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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Born in the USA! (Part I)

Sometimes, just for kicks, we ask our students what qualifications a person MUST possess to be elected President of the United States. Many of them correctly guess there is an age requirement, although most don't know what it is. Some guess a President must have a college degree. (No. In fact, Harry S. Truman, as well as some of our earlier Presidents did not graduate from college.) Others guess that only men can be President. (No. It only seems that way.)

Students are often surprised to learn that the only technical requirements for becoming President are that one be at least 35 years old, that one has resided in the United States for at least fourteen years, and that one was born in the United States of America.

As George W. Bush demonstrated, you don't even technically need to receive the most votes in an election.

Simple enough, really, and yet that last clause--the whole "Natural Born Citizen" thing, has caused all manner of controversy lately, as a small but vocal minority of Americans continues to insist that President Barack Obama has somehow managed to scam his way into the office of the presidency despite having been born in Hawaii. (That's not a state, right? The people are all different colors and stuff.)

No, no. These people are well aware that Hawaii is a state. They just don't think Obama was born there. They think he was born in Kenya or Indonesia or spawned in a tube or hatched from a pod or something. . . . The mind cringes.

Anyway, much to our chagrin, we have found ourselves drawn into the whole Obama birth-certificate (non-)controversy. Here, we present Part One of our final word on the situation:

Point 1. Barack Obama was born in the United States

Anyone who still insists that President Obama was not born in Hawaii is grasping at straws. No less a conservative icon than Bill O'Reilly seems to have thrown in the towel by acknowledging that President Obama produced his birth certificate (or, at any rate, his "Certificate of Live Birth") showing that he was, in fact, born in Hawaii. Much of the continued uproar, as far as we can tell, centers on the "birther" claim that President Obama needs to produce a "different" birth certificate or a "better" birth certificate or a birth certificate that sings and dances and poops strawberry ice cream.

And that's the point isn't it? First Obama's political opponents made a (reasonable) request that he prove he was born in the United States. At the time, the Obama campaign complied with this request, posting a copy of his birth certificate on its website. This "Certificate of Live Birth," by the way, was the same document that Barack Obama presented when he applied for a United States passport. It stirred no controversy then, and was considered sufficient proof that he was a natural-born United States citizen. Nevertheless, this did not satisfy a certain faction.

So what do we learn from this? Most emphatically NOT that Obama is some sort of crypto-Muslim-UnAmerican Manchurian (Mohammedan?) Candidate sent by . . . . well by "whom" is never made clear. . . .to corrupt and destroy America. Rather, what we learn is that a certain faction will NEVER accept that Obama was born in the USA, regardless of HOW much proof he offers.

You disagree? A thought experiment: President Obama calls the governor of Hawaii today and orders him to release absolutely every official document pertaining to his birth. The governor complies. Absolutely every document confirms what the vast majority of this country already knows: Obama was born in Hawaii.

What do you suppose would happen? Would the Birthers shake their heads and humbly and sincerely apologize for all their nonsense over the last three years or so? Or would they, rather, insist that THESE documents are insufficient or forgeries? Be honest now.

Frankly, at this point, the burden of proof falls on the Birthers. Obama has shown you some evidence that he was born in Hawaii. It now falls to you to show us some equaly compelling documentary evidence that he was born elsewhere.

Point 2: It doesn't matter anyway

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