Friday, December 5, 2008

Obama's Citizenship

When the question of whether Barack Obama was really a US citizen came up months ago, I assurred my wife that this was all nothing because there was no way someone would be able to get as far as he had without proving his bona fides.

Apparently I was wrong. (Don't tell her.)

Whether or not the Supreme Court ultimately decides to hear the Donofrio case on this question, one thing has been made perfectly clear:

No one asks for proof of citizenship when you file to run for federal office.

How is this possible? As ridiculous as it sounds, if this were not the case, the question of Mr. Obama's citizenship would not have lasted this long.

Frankly, I don't think the Supreme Court will take this case for one simple reason: What will happen if they find out he's not a citizen? More to the point, what would happen if we had to say he could not be president (and I'm not just talking about a Biden presidency).

At the same time, can we have this hanging out there for the next 4-8 years?

Congress, please fix this. This can't happen again.


Vinny said...

Is anything broken? Officials from the state of Hawaii have affirmed that Obama is a natural born citizen. What other standard would you suggest?

ChrisB said...

Seems like someone ought to have to produce documentary evidence of their citizenship to the federal government before running for federal office.

Vinny said...

Wouldn't it still come down to whether the state of birth certified the validity of the birth certificate?

ChrisB said...

To whom does the state affirm this validity? Hawaii has assured the press that it's valid, but who else?

I'm really surprised the FEC or someone else doesn't have some kind of process for collecting and verifying this kind of information.

Vinny said...

If the FEC did have such a procedure, a candidate would satisfy the requirement by submitting a certified copy of his birth certificate issued by the state in which he was born. That is how I obtained my passport.

ChrisB said...

Yes, Vinny, that's exactly what would happen.

But it apparently doesn't happen. No one asks up front for proof. They should.

Vinny said...

Do you concede that a candidate who is able to produce satisfactory proof of birth and citizenship has been elected President. If so, I am still not clear what it is that you think happened here that cannot be allowed to happen again.

ChrisB said...

"Do you concede that a candidate who is able to produce satisfactory proof of birth and citizenship has been elected President?"

No. A candidate who has never had to prove his citizenship has been elected president. At best officials from Hawaii have assured the press that his papers are legit. That means nothing.

I'm not doubting Obama. The problem is that no one ever asks. That's a huge gaping hole in the system.

Vinny said...

No. A candidate who has never had to prove his citizenship has been elected president. At best officials from Hawaii have assured the press that his papers are legit. That means nothing.

What would you expect to get as proof other than the assurances of officials from Hawaii?

I'm not doubting Obama.

You are doing nothing other than trying to create doubts about the legitimacy of Obama's election. Grow up and stop being such a sore loser Chris.

ChrisB said...

That's funny. The Dems are the sorest losers the world has seen in a looong time.

I have not questioned his citizenship. I have said that the very fact that these lawsuits exist is proof that there is no official verification of eligibility by the federal government before someone runs for federal office, and I think that's a bad state of affairs.

Vinny said...

The fact that these lawsuit exist doesn't prove a thing. Even if Obama had been required to submit a certified copy of his birth certificate to every state in which he sought to get on the ballot, these people would still scream "forgery" and "conspiracy." They are as indifferent to logic, facts and evidence as the people who think that the Bush administration was behind the 911 attacks and the people who think Trig is Sarah Palin’s grandchild rather than her child.

I note how artfully you say that you "have not questioned his citizenship" rather that "I do not question his citizenship." It’s called “innuendo.” Your implication is that Obama drove through some "big gaping hole in the system." This of course means that McCain and Palin tried to drive through it and that Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, and every President going back to Washington drove through it as well. I suspect that you are not nearly as worried about that.

ChrisB said...

I'm not a lawyer, so don't try to parse my words to that level.

My complaint is not about Obama. His candidacy, and the existing lawsuits, have simply brought to light something our system has overlooked.

Reagan, Bush, and McCain also did not have to prove their eligibility. That's not good.

Drop the citizenship question: What's to stop a 34-year-old from running for president? We don't need silly questions like this coming up. Simply asking candidates to prove to someone (probably FEC) that they meet the basic requirements of the position would prevent silly lawsuits like these.

Now I will happily let you have the last word on this issue.

Vinny said...

Here is my last word:

The conduct of elections is a matter of state law. The FEC only deals with federal campaign finance laws. It doesn’t have the jurisdiction to decide who gets on the ballot because that is administered by the states. In Illinois, a candidate is only required to affirm that he meets the requirements of the elected office. However, any legal voter can object to the candidate’s nominating papers. At that point, an electoral board can demand whatever evidence it deems necessary to resolve the objection. From what I know, this is how most states organize things and these processes have been used to challenge the qualifications of candidates.

We can certainly imagine a system that requires candidates to submit more proof up front, but I think the value of this system is that it puts the onus on the candidates and the voters. This seems like a democratic way of doing things. The electoral boards do not act as gatekeepers. Rather, they act as judges to resolve challenges that are raised by the voters. If someone sneaks onto the ballot, he still has to convince the voters that he is qualified to serve.

I find it interesting that you mention the prevention of silly law suits because I think that implicates some of the same issues. When you tighten rules in order to deter unqualified candidates you run the risk that qualified candidates may be excluded. Similarly, when you change rules in an effort or deter silly law suits, you run the risk that legitimate disputes will not be adjudicated. I think that integral to “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” is the opportunity to run for public office as well as the opportunity to have disputes resolved by impartial courts. The consequence of that is that we rely on the process itself to separate the wheat from the chaff rather than setting higher initial thresholds to entering the process.

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