When wingnuts take center stage

The Framers of the Constitution were relaxed — many Republicans might say careless — in laying out the qualifications to hold office in their new government.

Members of the House needed only to be 25 years old, citizens of the United States for seven years and inhabitants of the states that elected them. Requirements for senators were a little tougher — 30 years old and citizens for nine years.

And for president they tightened it up even more — 35 years old, a resident of the United States for 14 years and either a natural-born citizen or a citizen at the time the Constitution was adopted, which would have been 1789. That last loophole could have allowed all kinds of louche, foreign-born rabble to run for president.

The Framers did not list a birth certificate as a requirement perhaps because they were rare at the time and people seemed willing to accept the presence of an actual baby as proof of birth.

We rehash all this history because of the "birthers," whose name will go down with the grassy knoll in the annals of quixotic American conspiracies. These are the people who loudly insist that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was foreign-born. They refuse to accept his state of Hawaii birth certificate as legitimate. A little harder to explain away: the birth announcements placed in two Honolulu newspapers in August 1961.

Obama himself had perhaps the best refutation when he said that if his parents had been foresightful enough to protect his presidential ambitions 48 years ago with bogus birth announcements, why would they saddle him with a middle name like "Hussein"?

As entertaining as this exercise in wingnuttery has been, one hopes the House laid it to rest when it unanimously passed a resolution, with 158 Republicans in support, that affirmed that he was a native-born son of Hawaii.

But still lurking in the House Committee on Administration is a bill by 11 House Republicans requiring a presidential candidate’s campaign committee to submit to the Federal Election Commission "a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate together with other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualification for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution."

This shows a faith in the FEC we don’t usually see in Republicans, but we digress.

In Missouri, as "a defense against corruption, fraud and tyranny" — and who can quarrel with that? — 15 Republicans introduced a proposed constitutional amendment requiring an official birth certificate as a precondition for getting on the ballot. And then these crafty solons added a malicious twist — "a certificate of live birth shall not be accepted."

You may not be surprised to learn that "a certificate of live birth" is what Hawaii calls its birth certificates. Who says there are no more legislative giants stalking the halls of our statehouses?

If the House feels that a birth certificate is a worthy addition to the constitutional requirements for becoming president, we have no problem with it. But it’s that phrase about "other documentation" that worries us.

We’re a little removed from our childbearing years, but back in the day it was a growing custom to videotape the birth in graphic, excruciating and extensive detail. With improvements in camera technology it can only have gotten worse.

I hope those House Republicans aren’t squeamish.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com.)

4 Responses to "When wingnuts take center stage"

  1. dtotire  July 31, 2009 at 10:59 am

    DanT

    The framers of the Constitution envisioned the President and the Senators would be be chosen by an elite group, the President by electors chosen by the states, and Senators by their respective State legislatures. Later modifications changed this to the electors being chosen democratically, and the 17th Amendment made Senators chosen the same way. There are no other qualification except being a citizen. We would get better legislators if we required them to have stronger qualifications. For most professions, specific academic qualifications are required. I think this should also be a requirement to run for higher office. They should be intelligent enough to understand macroeconomic analysis, but they wouldn’t have to be experts.

    I would suggest that candidates for higher office be required to have Superior Academic
    qualifications.There are perhaps hundreds of thousands in our population who would be qualified.

    I would suggest that anyone who graduated with honors or better from an accredited college might be well qualified. Not someone with average college grades, including those with advanced degrees. These qualifications would have to be worked out.

    For instance, a person I would consider highly qualified would be Senator Mark Warner, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA (straight A’s). Evan Bayh graduated with honors from Indiana University. Richard Lugar was a Rhodes Scholar. Many others could be named.

  2. giving-up-in-nc  July 31, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    In addition to academic qualifications being put into place for politicians, I would also like to see out and out lying to the American public by them become an impeachable offense.

    Stating they would be truthful could be added to the oath they take when they are sworn in. Enforcement would be done by the judiciary.

    I know this will never occur but it sure would be interesting to see what would happen if it actually was implemented. Maybe once they were forced to stopped lying to us, they could actually get something done in D.C. for the little folk like you and me.

  3. sherry  July 31, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Givin’ Up, to prohibit lying in politics would be interesting. It would clear out the entire Congress.
    Sounds like we would be off to a good start.

  4. frank verismo  July 31, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    “These are the people who loudly insist that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was foreign-born.”

    They do exist, it’s true, but they are quite few in number. Far more numerous are those who simply want to be sure that their president is ‘natural born’ – thus fulfilling the criteria of the Constitution.

    “You may not be surprised to learn that “a certificate of live birth” is what Hawaii calls its birth certificates.”

    This is quite true – and easily proven.

    Here’s a pair of actual ‘certificates of live birth’ issued in Hawaii in August 1961:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_xVMq9EcISoU/SnLgqgCyZ9I/AAAAAAAACtw/BHdYvITa7Iw/s1600-h/M1139416728.gif

    They’re considerably more detailed and, for instance, contain the signature of the delivering doctor. It is this form of certificate that the so-called ‘birthers’ refer to, despite their apparent confusion over nomenclature.

    “Obama himself had perhaps the best refutation when he said that if his parents had been foresightful enough to protect his presidential ambitions 48 years ago with bogus birth announcements, why would they saddle him with a middle name like “Hussein”?”

    Amusing, perhaps – but the best refutation would undoubtedly be the original certificate.

    For the record, I take no particular position on this matter and, frankly, would rather it weren’t here. But where presidents and constitutions are concerned such issues should never be a matter of ‘belief’ – on either side of the divide.

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