Bench Memos

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Dear Lord, Make It Stop


It’s a week after the election, and I’m still getting e-mails that holler about how Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he’s not a “natural born citizen” under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.  Enough already!

Last winter, even the New York Times was suckered into taking seriously the loopy theory that John McCain is not a natural born citizen because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone.  As I explained then, his parentage sufficed no matter where he was born, since his parents were U.S. citizens.

So too with Obama.  All indications are that he was born in Hawaii in 1961.  The state authorities say they have his birth certificate (though the fact that a modern printout of an electronic record has been made available rather than a photocopy of the 1961 original has sent some people round the bend).

And what if Obama was not born in the U.S. but instead, as some claim, in Kenya?  Well, his mother was an American citizen, and as UCLA law prof and blogger Eugene Volokh explained to the Chicago Tribune, the applicable statutes about foreign birth with one U.S. citizen parent are on Obama’s side here.

At this point the spluttering begins, from loons like Pennsylvania lawyer Philip Berg, who try to bootstrap an argument that young Barack lost his U.S. citizenship while living in Indonesia.  This isn’t a reach.  It’s preposterous.

Berg’s frivolous lawsuit (and “frivolous” is putting it nicely) was tossed out for lack of standing shortly before the election by a federal district court.  The howls only increased in volume, from people who have no understanding of the limits of judicial power.  This question–if it were even a question–is to be settled not by judges but by the electors in their state capitals next month, and by the Congress that finalizes the election in January when the electors’ ballots are counted.

Give it up and get on with life.  Barack Obama is going to become president on January 20, 2009.  He won, fair and square, an office he is eligible to occupy.  So stop with the fetid, fervid, fevered e-mails, okay?


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