But there is a slight problem with Shelby's claim that "you have to be born in America to be president."
It isn't true.
Randall Hall, a Birmingham lawyer, has written a splendid analysis of U.S. Shelby's recent gaffe while speaking with constituents at the All Steak Restaurant in Cullman.
Shelby was asked to comment on a conspiracy theory making the rounds in right-wing circles--that Obama is not a U.S. citizen and thus not qualified to be president. The senator's response? As reported by Patrick McCreless in the Cullman Times, it was: "Well, his father was Kenyan, and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven't seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president."
Hall takes this statement and uses it to expertly skewer Shelby:
There are only three explanations for Shelby's response: One, he doesn't understand the constitutional criteria required of citizens to serve as president. Two, he doesn't know Hawaii is in America. Or three, he is as ignorant and paranoid as the thousands of other conspiracy theorists who have made this same inane claim.
Maybe it's all three. After all, you do not "have to be born in America to be president."
Hall's last statement gets to the crux of the conspiracy theory that has become a plaything for conservative wingnuts. Alan Keyes has been among the leading whackjobs spouting off about this "requirement" that one must be born in America to be president:
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Keyes clearly does not want the facts to get in the way of a good political rant. As Hall points out, Republican presidential candidate John McCain was born in Panama. But Keyes, Shelby, and their brethren aren't interested in that:
Pursuant to Article I, Section II of the Constitution, to be elected president, you have to be a "natural born citizen" of the U.S., which is not defined in the Constitution. Title 8 of the U.S. Code, Section 1401, does define "nationals and citizens of the United States at birth," and it includes people born outside the U.S. to parents with U.S. citizenship (i.e., people not "born in America," such as John McCain, who was born in Panama).
In addition, merely being "born in America" is not enough to be a "natural born citizen," because the newborns of foreign diplomats living in the U.S. are not considered "natural born citizens" as their parents are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the U.S.
It's one thing for Alan Keyes to make nutty public statements about Obama's citizenship. But you might think that a senior senator from Alabama would have some clue what the law actually says on this subject. And you certainly would think that Shelby is aware that Hawaii is in the United States. Given that, Hall can come to only one conclusion:
So, that leaves only one explanation: Shelby has bought in to the much-maligned theory that Obama really wasn't born in Hawaii, and that a group of powerful conspirators manufactured his U.S. citizenship so he could ascend to the presidency. Even if Shelby doesn't believe this hopeless hypothesis, he is still reinforcing his constituents' acceptance of it by publicly parroting it.
If Shelby has any defense for his clueless comment, it comes from Bob Burns, one of the people at the steakhouse for the event. "It sounded to me like (Shelby) really didn't want to go there."
But Shelby did go there. And in the process, Hall writes, he has made all Alabamians look like a punch of backwoods ding dongs:
We really didn't want Shelby to go there, either. He has once again made us the pitiful punchline of jokes around the nation--jokes about our supposed stupidity, our reportedly universal racist attitudes, and our widely envisioned environment of extreme, right-wing paranoia. Shelby's spokesman can spend weeks trying to retract his ridiculous anti-Obama rhetoric, but we will not forget.
I'm not sure that Shelby really said this.
After all, he sent this out to people who asked, and the two are very different views:
Here is a letter from Senator Shelby posted on Congress Watch.
“Thank you for taking the time to contact me about President-elect
Barack Obama’s citizenship status. I always appreciate hearing from
Under the United States Constitution, Section 1 of Article II
contains a clause that states:
“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.”
Many have contacted me regarding the numerous claims and lawsuits
circulating on the internet asserting that Obama is not a natural born
citizen and therefore ineligible to become United States President.
However, President-elect Obama has presented his birth certificate,
showing that he was born in Hawaii, and it has been verified and
confirmed by Hawaiian officials. Additionally, the Supreme Court has
declined to act on any of the cases contesting Obama’s citizenship.
On January 8, 2009, Members of Congress were given the opportunity to
contest the issue in a joint session of Congress, but no such
objection was raised during the meeting. By-all accounts,
President-elect Barack Obama meets those requirements. Please be
assured that I will continue to monitor the situation should further
Thank you again for contacting me. If I may be of any further
assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Besides being a "natural born citizen," The Constitution also requires: "...and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States."
Guess what? Dwight Eisenhower didn't make the cut in 1952 because of his service in WWII and subsequent assignment as NATO Commander in Europe, but did any Republicans go nutjob about that one? And, our illustrious Democratic Party, always prepared to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory said nothing and allowed Eisenhower to run and Republicans love to get appointed to office instead of elected: Presidents Gerald Ford & George W. Bush, Governor Bob Riley who loves to make appointments himself after local Democrats are framed in the Federal Courts by the loyal Bushies.
Re: "Dwight Eisenhower didn't make the cut in 1952 because of his service in WWII."
It says 14 years. It does NOT say 14 straight years. I assume Eisenhower spent at least 14 years growing up in the USA.
Ah intelligence exists, smrstrauss! Good Job! You caught me proof-texting The Constitution and spreading half-truths.
My point is that reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the 14 years for Eisenhower to qualify must be prior to the date of assuming office or at any other time. The Constitution of 1787 is moot on that point, so it is open to interpretation just like the issue of Obama's citizenship is.
I think the Founding Fathers in their wisdom wanted the people of the present day to apply the law to the facts and decide for themselves knowing that they, unlike God were not immortal, omnipotent and all knowing enough to decide the future of the country.
Fascism deals in absolutes and declares that nothing is open to discussion because The Fuhrer has consulted with the rich and powerful land barons and he has decided in their favor so they can maintain control. The "country club set" can't handle the ego deflation and the possible sucking sound of money leaving their wallets when a majority of the people have decided that the old ways don't work anymore. That's why we had to have a war between the states over slavery and taxing cotton exports and it's why we had to have another war over Civil Rights. Rich people don't like it when the money stops coming in. They might have to sell the condo on Orange Beach and come to work with the rest of us.
If they were alive today, The Founding Fathers would be arrested and sent to prison for mail fraud and terroristic threats against government officials.
Shelby cleverly and completely sidesteps his original error of claiming that a child born of a US citizen(s) outside the US is ineligible to be President.
The scuttlebutt in DC is that Obama was actually born in Kenya and his Hawaiian proof was created out of thin air. (His mother was just a wee bit of a wingnut, oops, I mean free spirit.) And, as you pointed out, is really irrelevant.
But in the current US atmosphere, especially before the economic meltdown, it could have tanked Obama's campaign before it got out of the gate.
Re: "The scuttlebutt in DC is that Obama was actually born in Kenya"
Baloney! There is absolutely no proof that Obama was born in Kenya.
Here’s all the unlikely things that would have to happen for Obama to have been born in Kenya:
(1) His mother would have had to travel to Kenya in 1961 when she was already pregnant. It was a relatively expensive and difficult trip (no direct flights), and airlines in those days often did not allow women to travel when they were visibly pregnant, even as early as five or six months. Why? Because of the chances of miscarriages.
(2) She would have had to get a Yellow Fever shot, necessary at the time, which is bad for pregnant women.
(3) She would have had to forgo one of the advantages of traveling, seeing the sights on the way to or from Kenya. (Or else there would be photos of her in such cities as London or Tokyo, or she would at least have talked about her trip, which someone could have remembered).
(4) She would have had to have gone to Kenya and not been proud of the trip—how else to explain the lack of photos?
(5) She would have had to have given birth in Kenya but never told anyone about that birth outside of her family. (Or someone would have remembered.)
(6) She would have had to have given birth in Kenya, come right back with infant Obama on the airplane (or ship), and although many people must have seen her traveling with the child, then filed a Hawaii legal document saying that Obama was born in Hawaii. (It is unlikely that she lied at all, but to lie when people have seen you doing something different than you claim is risky.)
(7) IF she had given birth in Kenya, she would have had to get either a Kenyan or a US travel document for her child to get him to Hawaii. If the former, there would be a record of a visa issued to Barak H. Obama Jr in Kenya. If the latter, there would be the record of a US passport issued to him or a revision of his mother’s passport IN KENYA. Those records would exist in US files. Yet no one has found them—and during the election campaign most likely someone would have looked.
(8) Kenya would be part of the conspiracy because if Obama were born there, there would have to be Kenyan birth records, but the “birthers” claim that all the files are “sealed.” (There is no independent confirmation from newsagencies or newspapers that there are any files or that Kenya sealed anything.)
(9) Or, if Obama’s parents did not lie about the place of birth, and the Certification of Live Birth issued by Hawaii is wrong about the listed place of birth—which is Hawaii--then the officials in Hawaii must be part of the conspiracy.
Why not ask the good folks who were down at the All Steak, Ann Onimus? Besides, don't you think the Good Senator's staff put together anything he 'posted' on Congress Watch? Most senate offices have written answers to common/current questions ready for publication at a moment's notice.
After hearing Mr. Shelby several times on TV and in person, I have no doubt he said this as reported.
Hey guys, Will be the U.S. much better off sticking to Syria's Assad?
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