Saturday, July 05, 2008

Natural born 

For the sake of the country, I hope the Obama campaign can demonstrate that it did not, in fact, use a forgery to "prove" that Barack Obama is a "natural born citizen" within the meaning of the Constitution. The story, which is scary in its detail if you dig through the links, raises a question: Do citizens have standing to sue to enforce the "natural born citizen" requirement? If so, one would think that the rules of discovery would allow a plaintiff to get to the bottom of this question fairly quickly.

MORE: Doug Ross has much more here.

To be clear (in case I was not), I do not think that it would be good for anybody, including Republicans, if it turned out that Barack Obama was not "natural born" under the law. What a mess that would be for the whole country. However, if it is true that the Obama campaign released a forgery to combat the "smear" that Obama was not natural born, we should consider that to be a serious issue. Not only might it be a crime (is it ever lawful to forge a government document?), but it would strongly suggest that Obama is letting the call of destiny go to his head. That's never good.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 05, 10:43:00 PM:

To be allowed on a ballot, don't the various states ask for proof the candidate meets constitutional qualification standards? Is it possible every single state took his word for it? Can it be true you have to produce more ID to get into college than to run for President?  

By Blogger Donna B., at Sun Jul 06, 01:02:00 AM:

Then what ID did Obama use to get into college?

I'm really stunned by even the possibility that he might not be a U.S. citizen by birth. That really does boggle the mind.

As a genealogist though, I think it ought to be quite easy to provide a birth certificate.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Sun Jul 06, 02:00:00 AM:

Maybe I'm a little fuzzy on what the Constitutional definition of "natural born citizen" is. I always took it to mean you were automatically a US citizen at birth. Am I wrong? Would someone like my older brother, or one of my younger sisters, born of American citizen parents in Germany (due to my father's service in the US Army) not be considered a "natural born citizen"? I had also always thought that so long as one parent was a US citizen, the child was granted/given US citizenship at birth. Does that not hold if the child is not born within the US states and/or territories? I honestly don't know. It is an interesting issue, and I'll be very interested to see what comes of it...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 04:58:00 AM:

For the law on this issue beyond the amendment Obama has pointed to on his site you need to look at 8 USC 1401 for the legal requirements.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 06:50:00 AM:

This is a troubling matter. Certainly someone within the Executive branch has the authority to verify claims of eligibility for the office of President. I would think either the Secret Service or the FBI to be the natural choices, but something ought to be done ASAP to resolve this. We don't need a constitutional crisis to produce "Hillary Returns to 1600", and who needs another 4 years of the Dems whining about the popular vote, etc.?

BTW, quotecritter, I believe that there is an inconsistency between the citation you've given and the law as it stood at the date of BHO's putative birth in 1962(?), and that the law as it stood then would determine his citizenship. That may be important because possibly there were longer waiting periods at that time which would make him a naturalized citizen (if a citizen at all) as of today.

I read warnings that this could be some sort of "trap" by the BHO camp, but I don't believe that should deter fair-minded researchers. Of course, BHO could settle this all by simply providing a legitimate birth certificate on his own or even by indicating to which federal office he has submitted one as proof of his citizenship. All of the common people have to do that on occasion and we seem to be able to mount sufficient organizational talent to get it done.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 08:23:00 AM:

If being born in this country to a woman who is/was (she's deceased) a US citizen doesn't automatically confer US citizenship then why do people run across the US-Mexican border in order to birth their babies here? The babies to whom the law treats as citizens for purposes of all sorts of benefits. What am I missing?

This is a silly issue with respect to BHO. As you note, Hawk, we had better have some better arguments than this in order to defeat this guy in November.  

By Blogger Elise, at Sun Jul 06, 08:54:00 AM:

I admit I'm not up on Obama biography (I'm still fuzzy on whether his parents and step-parents are alive and how many half-siblings he has) but I'm pretty sure he spent time in Indonesia before returning to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. That would mean he had to have a passport - probably to get into Indonesia and certainly to get back into Hawaii. It seems to me that argues for him having some proof of US citizenship - unless someone wants to argue he was traveling on a passport issued by another country which just gets too bizarre for me.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 11:42:00 AM:

I am puzzled by the reaction of those who think this is a small issue. Why should someone be a "natural born" citizen under the law to become President? Because that's the way the rule is written. If you don't like the rule, work to change it. But let's not just pretend it away because it's inconvenient! Obama is able to request the State of Hawaii to provide him with a certified copy of his correct birth certificate and he should do this.

The one he posted on his website appears to be a fake, and a clumsy fake at that. He needs to clear this up immediately, and not just to dispel this as a political issue (which it really isn't, at this stage) but instead to prove that he is actually able to stand for election under the law. Very simple, really.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Jul 06, 12:08:00 PM:

Do 5 year old children really have passports issued them?

And according to Wiki, you are only a natural born citizen when born abroad if both parents are citizens of the US. Other permutations are legally grey.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Jul 06, 02:26:00 PM:

DF82 - One of my close friends has been with a major cruise line for 20 years, and when his kids were five or younger, he and his wife would take their kids along on a cruise at least once a year, and yes, the kids did have passports. The passports have to be renewed more frequently than adult passports (because the picture ID should have some similarity to the holder, and a seven year old boy will look quite different from the same boy at sixteen).

I clicked through to the Doug Ross site that TH included above, and that site has links to the israelinsider site that seems to have done most of the heavy lifting on this matter, and that site has quite a breathless tone to it. Yes, it is troubling that someone (presumably not terribly senior) in the Obama campaign put up a scan of a document online without making sure that it was 100% verifiably real (and may have actually doctored it). But does anyone really believe Ann Dunham left the state to have her first child (and I am not sure that citizenship wouldn't flow to Obama even if he were born in Micronesia or Mexico, because his mother was "too young" to satisfy the requirement cited by israelinsider of 5 continuous years after the age of 14 spent in the U.S.)? Obama's mom was a citizen, she spent her first 18 years on U.S. soil, members of her family fought in WWII -- come on, this is getting to be a weird issue, just like those on the left who questioned McCain about being born in the Canal Zone. Unless you believe that Obama is some sort of left-wing version of a The Boys From Brazil genetic experiment, using DNA from Karl Marx and Patrice Lumumba, this issue looks pretty far out there. The Obama campaign should get one of its senior lawyers (with a family member, perhaps Michelle [assuming the marriage ceremony officiated by Rev. Wright is legal enough to satisfy the state bureaucrats in Honolulu] to make the official request) to jump through the right hoops with the State of Hawaii to make this all go away.  

By Blogger Elise, at Sun Jul 06, 03:11:00 PM:

According to the State Department: “All children regardless of age (including newborns and infants) must have their own passport.” I’ll play fair and say that if I remember correctly this was not always the case: at one time the United States allowed children to travel on a parent’s passport. I don’t know when the law changed (Google is refusing to cough up the info) and I don’t know at what age children were required to get their own passport.

However, this whole issue has forced me to do some biographical investigation. Barack Obama moved to Indonesia at age 6 and returned to the United States at age 10. My guess is that by age 10 he would have been required to have his own passport.

Even if that is not the case, however, the Wikipedia entry on his early life and career says “In mid-1988, he traveled for the first time to Europe for three weeks then Kenya for five weeks” and also “Obama and his wife, Michelle, traveled to Bali” so he could work on Dreams of my Father. Obama was 27 when he traveled to Europe and Kenya and older still when he traveled to Bali.

He must have had a passport for his foreign travel as an adult. I suppose it’s possible he was issued a US passport when he shouldn’t have been or even that he was traveling on a non-US passport. If people really want to pursue this, one avenue might be to see if passport records relating to issuance and travel would be subject to a Freedom of Information Act request.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Jul 06, 03:55:00 PM:

For those who want to wade further into the detail, this blogger, no Obama fan, by the way, has a decent de-bunking of the fake birth certificate dust-up.

Via a Hot Air headline.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 04:26:00 PM:

I'm not a natural-born citizen, I was delivered by Caesarian section. Drat, now I'll never be President.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 05:30:00 PM:

Hey Nutcases! This guy has thoroughly disproven the right-wing "forgery" claims. You can move along to other craziness now. Did you hear that Obama is going to enslave all the whites? Film at 11! Ha ha ha!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 07:02:00 PM:

"To be clear (in case I was not), I do not think that it would be good for anybody, including Republicans, if it turned out that Barack Obama was not "natural born" under the law."

But you do think it would be a good idea to talk nonsense about that without once ever bothering to look up that law and see that his birth certificate is irrelevant.

Just like John McCain's, who was born in Panama.

Obama could have been born in Antarctica. His mother's residency still means he is a natural born citizen under the law. As per result #1 if you ever bother googling "constitution president citizen".

Now, what is John McCain hiding ?
I don't believe he's responded to any requests to release his birth certifcate. Think that'd be as big of a problem ? Of course you don't. It's a very transparent surrogate issue.  

By Blogger Elise, at Mon Jul 07, 11:23:00 AM:


I believe this issue is a distraction and I think the Strata-Sphere link provided by Escort81 does a good job debunking all of this and I hope it never comes up again. However, I also believe misinformation is likely to keep this whole mess alive - there’s nothing like claims of “see, they’re twisting the facts” to keep the wheels turning. Unfortuntely, your post isn’t correct in claiming that the law renders Obama’s birth certificate irrelevant.

I did as you suggest and Googled: constitutution president citizen. The first thing I found was this article. It certainly seems to support your contention that, “Obama could have been born in Antarctica. His mother's residency still means he is a natural born citizen under the law.” since it says:

Currently, Title 8 of the U.S. Code fills in those gaps. Section 1401 defines the following as people who are "citizens of the United States at birth:...
Any one born outside the United States, if one parent is an alien and as long as the other parent is a citizen of the U.S. who lived in the U.S. for at least five years (with military and diplomatic service included in this time)

Following my unbreakable “Always click on the link” rule, however, I actually went and looked at Section 1401. The relevant portion of that says (emphasis mine):

(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years...

Still sounds like Obama is fine but there’s a problem. The physical presence requirement changed in 1986 - long after Obama was born (emphasis mine):

Prior to 14 November 1986, the physical presence requirement in this case was ten years (instead of five) -- including five years (instead of two) spent after the parent's 14th birthday. The requirement was reduced in 1986, but the change did not retroactively make US citizenship available to people born previously who did not meet the old requirement. (Congress's intent not to make this change retroactive was affirmed in 1988 with the passage of Public Law 100-525, § 8(d), 102 Stat. 2619).

Since Obama’s mother was only 18 when he was born, there is no way she could have met the “five years after 14th birthday” physical presence requirement in effect when he was born. Therefore, it’s pretty clear that if Obama was born outside the United States - which I consider incredibly unlikely (he has a passport)- he would not qualify as a “natural born citizen”.

John McCain, incidentally, is covered under another clause of Section 1401:

(c) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;

When both parents are United States citizens there is no physical presence requirement.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 07, 01:03:00 PM:

Thank you, Elise, for covering in full the point about the change in the law.

I remain curious about how this provision of the Constitution gets enforced in everyday life. Senators and Congressmen do not have to be natural born citizens, so it seems apparent that neither McCain nor BHO has necessarily had to provide proof of their qualification on that ground before. Similarly, it is not necessary to be a natural born citizen to have a passport. Passport issuers would have no interest in that aspect of one's citizenship.

In the past, it has clearly been less likely that an individual of any race or gender running for the office of POTUS would be subject to an inquiry of this sort. However, since the advent of widely available air travel in the 50's and with the vast numbers of immigrants who have settled in the U.S. both legally and illegally in the same time frame, it is certainly a question about which an honest inquiry is understandable. And I, for one, am unconvinced that a passport issuing office is as qualified to detect irregularities in documents as might be a real document expert.

I'm going to do some further research and will post results here if I turn up anything definitive. In the meantime, if anyone out there knows the answer, please post it here as well.

I believe that candidates of the major parties should have to be vetted on natural born citizenship by an appropriate federal agency in the future, if not now,and that such vetting should precede their announcement of their candidacies.  

By Blogger Elise, at Mon Jul 07, 01:18:00 PM:


I'll be interested to see if you turn up anything. As far as I know, there is no citizenship vetting process for any office. For example, even though Senators and Representatives have to be citizens (not necessarily natural born), I would be surprised if anyone is checking documentation when they run. It does seem likely that - as we become more "global" - the question will arise more often and some formal vetting process may be developed.

As for the passport issue, no, you do not have to be "natural born" to get a US passport but you do have to be a citizen. If Obama was not born a citizen he must have been naturalized at some point in order to get a US passport and I think that would be even harder to cover up than his mother leaving the country to give birth. Or, as you imply, Obama could have gotten his passport used flawed documents.

It just all seems so unlikely to me. But it's the kind of interesting little problem that can eat up hours of time quite enjoyably. I always say there's nothing like a good obsession to make life fun. (I personally have a fatal weakness for picking apart studies and statistics.)  

By Blogger Consul-At-Arms, at Thu Jul 10, 02:12:00 AM:

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2008/07/re-natural-born.html  

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