I recently had a long conversation with a Tea Party movement supporter in another State who told me that he considered the so-called "Birthers" to be "just plain nuts"... that's very nice... but for the fact that the leadership cadre of the Tea Partiers is fairly loaded with these crazies (I get e-mails on a semi-regular basis from various sectors of the Tea Party movement- many of these are press releases, people!- which allow me to make this claim). To be fair, this does not at all mean that the average, angry-at-Government, run of the mill, everyday rank-and-file Tea Partier is necessarily a Birther sporting a nice new 'Where's the Birth Certificate?' bumper sticker and, in addition, there are more than a few within the leadership of the movement who are genuinely concerned with the possibility that the Birthers will bring down the whole movement (though these tend to speak/write to me in an atmosphere "off the record", if not "deep background", as if- were it not for e-mail- we'd be meeting in a dark alley somewhere at 4 in the morning so that I could be handed a plain brown manila envelope containing these persons' concerns [which suggests to me what the reaction might well be among key players high up in the Tea Party 'thang' were these to then find out about all this!])...
yet, a Joseph Farah- among others- will be a featured speaker at something called the National Tea Party Unity Convention in Las Vegas this coming July (on the website for this fete, Farah is described as "a polarizing figure" at times whose "message of unity... will be well-received"-- hmmm-- "polarizing" and "unity", eh?-- and in Vegas, too!: this simply can't be good!!) but it should be noted that Farah spoke at a Tea Party gathering earlier this very year in which he declaimed "Some say I am obsessed with the birth certificate. In fact I am obsessed with the Constitution!" and then, days later, lashed out at what was said about his talk within what is known, among those who actually buy into this kind of silliness, as the MSM (which stands for "Mainstream Media"-- although so unnecessarily turning it into an acronym makes it sound the more sinister, doesn't it?... but, then again, I can say this as an INJ [Internet Journalist]... or WWWPC [Worldwide Web Political Commentator]... even better!... gets that whole Globalization "bogey-man" [the black helicopters!-- the black helicopters!!] and the initials of 'Political Correctness' [none dare call it Softball ;-)] in there)- to hear Farah himself tell it, wrongfully- opined that he had been openly questioning President Obama's citizenship.
Of course, here's the real deal (based on my own personal experiences and resultant intimate knowledge about Birth Certificates):
I, for one, happen to be a natural-born American citizen (if we presume that "natural born" here means native born-- that is, born in some place that is [or at least was, at the time of birth] legally part of the United States of America)... don't believe me?... then just ask me!
But let's just say I am, for some reason, required to prove my American nativity (using that word here with more meanings than one): how would *I* handle something along the same lines as the demands of Birthers that President Obama publicly provide his so-called "long form" Birth Certificate (or, as one Birther famously declared at a "town hall meeting" with her Congressman, a document "saying that I am an American citizen, with a seal on it, signed by a doctor, with a hospital administrator's name, my parents, my date of birth, the time, the date")?
I have, right in front of me as I now type this, a copy of my own original Birth Certificate, issued a little over a week after I had been born by the State of Connecticut: it is a negative image (white type on black background) but, yes, it includes the County and Town (every place in Connecticut, even an incorporated Municipality, is part of a Town [really, what elsewhere would be called a 'Township']) of my birth, my mother and father's name, the date and the time and, yes, indeed, the signature of the attending doctor (who signed the form which was submitted to the State 4 days after my birth) and, yes, it has a raised seal...
now for the "dirty little secret": this copy I am now looking at is the only existing copy of my original birth certificate! Neither the State of Connecticut, nor the City/Town of New Haven, nor what is now Yale-New Haven Medical Center (where I was born [as was, I might add, former President George W. Bush]) has a copy-- I know: I've checked over past years and decades (and, indeed, made a few phone calls and other inquiries to make sure of this fact in preparation for my writing this very piece). This means that if any of you out there wanted to get a copy of my original Birth Certificate, you could not get one (you're not getting mine!): more to the point, assuming I myself did not have this copy of my own, I would not be able to produce a copy of my original Birth Certificate because even *I* can't even get a copy of said original!
Even more to the point, were I ever to present my original Birth Certificate as proof of my identity, let alone my birth, I would thereafter be liable to arrest- in any American jurisdiction- for having committed a crime!
Now- rather obviously, in this day and age- I do have a Birth Certificate on file with the State of Connecticut (of which I also have a copy with seal in my own possession): this particular document was issued about a month before my 8th Birthday and it has quite a few anomalies, at least compared to the original one: first off, it is not signed by the physician attendant upon my first entry onto this here Third Planet from the Sun (how could he have so signed?); second, it lists my stepfather as my father (my biological father- whose name appears on my original Birth Certificate- is nowhere to be seen in this more recent document). What happened was that, after I was adopted by my stepfather through an adoption process in the requisite courts of New York City and State, the State of Connecticut issued me a new Birth Certificate with all new pertinent information and with all unchanged data carried over from the old one, then destroyed the old one!
However, it is so easy to see how Conspiracy Theories might possibly emerge regarding circumstances surrounding my own birth, as they certainly have regarding President Obama's: for my own birth, strictly as a matter of public record, can only be known from a document issued well after I was born, with no ability by an outsider to see the original on which it had been based, attested to only by the signature (likely, based on its appearance, mechanically created) of an obscure long-ago bureaucrat within the Connecticut Department of Health! In no wise does my current, legal Birth Certificate at all most fully adhere to the very requirements indicated by that Birther in "town hall meeting" from whom I quoted earlier in this piece. How, then, are my circumstances all that much different than those which have led to the hue and cry raised by Birthers regarding the legality of a Birth Certificate already publicly issued by the Obama campaign now more than two years ago, long before he even won his Party's presidential nomination?
But, then again, why would anyone- Birther or otherwise- even bother to look into the origins of my Birth Certificate (well, maybe now they might: if only to prove how "fair and objective" [in quotes here because these would be neither] they "really" are)-- as my Citizenship (just as is the case with my Patriotism) is beyond all reasonable question? Well, I miswrote (purposely) within the rhetorical question that ends the previous paragraph, for there are three circumstances that are much different between President Obama's situation and my own as regards our respective Birth Certificates:
1. President Obama was a candidate for, then won, the 2008 Democratic Party nomination for, then was elected, President of the United States;
2. Barack Hussein Obama is, arguably, at least as foreign-sounding (if not more foreign-sounding) a name- to most American ears- as is Richard Berg-Andersson;
3. Unlike myself- who at least passes for White- President Obama is, for all intents and purposes, Black (as the fact that his mother was White did absolutely nothing as regarded the perception of Obama's race by the vast majority of those Americans he encountered [and who, likely, were not even aware, at first, that he was of "mixed race"] while he was younger)!
For, had *I* been a serious contender for a Major Party's presidential nomination (which I will never be, but please bear with me here! [;-)]), my natural-born Citizenship would have never been questioned precisely because of how almost all Americans would surely perceive my race to be (though I've fooled you all, haven't I? [;-)]).
Indeed, let's be most blunt here: the Birthers are nothing if not about abject White Racism!
But, even leaving this aside, the Birthers are also not really all about the Constitution:
Joseph Farah may well forcefully say, "I am obsessed with the Constitution"... but so am *I* (and anyone perusing the data and verbiage found on this very website might well, where not also fairly, say 'a little too obsessed, frankly' [;-)]... not only with the Federal Constitution but with the State Constitutions as well!)... problem is: Farah, and those of his ilk, are- in reality, insofar as the Birther movement be concerned- only obsessed with one particular part of the U.S. Constitution- this being Article II, Section 1, clause 5 which reads as follows:
No person except a natural-born citizen... 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. (NOTE: the ellipsis herein simply glosses over a further requirement that a person have been a citizen of the United States at the time the Constitution had been originally adopted, rather a moot point unless one truly expects someone no younger than 258 years old to, somehow, emerge as a candidate for the Presidency come 2012! Interestingly, Alexander Hamilton- himself a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia- openly held that he would not be considered eligible for the Presidency, having been born in what is now the independent St. Kitts-Nevis [though it is rather unclear as to whether or not Hamilton himself considered himself so ineligible: he may merely have been assessing the political situation of the time- one, perhaps, in which a foreign-born man would not have been seriously considered for that High Office in any event], but the very wording of the Constitution itself suggests otherwise: "No person except a natural-born citizen, or" a U.S. citizen in 1789, it effectively reads-- and, after all, wasn't Hamilton already a U.S. citizen when he served in President Washington's Cabinet, not to also mention back when he was already representing his own New York State at that very Convention in Philadelphia?)
There is no question- Birth Certificate or no- that Barack Obama was at least 35 when he took the Oath of Office back on 20 January 2009 (unless you think the President to have been so prodigious a child as to have graduated with a degree from Columbia University while under the age of 8, or at most, 9!); there is also little, if any, question that Obama officially resided in the United States, before so being sworn in, continuously since at least 20 January 1995. The issue raised by the Birthers, then, solely revolves around the phrase "natural-born citizen" (thus, contrary to his own protestations, Farah- among other like Birthers- is questioning the President's citizenship! But, then, why should non-Birthers have sole monopoly on such intellectual dishonesty?).
First, as to the very meaning of the phrase: it goes back to Medieval Feudalism in England, by which one born into a family headed by one who, by virtue of feudal Tenancy in Land, owed allegiance to an overlord (said overlord himself owing allegiance-- ultimately-- to the King) was, by very birth, one who also, thereby, owed allegiance to- therefore, was under the jurisdiction of (thus, a subject of)- the King: such a person was said to be a "natural-born subject" (the term seems to have originally meant nothing more than that the very "nature" of the circumstances of such a person's birth made him such a subject of the King automatically-- the King's protection of that person [in return for which that person was to ever pledge allegiance to the King and, presumably, the King's heirs] was not specifically, formally, conveyed to that person at the start). When the concept of "nationality" began coming to the fore (in which England was now to be a 'Nation-State'), anyone born "under the King's allegiance" was, by the same token, a "natural-born" subject of the English (after the 1707 Act of Union, British) Crown (indeed, the very emergence of the term "Crown" was itself a depersonalization of the Kingship in such regards as this: the allegiance of the natural-born subject was, therefore, not to the King personally but to the Government-under-King that was [and still is, albeit currently under a Queen] "the Crown").
The Common Law early on established that anyone born in the King's "Dominions Beyond the Seas" owed the Crown such allegiance (and, by very definition, was- thereby- a "natural-born" subject of said Crown). Attempts to legally differentiate between home island and colonies (or even amongst colonies by virtue of whether or not a given colony was one born of conquest/cession or discovery/occupation or even formal annexation) all failed on the grounds that all lands brought under the post-1707 Union Jack were the King's Dominions (the only technical difference among colonies [as opposed to Great Britain proper] being that some colonies were, if only theoretically, held by the King personally while others- the vast majority- were held in the name of the Crown [thus, were administered by the Government of Ministers of the Crown instead of directly by Privy Council]; this technical difference, then, determined how- or even whether- Parliament at Westminster could regulate a given colony... but none of this at all affected the rights and liberties/duties and obligations of a "natural-born" Englishman anywhere within the King's Dominions: all "natural-born" subjects of the Crown brought into the world outside Britain legally/constitutionally had the same status of nationality/citizenship as did those born in England, Wales or Scotland [indeed, one of the main political/constitutional powder kegs lit by the American Revolution was the very claim that Parliament- and, later, the Crown (if not even King George III himself!)- was purposefully denying American colonists- as much citizens of the nascent British Empire as those in Great Britain- their due Rights as Englishmen!]).
Thus, it is rather obvious that most, if not all, of those who framed the United States Constitution in 1787 had a fairly clear understanding of just what "natural-born" had meant under that English Law which the Americans had inherited: prior to 4 July 1776, it legally meant "a person born within the King's Dominions, thus owing allegiance to the British Crown"; although, after that date, the idea- quite obviously- gets rather muddled on this side of the Atlantic: was allegiance now to be owed to the State or to the new American Confederation (at least once the Articles of same had finally been ratified in 1781) or even both? The dangerous confusion over this issue of "to what- if not also whom- the allegiance?" was at least one of the things the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia sought to all the much better address.
In the end, the Constitutional Convention effectively decided that one's being "natural-born" was by virtue of having been born in a State (only later would there be Territories with which the United States would then have to deal [and, at least at first, the British concept- that being (or not being) born in a Sovereignty's (in this case, that of the United States of America) "Dominions" alone determined nationality/allegiance, thus citizenship- would prevail: thus, during the earlier decades of the American Union, a person born in a U.S. Territory was no less a "natural-born" citizen than one born in a State of that very Union]), though this was not at all explicitly stated in the Constitution's text. However, participation in Federal Elections (choosing one's member of the Federal House of Representatives and, where this might be allowed, "appointing"- either directly or indirectly- Electors for President) was based on State qualifications, for example and, from this, it can be easily inferred that- as far as the original text of the Constitution is concerned, at least- you were a citizen of the United States only through also being a citizen of a State.
Yes, it is true that Article I, Section 8, clause 4 provided that Congress shall have power [t]o establish an uniform rule of naturalization ("Naturalization", of course, simply means the process of making someone not "natural-born" a citizen no less equal to the "natural-born" one-- with one obvious exception: one cannot possibly change the place of one's birth!) but note well that, while Congress had- as it still has- primary constitutional power to regulate Naturalization, it was not at all required to do so! In any event, once so naturalized, the new citizen would then be ever subject to the whims of State qualifications (for voting, access to the courts, etc.): not until the adoption of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after the Civil War would there be a clear, specific statement that [a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. Until 1868, when this became part of the Federal Constitution, all the naturalized citizen had was "State jurisdiction"! (Note also that the institution of the decennial Census in Article I, Section 2, clause 3 says nothing about citizenship per se, merely speaking of counting "free persons" [specifically separating "Indians not taxed" from this category] with those persons not free [by implication] only counting as 3/5 a free person [the case until the 13th Amendment ratified in 1865 finally put an end- if only de jure (de facto would, in all too many cases, take quite a bit longer)- to this altogether sorry charade]).
With knowledge of just what "natural-born" meant to those gathered in the old Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) that Summer of 1787, we now have to look at just how they did what they did:
Given that the Constitution would be finally, and formally, adopted in toto by the Convention come 17 September of that year, it is rather surprising to consider that the Convention did not even begin to seriously address the actual qualifications for what would become the Nation's Highest Office until but exactly four weeks earlier- on 20 August 1787. On that date, Elbridge Gerry (nowadays far more famous for having involuntarily given his name to the infamous "gerrymander" than he is for later having been Vice-President of the United States or, much earlier, a delegate to this very Constitutional Convention) moved a resolution that the Committee of Detail (already meeting to cobble together the first rough draft of the proposed document from all that had been approved by the Convention thus far) report back to the Convention on qualifications for President of the United States, a resolution that was seconded and adopted apparently with no objection and no vote (thus, why the qualifications for President were what they were originally to be is lost to those perusing information gleaned from the proceedings of the Convention itself).
Two days later, the Committee reported out the following basic qualifications: a minimum age of 35 and citizenship for 21 years (quite simply, the Committee had added 5 years to the minimum age to be a U.S. Senator- itself 5 years older than that for member of the House- and trebled the citizenship requirement for House membership). Nothing seems to have been done about this on the floor of the Convention itself, however, and so these requirements were passed along, unchanged, to the Committee on Unfinished Portions which, on 4 September, reported out qualifications for the Presidency consisting of a minimum age of 35 (as before), 14 years of residence (note, not citizenship!: the actual length of time being merely double the citizenship requirement for membership in the House), being either a "natural-born" citizen "of the United States" (given what I have already written above as regards citizenship prior to the 14th Amendment, "United States" is undoubtedly to be read here in the plural) or (the very phrase I touched on earlier) such citizenship, "natural-born" or not, as of the time the Constitution first became effective (this last is thought to have been strongly influenced by due consideration of the words of delegate James Wilson who, back on 9 August 1787, and in response to a statement on the floor of the Convention regarding the fear that the Senate might become excessively populated with "foreigners", shot back that he would be "embarrassed" to have helped draft a Constitution that effectively prevented himself from ever holding office under it [Wilson was a native of Scotland: he was to be one of the first Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court-- as is the case with Alexander Hamilton, Wilson would, thereby, have also been eligible to serve as President of the United States, by the way]).
The 4 September language was approved without debate three days later and sent on to the Committee on Style which, with a few minor changes which in no way alter the essential sense of these qualifications, included it in the final text of the Constitution as adopted, as aforesaid, on 17 September 1787.
Thus, we have the constitutional provision that the President of the United States (at least once no member of the generation of those born outside the United States who could yet become citizens before the Constitution took practical effect come 4 March 1789 was any longer walking the Earth) must be a "natural-born citizen", someone born within the allegiance- in lands that are among the "dominions"- of the United States of America. Obviously, then, it follows that- if it can be proved that President Obama had not been born within said "dominions" which would, by virtue of being said "dominions", owe allegiance to the United States Constitution (the Constitution being the equivalent of the British Crown in this regard: as I myself have said before on this very website-- no Crown? then no United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland [or, for that matter, no Queen of Australia, Queen of Canada, Queen of Jamaica, Queen of Alexander Hamilton's native St. Kitts-Nevis, etc. etc.]-- no Federal Constitution? then no United States of America!), he would not, then, be eligible to be elected, let alone serve, as President of the United States...
but only if this be determined before President Obama were elected!...
for the issue here is not at all joined by a ragged bunch of the self-proclaimed, where not also self-anointed, going around asking "Where's the Birth Certificate (a Birth Certificate, by the way, that may well not even exist in the form in which the Birthers themselves demand it, as I've discussed above as regards my own situation)?"; rather, the issue is one involving how one might constitutionally so prove and, again, do so before Obama could possibly be declared elected President, per the very provisions of that same Constitution, in the first place! And it is here that Birthers such as Joseph Farah conveniently ignore those parts of the Constitution which do not at all fit in with their all too peculiar political agenda:
Via e-mail a few months ago, I asked a Birther (who is also active in the Tea Party movement)- someone who has been e-mailing me about this issue (and someone with whom I have had cyber-contact going back to the earliest days of 'The Green Papers', so he has already well established his bona fides with me) just what he expected would happen should it be discovered that, no, President Obama was not born on American soil and his response was that "the President should resign immediately" (to which my immediate thought was: 'so you mean to tell me you want Joe Biden to be President?'-- obviously, the answer here would be 'no') and then opined that, regardless of whether or not Obama did so or would have to be impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate (to which my thought was 'yeah-- like THAT's gonna happen!-- then again: I suppose one can always dream the most impossible dreams, right?') "every act made by the President going back to 20 January 2009 at Noon Eastern Time- every executive order, every bill signed or vetoed, every appointment to Cabinet or the courts- would be automatically rendered null and void"...
BZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!... sorry!-- thanks for playing!!-- but you do get to take with you the 'Home Version'! ;-)
Two words here: Not so!
The provisions for election of President and Vice-President of the United States in the U.S. Constitution's 12th Amendment require that, as regards the Electoral Vote recorded in each State (and, since the adoption of the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961, the District of Columbia), [t]he President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. This colloquially-named 'Tabulation Joint Session' of Congress then formally declares- in the form of the President of the Senate so declaiming- who has been duly elected President and Vice-President, by virtue of each having a majority of the Electoral Votes from the several States and D.C., or- having failed of a such a majority- directing that the House of Representatives (if necessary) immediately elect a President and/or the Senate (again, if necessary) immediately elect a Vice-President.
In other words: as I have many times declaimed myself on this very website, Congress is the "umpire" of Presidential Elections-- only Congress can declare "Game Over" (to the point where, even though it is still not popular for me to say in at least some political quarters, the U.S. Supreme Court did not "select" George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney back re: the 2000 Presidential Election: rather, Congress formally approved of the result by which these two had been elected, regardless of the circumstances by which this had come about!)
Once the most recent Joint Tabulation of Congress met back on 8 January 2009- twelve days before President Obama's Inauguration- and declared him elected President, it was- again- "Game Over". I watched the entirety of those proceedings and the resulting information box on this website indicates that "[n]o objections were raised by any Senators or Representatives to the counting and tabulating of the Electoral Vote from any State (or the District of Columbia)". A handful of members of the 111th Congress then sitting in Joint Session have since been identified- or have even identified themselves- as Birthers per se...
one question I have regarding their (alleged) concern for the Constitution: where were they back then?
Fact is: once President Obama was sworn in on 20 January 2009, 12 days after the Tabulation Joint Session of Congress itself had done its constitutional duty- and, thereby, fired the virtual "gun" which indicated with no little finality that, in this case, there would be no 'Sudden Death Overtime'- the claims of the Birthers as to the constitutional inefficacy of Obama's power to act as President from then until no later than Noon Eastern on 20 January 2013 should fall where they most rightly belong--
on the deafest of ears!
But there is far more to this sordid taint- nay, this veritable stink- the Birther movement is leaving as the potential principal legacy of this era's Tea Party movement and that is the way the Republican Party of the United States, as an institution (the feelings of individual Republicans notwithstanding), is going about attaching itself so to the Birthers/Tea Partiers.
When a Republican friend of mine was recently crowing about the potential electoral prospects for the Grand Old Party this coming Fall, he then asked me- in my capacity as just such a WWWPC, as I described myself earlier in this piece [;-)], covering American Politics and Elections- just what I thought about what he had been telling me and my response was as follows: "Pretty much most of what the Republican Party has done, nationwide, since Barack Obama has been elected President downright sucks-- but, then again, I already knew it was going to suck-- thus, any Republican smart enough to be able to discern that which I myself can so easily perceive should not really be all that disappointed!-- and such a Republican who can so see what the real deal is should simply say to himself or herself 'It's my Party and I'll cry if I want to' "-- I then laughed heartily.
Since that conversation, now nearly two months back as I type this, I can honestly say that the Grand Old Party is still well living down to the already low expectations I already had of it...
yes, Republicans may still do very well in this coming November's Midterm Elections...
but, of course, it's really all about November 2012.
However, expanding upon that last would be a whole other Commentary! ;-)