is merely a procedure, not a law, and the proper officials could waive procedural norms for this specific issue of national importance. Once produced, the singular, above-and-beyond release of Obama’s original birth certificate would eliminate all doubt of his citizenship from rational minds.
Even that may not be enough for some irrational souls, but those remaining would be such a small, marginalized group, that they could be easily be monitored by law enforcement.
After all, those black helicopters need something to do.