Worse Than The Arugula

I previously wrote about the rather silly theory that John McCain is constitutionally ineligible to be President. That theory depended on a particular interpretation of a particular law concerning the Panama Canal Zone and its relationship to the United States. Now, a counter theory was recently circulated to me by e-mail, the core of which reads:

The first hurdle will be having Obama produce his birth certificate, which so far he has refused to do, and prove that he was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, as he has always claimed. There is speculation that his American mother may have brought him to Honolulu shortly after his birth in Kenya, but no proof of that has been shown. According to the law on the books at the time of Obama’s birth, the office of president requires that a candidate be a natural born citizen if the child was not born to two U.S. Citizen parents. Since he was not, should it be proven that Obama was not born in Hawaii, as claimed, he is ineligible without further debate. But assuming that he was born there, he has another problem. According to a legal researcher who has contacted AFP, U.S. Law very clearly states: ‘If only one parent is a U.S. Citizen at the time of one’s birth, that parent must have resided in the United States for a minimum of 10 years, five of which must be after the age of 16.’ And therein lies Obama’s new problem. Barack Obama’s father was never a U.S. Citizen. Interestingly, there isn’t much paperwork on the marriage of Obama’s parents, and this has a few researchers speculating that it never took place at all. On page 27 of Obama: From Promise to Power, David Mendell writes: ‘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.’ He also notes 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. This also would suggest that there may never have been any legal marriage by Obama’s parents at all, but the Constitution does not ban an illegitimate child from the White House, as long as he was born inside the U.S. Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and was only 18 when Obama was born. This means even though she satisfies the citizen requirement for 10 years, she was not a citizen for at least five years prior to Barack Obama’s birth. In essence, the mother alone is not old enough to qualify her son for automatic U.S. Citizenship. At most, two years elapsed from his mother turning 16 to the time of Barack Obama’s birth when she was 18. His mother would have needed to have been 16 + 5 = 21 years old at the time of Barack Obama’s birth for him to be a natural-born citizen. Barack Obama was already three years old at the time his mother turned 21. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, the theory is that Obama is constitutionally ineligible, either because he was born in Kenya (which he was not) or because of a bizarre legaly theory that because his mother was 18 and his father was not a citizen, he was not given automatic citizenship despite having been born in the United States. The author claims that production of Obama’s original Hawaiian birth certificate would resolve the problem in Obama’s favor, but that document has not been forthcoming — which is inconsistent with the theory that the child of a citizen and a foreign national is only a citizen if the citizen parent had been a citizen for at least five years after her sixteenth birthday.

The burden of proof of a proposition rests by default with the proponent of that proposition. So if you want to suggest that Obama was not born in Hawaii but instead was born in Kenya, then you need to go find the evidence to prove it. The absence of an original Hawaiian birth certificate does not carry that burden of proof. The existence of an original Kenyan birth certificate might do so. Credible eyewitness testimony might do so. I don’t know what evidence there might be, exactly, but it’s not for Obama to prove he was not born in Kenya.

The theory overreaches. If Obama was born in Kenya, he was presumptively a Kenyan citizen and in order to have been elected a United States Senator, he must have “been nine years a citizen of the United States.” (Article I, section 3). We know that Obama has never naturalized. We also know that no one has challenged the constitutionality of his holding the office of United States Senator. But if this argument is correct, not only is Obama not eligible to be President, he shouldn’t even be a Senator. But he has been a Senator, for four years. No one — not his original opponent, the well-financed if somewhat pervy Jack Ryan, nor substitute Republican nominee and certifiable wingnut Alan Keyes, nor any of Obama’s primary opponents in 2004, ever floated that theory in a desperate attempt to keep Obama from gaining election to the Senate. All of them had every incentive and ability to present such a theory.

When a theory is too looney for Alan Keyes to offer it, that tells you something about its credibility.

To the true believer, the one who thinks Obama is a genuine threat to the nation, the theory is unnecessary and no amount of evidence will persuade such a person from their fanatical belief anyway. Can you prove that you weren’t born in Kenya to someone who fanatically insists that you were? Sure, you might have a birth certificate from some non-Kenyan location, but that’s just a piece of paper, after all, and it might be a forgery. And even if you could prove it wasn’t a forgery, you are going to have a hard time proving that the birth documented in that certificate was you, as opposed to someone else who happens to have the same name that you used as a child.

Here’s the law: a baby born on American soil is an American citizen. It’s been that way since the Fourteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution. Congress cannot change or override that law.

The Panama Canal Zone was American soil in 1937. Hawaii was American soil in 1961. Both of these men are citizens by birth. Both of these men are constitutionally eligible to be President. No matter what you think of the policies that either of them would pursue or implement, the Republic has proven yet strong enough to survive eight years of George W. Bush the false conservative, and there is no reason to believe that our nation cannot survive four or eight years of either a McCain or an Obama Administration.

Here’s the rule. If you like one guy or the other better, then go ahead and say why. But leave the wingnuttery aside.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.