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Birther Movement

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In U.S. politics, the Birther Movement is a series of related conspiracy theories that claim that Barack Obama is not a legitimate President because he does not meet the Constitutional requirement of having been born in the United States, or of U.S. citizen parents. The controversy is a matter of intense concern among some conservative activists who oppose Barack Obama on ideological grounds, but the arguments do not have widespread credibility in society.

In particular, the evidence in favor of Barack Obama's birth in Hawaii is overwhelming. Hawaiian officials have repeatedly authenticated the birth certificate produced by the president and a birth announcement appeared in a Honolulu newspaper in the week after his birth. A birth certificate purporting to prove Mr Obama's birth in Kenya was easily discovered as a hoax.[1] No credible politicians or lawyers support the arguments of the conspiracy theorists.

Legal issues

Constitutional issues

Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution states the requirements for the presidency

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President."[2]

Some conspiracy theorists maintain that President Obama was not born in the state of Hawaii. It is most commonly alleged among this group that he was instead born in Kenya and that he therefore holds Kenyan citizenship. A forged birth certificate, purporting to show Barack Obama was born in Kenya, was published by California dentist and lawyer Orly Taitz.[1][3] The forgery was uncovered by the Australian TV news network ABC to be an adaptation of the birth certificate of David Jeffrey Bromford, a civil servant living in Adelaide, South Australia.[4]

In one of the lawsuits filed in the matter of Obama's eligibility to hold office, Judge Clay Land of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ruled that no sitting president can be removed from office through the judicial system. As soon as a president is sworn in, only an impeachment procedure instigated by the U.S. House of Representatives and subsequent trial in the U.S. Senate can force a president out of office. Therefore no lawsuit against the legitimacy of a sitting president can be brought.[5]

Dual citizenship issue

Other versions of this conspiracy theory claim that even though he may have been born in Hawaii, he is legally a citizen of Kenya, his father's country.

Factcheck.org agrees that Obama may, indeed, have held dual American-Kenyan citizenship until he was 21, which was consistent with being born in the United States but of a Kenyan father. Kenyan law provides that a child of a Kenyan citizen, born in another country, is assumed to be a dual citizen. The statement that he continues to have dual citizenship came from an August 6, 2008 article in the Rocky Mountain News, which it subsequently retracted. "The paper's editor, John Temple, formally apologized for the error in an Aug. 15, 2007, column."

The basis of the theory is that at the time of Obama's birth, Kenya was still a British colony, and the British Nationality Act of 1948 applied to the elder Obama and his children: "British Nationality Act of 1948 (Part II, Section 5): Subject to the provisions of this section, a person born after the commencement of this Act shall be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent if his father is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies at the time of the birth."

When Kenya became independent in 1963, Chapter VI, Section 87 of its Constitution specifies:

  1. Every person who, having been born in Kenya, is on 11th December, 1963 a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British protected person shall become a citizen of Kenya on 12th December, 1963...
  2. Every person who, having been born outside Kenya, is on 11th December, 1963 a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British protected person shall, if his father becomes, or would but for his death have become, a citizen of Kenya by virtue of subsection (1), become a citizen of Kenya on 12th December, 1963.

Kenyan law further specifies, however, that unless a child renounces non-Kenyan citizenship and swears an oath of loyalty to Kenya, by his 21st birthday, the presumed Kenyan citizenship automatically expires. "Since Sen. Obama has neither renounced his U.S. citizenship nor sworn an oath of allegiance to Kenya, his Kenyan citizenship automatically expired on Aug. 4,1984."[6]

Lawsuits

Numerous lawsuits have been filed in relation to this issue, many of which by Orly Taitz, a California based dentist and lawyer. In various cases, representing third-party presidential candidates, she attempted to invalidate either the candidacy or the election of Barack Obama in California on legal grounds. In other cases, she has represented clients suing President Obama under the notion that orders issued by the Obama administration are not legally valid because Barack Obama was not legally elected. In two cases, Cook v. Obama and Rhodes v. MacDonald, she sued on behalf of members of the military who were claiming their military orders for deployment were void because President Obama was not a legal Commander in Chief. These cases were both dismissed as "frivolous." In his opinion in Rhodes v. MacDonald, Judge Clay Land argued that a sitting president cannot be forced out of office by lawsuit, since the U.S. Constitution allows only for impeachment by the legislative branch. Furthermore, he also convicted Taitz for misconduct, fined her $20,000 and reported her to the California state bar, where she is accredited.[5] Not counting appeals by Orly Taitz with regard to her sua sponte conviction for misconduct - none of which have any chance of success - there is currently no active lawsuit attempting to remove Barack Obama from office.

Political action

In May 2009, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 1503, a bill to require future presidential candidates to provide proof of U.S. citizenship. It has been co-sponsored by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia); and Texas Republicans John Carter, John Culberson and Randy Neugebauer and John Campbell of California. [7] He called it the “eligibility dilemma” and said Internet radio host Andrea Shea King brought it to his attention. He accused the President of hiding something, and then said he had spoken with “high-ranking members of our judiciary committee” about the chances of Obama “being removed from office,” but said there was “zero chance” of success there.

Media attention

In October 2008, Rush Limbaugh referred to an April suit by an individual, Philip Berg, demanding that Obama produce his birth certificate. Limbaugh said he himself had no specifics, but cast suspicions: this birth certificate business, I'm just wondering if something's up. I have no clue, and folks, I'm telling you, this has not reached the threshold until now, and it's popping up all over the place. There are a lot of people now that are starting to speculate and be curious about this. [8]

WorldNetDaily (WND) has taken particular interest in the issue, saying they are following it when other media ignore it. WND head Joseph Farah is conducting a campaign to erect billboards with the question, "Where's the birth certificate?" There are several U.S. court cases asking for the documentation, one of which was dismissed in October. [9] Plaintiffs in that case included Charles F. Kerchner Jr., who wrote, "The federal courts and judges are committing treason to the Constitution by not taking jurisdiction and getting to the merits in the various cases before them regarding the Article II eligibility clause question for Obama."

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama's opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain (Republican) never took up the issue as it was soon dismissed as incredible. Trevor Potter, general counsel to the McCain campaign said in a July 2009 interview:

To the extent that we could, we looked into the substantive side of these allegations. We never saw any evidence that then-Senator Obama had been born outside of the United States. We saw rumors, but nothing that could be sourced to evidence. There were no statements and no documents that suggested he was born somewhere else. On the other side, there was proof that he was born in Hawaii. There was a certificate issued by the state's Department of Health, and the responsible official in the state saying that he had personally seen the original certificate. There was a birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser, which would be very difficult to invent or plant 47 years in advance. [10]

McCain's former running mate, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin also distanced herself from the Birther Movement. On 4 December 2009, she said, on the Rusty Humphries radio show, "I think it's a fair question, just like I think past associations and past voting records -- all of that is fair game." Soon afterwards, she posted to her Facebook page, that while others have raised the question, she has not directly done so:

At no point - not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews - have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States. Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I've pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly,"[11]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Alex Koppelman (August 3, 2009). Birthers release forged Kenyan birth certificate for Obama (News and Opinion). Salon / War Room. Retrieved on February 1, 2010.
  2. U.S. Constitution, Article II Section 1
  3. Photograph of the forgery
  4. Dina Rosendorff (2008-10-17). Adelaide man caught up in bid to oust Obama. ABC News / PM (Australia). Retrieved on 2010-02-02.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Order denying motion for recusal Rhodes v. MacDonald 4:09-CV-106, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Columbia Division. October 13, 2009. Retrieved on February 1, 2010
  6. "Does Barack Obama have Kenyan citizenship?", Annenberg Political Fact Check, 29 August 2008
  7. David Weigel (18 June 2009), "Bill Posey, Congressional Birther, Finds Some Friends and Bashes ‘Angry Woman’ Rachel Maddow", Washington Independent
  8. "Obama "Rushes" to Grandmother's Bedside (After Just a Few Days)", Rush Limbaugh show, October 23, 2008
  9. Bob Unruh (21 October 2009), "BORN IN THE USA? Judge tosses eligibility case against Congress 'We've lost a skirmish. Now on with the war in the higher courts!'", WorldNetDaily
  10. David Weigel (24 July 2009), "McCain Lawyers Investigated Obama Citizenship", CQ Politics
  11. Garance Franke-Ruta (4 October 2009), "Palin flirts with Obama birth certificate questions", Washington Post
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