NOTE (4/16/2011): The argument I make in this article, and the embedded video, is false, and based on a less-than-careful reading of Title 8, Sec. 1401. The statute was amended to its present form in 1986, meaning the present five year, at least two after age 14, residency requirement of the citizen parent was not in effect when Barack Obama was born in 1961. Under the previous statute, a child born to Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr. outside the United States would not have been a natural born American citizen. Birther claims about Barack Obama's Kenyan birth are still nonsense that no sensible person should believe, but the argument I make below is not a valid one. So check it out to see what an idiot I am, but don't use it. Thanks.
(My fellow Hagerstown-area blogger, the great Rick Rottman, blogged about this over the weekend. I felt compelled to elaborate.)
For the last three years there have been claims from among conservatives that Barack Obama is ineligible to serve as President of the United States because he is not a natural born American citizen. He was born, they claim, not in Hawaii, as he and his family have always maintained, but in Kenya. These so-called birthers, who have sometimes been ignored but never directly disowned or even much discouraged by the mainstream Republican party, have received renewed attention lately through the support of billionaire real estate mogul and WrestleMania veteran Donald Trump, who has been questioning the facts surrounding Obama’s birth as a way of gathering support for what will presumably be a flat-out hysterical run for the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. This is what birthers sneeringly refer to as the “official story,” the one told by the president and his family, and accepted by most people, including the dozens of security and intelligence organizations that check and vet presidential candidates to prevent the kind of fraud the birthers accuse Obama of committing. The official story is backed up by evidence, including Obama’s birth certificate, birth notices published in Hawaiian newspapers, and the testimony of eyewitnesses inside and outside of the family. There is no compelling reason for any of us to doubt the official story.
Having said that, let’s pretend that the official story is actually bogus. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Barack Obama wasn’t born in Honolulu, but, as the birthers maintain, in Kenya. Birthers claim this would disqualify Obama from serving as president, since the U.S. Constitution establishes that the President of the United States must be a natural born citizen.
Look, it’s right there in Article II, Section 1, the fifth paragraph:
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[.]
If Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii but in Kenya, that would mean he isn’t a natural born American citizen, right?
The thing is, no, it wouldn’t. The constitution establishes the natural born citizen requirement, but doesn’t explicitly define what a natural born citizen is. For that, we have to look to the United States Code. In Title 8, Section 1401 of the U.S.C. (also sometimes referenced as Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act), we find the official definition of a natural born citizen:
The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;
Now, if we were accepting the official story we could stop right here, as Barack Obama is a natural born citizen under the provisions of paragraph (a). But since we’re assuming the official story is an ingenious fraud, we have to skip all the way down to that impenetrable monstrosity, paragraph (g):
(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years: Provided, That any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (59 Stat. 669; 22 U.S.C. 288) by such citizen parent, or any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present abroad as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person (A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, or (B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act, may be included in order to satisfy the physical-presence requirement of this paragraph.
In case you couldn’t decipher the dense legalese, or just didn’t feel like reading all that, paragraph (g) of the statute establishes that a child born to a parent who is a U.S. citizen and who has resided in the United States for a total of at least five years, at least two of those being after the age of fourteen, prior to the birth of the child, is a U.S. citizen at birth.
Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born in Wichita, Kansas, and lived continuously in the United States until 1967, when she moved to Indonesia to live with her second husband. That being the case, Barack Obama could have been born anywhere in the world and still been a natural born U.S. citizen and qualified to serve as President of the United States. Since his mother was an American who had lived in the U.S her entire life, his birthplace was irrelevant.
So, to wrap up: there is no reason to believe Barack Obama was not born in the State of Hawaii. But even if the claim that he was born in Kenya were true, it wouldn’t matter. He’d still be a natural born U.S. citizen. The indignant demands to see the man’s birth certificate, the conspiracy theories positing sinister explanations for those birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers, the supposed claim by Obama’s paternal grandmother that she witnessed his birth in Mombasa — they’re all totally meaningless. Barack Obama is a natural born American — period.
UPDATE (4/15): I produced a video for my YouTube channel reiterating what I've written here. Pass it along to any birthers you may know. Let's try to kill this nonsense once and for all.
As you read at the top, the argument I make here is erroneous and based on a bad read of the statute. I produced a retraction for the video, which you can watch below. The original video, as well as this article, will remain up, since I think mistakes, in order to be corrected, ought not be erased.