We need only consult the Constitution to lay birtherism to rest. The entire idea of it rests on the assumption that you are not an American citizen unless you are born in the United States (CONUS, that is: the nation of the United States of America on the North American continent). Anyone with an education knows this is not correct; in point of fact, anyone who is born on American territory or whose parent(s) are American nationals is also considered citizens.
Basically there are two forms of citizenship: natural-born and naturalized. That is to say, one cam be born an American by virtue of being born here, or having at least one American parent. Or one can at some point take the oath of allegiance and become an American citizen for all legal purposes from then on.
Unfortunately our Constitution is rather vague about the term “natural-born citizen,” which is used in the description of the eligibility to become president. It goes like this: “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; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”
That little hitch about a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, is what has provided the roots of the controversies that have surrounded presidential candidates. Of course we all know the unclear birther controversy about President Obama. Lesser known are claims against Republicans John McCain, who was born in the Canal Zone, and Rafael Cruz, Jr., who was born in Canada. The controversy about Cruz is compounded by allegations that his mother, the American citizen of the family, had allegedly renounced her citizenship before Cruz was born, although the files regarding the issues are sealed.
But what jumps out at me in the passage from the Constitution is not that; it is the phrase, “a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution …” I do not believe that the passage refers to Americans today; I think it was placed in the Constitution specifically to bar foreign nationals from becoming president during the crucial early days of the American government. In other words, the passage was not meant to include persons with a parent who is a citizen. It was meant to declare that only a natural-born citizen, that is, a person born in America, was eligible to become president.
I also believe that the true intent of the Constitution is to specify that naturalized citizens are, perhaps implicitly, not intended to be eligible for the presidency. This issue has actually come up when the popularity of Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration prompted some people to reconsider that concept.
This situation has been addressed by court cases and the study and commentary of scholars with awesome credentials, so I dare not pretend to make a definitive statement on that issue. However, I am confident that the writers of the Constitution did not think of America acquiring states outside the borders of the nation: at first they did not clearly foresee the western expansion on the continent, or the acquisition of places like Hawaii, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and others. Therefore the real decision to be made is: does the birth of an American citizen who is physically located in the Canal Zone of Hawaii qualify him or her as a natural-born citizen? The answer to that question is Yes, and I advise everyone not to cast aspersions on the citizenship or patriotism of the people of Guam, where I grew up.
The birthers have not actually answered the question–in fact, there was no manufactured controversy about McCain’s birth in the Canal Zone. Why not? Well, silly person, he was the Republican candidate! So, in Republican reality, is Obama more qualified to be a natural-born citizen than McCain, or are they equal before the Constitution, or what? To the great detriment of the birther movement, neither themselves nor the GOP has seen fit to offer their version of an answer this question.
Obama’s claim to being born at Kapiolani Hospital in Hawaii was proved by two things, basically. One was his “long form” birth certificate, which is public record and knowledge. Having grown up in Guam, I find it insulting to hear Republicans repeat that somehow the Hawaiian people are incapable of maintaining records. I had three children on Guam and there was no problem with birth certificates or birth announcements.
And by the way, when I had those three children at Guam Memorial Hospital, I learned how birth announcements work. Are you under the impression that the new parents call up the local newspapers and inform them of the birth of the new child? Not at all. No reputable newspaper would post such an announcement. It could have been placed maliciously, or at least dishonestly. The new mother is visited by a local reporter drops by to ask her if the newspaper may post a birth announcement for her. She says yes or no to this. So the Obamas did not place a birth announcement in the Honolulu papers; the reporters checked the facts and posted it. Did you know that, or did you assume that the parents do it?
This brings me to the most important point, which is: Barack Obama’s mother was a natural-born American citizen. For the purposes of eligibility for the presidency, it doesn’t matter whether Obama was born in Hawaii or on the moon; he was still born an American citizen. Stupid Republican surrogates tried to say that it is not true because she was only 18 years old when he was born, but that ship never sailed. Birtherism can address any of the above issues, but they will never state their real position, which is, any African American who runs for, and is elected President of the United States, is simply disqualified on the basis of the color of his skin. Republicans will never own up to this racism, but it under girds the entire birther movement: there must be some way to remove Obama from office and get back to normal. That is what what Donald Trump really means when he says he will make America great again. You won’t persuade me otherwise.
And just because Trump has backed away from birtherism as of this week, don’t hold your breath until the rabid loonies on the far right do the same. But you know what? The joke’s on them–Obama is going out of office in less than six months. Then what? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both white, natural-born citizens, and Obama has served out two terms. The right-wing talking heads must be working hard looking for issues (as the misogyny against Hillary Clinton isn’t working anymore).