I thought I’d make a clarifying statement, since there seems to have been a little confusion:
I don’t really think that Obama was born in Kenya. I think that the First Lady mis-spoke (intentionally or through poor word choice) when using the phrase “home country.” However, I do believe that there are reasons, beyond racism, to question whether or not he meets the “natural born citizen” qualification for POTUS. For the record: I believe the same about John McCain. My belief is that, barring clarification by the courts of the definition of “natural born citizen,” both main parties ran, likely without realizing it, unqualified primary candidates.
Y’see, all legal usage of the term “natural born citizen,” in this country and in English Common Law (where the term was taken from), suggest that a Natural Born Citizen is somebody who, by virtue of birth, owes no loyalty or fealty to any other nation. In other words: You hold no other citizenship at the moment you are born.
At birth, citizenship is acquired in one of two ways (and, bear in mind, my legalese is horrible, so I may be misspelling these). jus soli or jus sanguinis. IE – through location, or through blood. Put simply, when you are born, you are considered a citizen of the nation in which you are born, and the nation to which your father is a citizen.
So, if you were born in Panama to a US military man, you are considered a born citizen of both Panama and of the US.
If you were born in the US to a Kenyan father, you are considered a born citizen of both the US, and of Kenya.
Now, this can be complicated when no treaties exist to govern dual citizenship. In those cases, there can be contradictory laws. For example: the 14th Amendment states that all people born on US soil are US citizens. Simple, right? Well… the Kenyan constitution states that all children born to Kenyan citizens are Kenyan citizens. Who wins?
Similarly, US military bases are not actually considered US soil for the purposes of the 14th Amendment, according to the State Department. So being born on a US military base does not automatically make one a US citizen (though jus sanguinis, presumably, still applies). The bigger problem for all these arguments, however, is that very few, if any, of these laws state that one is a natural born citizen – merely a citizen. So the question exists: What’s the difference?
The courts have never decided. Indeed, nowhere in the Constitution is any branch of the Federal Government told what constitutes being a natural born citizen, to this date – nor is it given the power to determine what does. Therefore, by the 10th Amendment, it falls on the states to define what a natural born citizen is for that state… which, to the best of my knowledge, no state has ever done.
Therefore, the question still exists, what constitutes being a natural born citizen? Without governing legal precedent in this nation, there are a handful of arguments:
1: All individuals who are born with US citizenship.
2: All individuals who are born only with US citizenship, and have no ‘natural’ loyalty to another nation, via jus soli or jus sanguinis.
If we assume 1, then we assume that it is possible to be born in a foreign nation (say, oh, China), be raised there, come to the US on your 35th birthday (already a citizen via jus sanguinis), and become President the day you arrive. Highly unlikely, but legal according to the Constitution.
However, it is not possible for any naturalized citizen – even one who sought political asylum here because of the oppressive regime of your native land – to become President, because it is assumed that you cannot escape having a natural loyalty to the nation of your birth, even if you hate it deeply.
If we assume the second, then it is only possible for people born with no other citizenship status – ie, only those with no “natural” loyalty to any other nation – to become POTUS. This would still have allowed, say, Lee Harvey Oswald to become president, but there you have it. This interpretation is also the one that seems to have been used historically, in the precedent of the legal system from which we established the term. Therefore, without further precedent to draw on, this is the interpretation that must be presumed to prevail.
What’s the point of all this? There are legitimate questions regarding the eligibility of both major candidates that ran in 2008. These questions have been consistently avoided by the courts. There are “birthers” who agree with my general thesis – that neither candidate was qualified, under the Constitution, for the job.
How can these questions be remedied? Fairly easily.
A: The Courts can rule on what a “natural born citizen” is.
B: The States can pass their own interpretations of what a “natural born citizen” is.
C: The Constitution can be amended to define what a “natural born citizen” is. Yeah, that’s a harder one, but it’s a simpler amendment to pass than most – you’re not creating new rights, you’re not taking rights away, you’re simply saying that “these words mean this.” Similar to an amendment requiring that the VP, since he could end up serving as POTUS, must be qualified to serve as the POTUS as well. Which we’ve already got.
I would prefer the solutions in the reverse order of what I’ve listed them, honestly, but I’ve listed them in the order I suspect is most likely to happen.
Alternately, you could ’simply’ amend the Constitution to remove the word ‘natural born’ from the Presidential requirements, as many people would like to.
But the fact is: None of these have happened. Therefore, there are legitimate questions that need to be answered. These questions are not motivated by racism – as you’ll see, I question the legitimate candidacy of both Obama and of McCain. I am not alone in this concern. I suspect that the vast majority of the “birthers” would be satisfied if any of those solutions were to happen – if somebody were to say, in law, “this is what it means to be a natural born citizen, and Obama does count,” and therefore establish what the heck the words mean. I certainly would be.
The interpretation of law is all about the interpretation of language. I give you another President, who famously quibbled over the definition of the word “is.”
Racial motivations are behind some of the people who would like to see Obama retroactively DQ’d for office, I’m sure. Political motivations are behind even more of them. However, to paint all the people who are simply insisting that some proof be given that he meets the current given understanding of what “natural born citizen” means legally as racists is to demonize them – to suggest that their motivation is simply because he’s black, and that no other evidence exists to suggest he might not actually be a natural born citizen.
Current legal understanding of the phrase, combined with US and Kenyan law, suggests that there is a need for clarification.
Things like the video I linked to prove that there are things that must be explained, even if they can be explained easily. For example: “I was trying to burnish my husband’s ’street cred’ as being ’suitably black,’ despite not sharing a history of ancestral slavery with the majority of the US black population. I misspoke.” There. Done. Explained away. Hell, how about this? “I was reading the speech I was given. The guy who wrote it was a moron. Kenya is not his homeland, never has been – he wasn’t born there, his father was. It’s his ancestral homeland, but not actually his.” There. Done.
Still leaves us with questions as to the legal definition of ‘natural born citizen,’ but that’s something that the First Lady can’t explain away herself.
However, it’s easier to create an “us versus them” mentality – more politically expedient. That’s why Joe Stack was obviously a right-wing conservative nutball who flew his plane into an IRS building. Despite being a card-carrying registered Democrat. That’s why the Hutaree are all, to a man, right-wing conservative militia whackjobs. Despite at least one of them being a registered Democrat. That’s why it was impossible that Nidal Malik Hasan could have been motivated by radical Islam, despite shouting “Allahu el Akbar” while he was shooting down soldiers. That’s why James von Brunn was only a white supremacist, not a white supremacist with a long history of radical socialist/communist writings. It’s why “tea party” protestors against the health care bill reportedly shouted racial and homophobic slurs at lawmakers… despite absolutely zero evidence of that happening, including the statements of other black lawmakers dealing with the protests. It’s why “Tea Party” supporters are ‘obviously’ in league with the militias, despite the fact that they simply aren’t. It’s why the militias are inherently bad and evil, despite the fact that they’re called for in the Constitution. It’s why blacks are universally anti-white, dangerous, unintelligent drunkards… despite the fact that the vast majority of them that *I* know are highly intelligent, reasonable, friendly people who’ve made more of an effort to get to know their employees – mostly white employees – than any of my previous employers have – including the white ones.
For the record – refuted statements up above do not reflect my politics, they reflect the politics of the people that I’ve been dealing with for the last few months. Especially that last one. Gyeah.
“Us versus them” is politically expedient. It’s easier to manipulate people who you’ve convinced are On The Right Side, when the other people are people that they’ve been convinced are On The Wrong Side. Last administration did it, current administration is doing it, every administration has been doing it for over a hundred and forty years.
It’s binary thought – We Are Right, They Are Wrong. Read back in my archives a ways if you want my opinion of this – I call it binary thought disorder for a reason. If there’s one thing that I wish I could do, it’s break down the freakin’ monoliths that people have created. Not all Republicans are God-fearing homophobes washing their white sheets on the weekends before the Klan meeting – the majority of them aren’t! Not all Democrats are atheistic heterophobes who want to destroy Capitalism – the majority of them aren’t!
The majority of the people in power, either party, are people who want power, for whatever reason. Generally, I’m afraid, for reasons they believe are good ones – they sincerely believe that they know better than the people who chose them. Now, you figure that one out. “I was selected by the people. Therefore, I know better than they do. The morons who elected me are actively wrong about how the country should be run. That’s why they chose me.” What sort of messianic arrogance does attitude require – whatever party you belong to?!?
Monoliths do not exist in politics. People are individuals – they have their own values that they place on things. Person A values the environment, therefore he wants to see a forest protected. Person B likes trees and animals well enough, but he places a higher value on money and the things it can buy him – therefore, he wants to see the forest clearcut so a factory can be built there. Person A isn’t “right” and Person B isn’t “:wrong.” Similarly, Person B isn’t “right” either. They simply have different goals, different desires. That’s where compromise comes into play – Person A could, for example, pay Person B for the land. Using that money, Person B can then go buy other land, build there, and possibly make a profit on the whole deal – everybody’s happy. Alternately, if Person A owns the land already, Person B could offer him enough money to overcome his desire to maintain the environment – enough to overcome the differential between their values. Or, if the differential is too high, Person B realizes that it won’t be profitable and moves to another piece of land.
Of course, these days, one side or the other would resort to lawsuits or eminent domain laws to pull it off, forcing their desires down the throat of the other without any serious efforts at compromise, probably with a group of other people on their side. It ends up taking years, pissing everybody off, and nobody walks away really happy… except for the trial lawyers involved, who’ve made a bundle off of it. Whoever ‘won’ would be gloating, but that’s not really being happy with it – that’s mugging for the camera and getting your 15 minutes of fame in the worst way you can, short of flying a plane into a building.
Yeah… you might notice I’m a little fixated on the Joe Stack incident. Blame the fact that I work in a tall building for the state tax agency, it’s got everybody a little edgy.
Anyways, I’ve rambled on long enough – off to go take another hit of Ny-quil and hope it’ll knock my sinuses back into alignment.