The issue of Barack Obama’s place of birth and nationality just won’t go away. The right-wing ‘news’ sites like WorldNetDaily and NewsMax are keeping the heat on the issue. AOL has even tossed it’s gloves into the ring, on the left side.
The arguments being made are that Barack Obama does not meet the “natural born citizen” clause in the U.S. Constitution, describing the requirements to be President, on one or more of two grounds; that he was not born in the United States and that he is a dual citizen.
Was Barack Obama born in the U.S.? Maybe not. Was he a dual citizen? Absolutely. Is he still a foreign citizen? Maybe. Does it make any legal difference? None. The best thing that could happen would be for the Obama campaign to own up, and for the Supreme Court to continue to refuse to consider the matter. Here’s why.
Was Barack born in the U.S.? The early circumstances around the relationship between his mother, Ann Dunham, and Barack Obama Sr. are very hazy. Research is frustrating in that there are multiple accounts, some clearly sanitized for public consumption and others clearly painting a worst-case scenario. Barack Obama Sr. apparently had two wives; one in Kenya and then possibly Ann Dunham. It is not clear that Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham were married, or how legally under what law. In any event, shortly after the ‘marriage’, Barack Sr. became disinterested in his new family and did some traveling. For Barack Jr. to have been born in Kenya his mother would have had to travel from Hawaii to Kenya, had the baby, and returned to Hawaii. It’s possible she followed Barack Sr. to Kenya. There’s no documentation either way. Her passport records remain sealed. Three witnesses, Barack’s grandmother and two half-siblings, swear that Barack Jr. was born in Kenya. That he was born in Hawaii cannot be proven. There is no birth certificate, at least publicly acknowledged, and there is even confusion over which hospital he might have been born in or what doctor performed the delivery. There are zero known witnesses to his birth in Hawaii.
The lack of a birth certificate remains the most heated issue. If one exists it has not been produced. Last fall the Obama campaign produced a document called a “Certificate of Live Birth” issued by the State of Hawaii. This document raised more questions than it answered. First, at the time Hawaii commonly issued these for any infant produced by a U.S. parent, after the fact, with few questions asked.
Most confounding is that the document was printed by computer after 1982. A high resolution version of the document is linked to from the FactCheck.org website. The font used to print the information on the document is clearly, without any doubt, Arial. While similar to Helvetica and some other sans-serif fonts, it has distinctive signature traits (notably the ‘R’s). Arial font was created in the early 1980’s as a computer font particularly for xerographic (‘laser’) printers and was included as a standard font in Microsoft operating systems after 1984. It didn’t exist in any form before 1982. The ‘Certificate of Live Birth’ thus could not have been produced before 1982 and was created via a computer. The Obama campaign would have been better off saying that they couldn’t find a birth certificate than to try to pass this document off as one.
Is/was Obama a dual citizen? Yes. He was a dual citizen, U.S. and Kenya, at least until 1982. Kenyan citizenship was confirred on Barack Jr. by way of his father’s citizenship. If he was in fact born in Hawaii, that citizenship expired in 1982 on Barack Jr.’s 21st birthday. If he was born in Kenya, he remains a Kenyan citizen to this day, until he renounces it. But there is no disagreement that he had Kenyan citizenship at least until 1982. Even FactCheck.org agrees.
Even more interesting is the question of whether Barack Obama Jr. was and possibly still is an Indonesian citizen. In 1966 (or 1967) Ann Dunham met an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro. They married in Hawaii and the family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. Did Lolo Soetoro adopt young Barack? If he did, he conferred Indonesian citizenship on him at the time. At that time joint dual citizenship was not recognized by Indonesia or the U.S. The records are murky. What is known is that Barack Jr. was known as Barry Soetoro during his years in Indonesia. This is documented in school records of the time. And then there’s his trip to Pakistan in 1981 which would have been virtually impossible to accomplish on a U.S. passport at the time. The reason the Indonesian citizenship issue is important is that legally he is now an Indonesian citizen, not a U.S. citizen unless at some time he renounced his Indonesian citizenship.
At the end of the day, what do we have? At worst case we have a child born to a U.S. citizen in a foreign land, who has at least at some time in his life had citizenship in nations other than the U.S.
So how does that play with the “natural born citizen” clause in the U.S. Constitution? Nobody knows. The creators of the Constitution didn’t tell us what the phrase means, and subsequent legal definitions of the term do not retroactively confer meaning or intent on its use in the Constitution. It’s no small wonder that the Supreme Court doesn’t want to touch this with a ten foot pole. The issues are far from clear and to try to decide them would throw the U.S. into a constitutional crisis at this point. No, the Justices will let this sleeping dog lie.
And so, my advice to the right-wing ‘Birthers’ is to just give it up, for all of our benefit.