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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.)