Today’s Courier Herald Column:
President Obama appears to have a scheduling conflict. His official calendar has him appearing in Detroit on Thursday, while some are expecting him to appear before a Georgia administrative law judge in a Fulton County courthouse the same day. The smart money should bet on Detroit.
Over the weekend, headlines trumpeted that President Obama had been “ordered to appear” in the Georgia courtroom. He is called to face several conspiracy theorists who have filed challenges on various grounds to his legal ability to appear on the Presidential ballot. The President’s lawyers filed a challenge to the subpoena, but failed to include a legal justification as to why the President should not appear. The judge, far from “ordering” the President to appear in an administrative hearing, nudged the President’s lawyer to come back with proper paperwork.
The ruling has helped feed a festive atmosphere within the community of people known as Birthers, who believe the President is not a natural born American citizen and therefore is not a legitimate Commander In Chief. These are people who believe that despite of the President producing his birth certificate, and the state of Hawaii certifying the authenticity of said certificate, that somehow a half century ago a Kenyan family posted a birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper to begin a diabolical plot to install a Kenyan/Muslim/Socialist/ as President of the United States.
In a new twist in the birther’s line of attack, they now claim a constitutional requirement that not only Obama be a citizen, but both of his parents must have been a citizen at the time of his birth. This legal standard is pure fiction that exists only on the internet, but supporters are not deterred.
The attorneys representing the clients include California attorney Orly Taitz and Georgia State Representative Mark Hatfield. Hatfield previously filed a bill in the legislature requiring presidential candidates to produce their “original, long form birth certificate”, despite no legal description or standard for such a document exists outside the confines of conspiracy based websites. Taitz, for her part, has been fined $20,000 by a federal judge in Georgia for filing frivolous cases challenging the President’s citizenship. The fine was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court – with the consent of conservative Justices Scalia and Thomas.
Those two justices are significant because the birther movement is frequently tied to conservatives and more specifically, Republicans. The Democratic Party of Georgia has stated that “Republicans” are trying to remove President Obama from the ballot, implying that there is an organized effort by the GOP to use this as an election strategy. Given the involvement of a sitting House member, it is a charge that makes it problematic for Republicans to deny. General silence on the issue from Republican elected officials and party leaders, it is a charge that sticks so long as it remains uncontested. This is a mistake.
We are taught from a young age that we will be judged by the company we keep. Republicans cannot afford to keep the company of the paranoid and delusional. There is no rational reason to question a state’s official documents, nor justification for creating supra-constitutional requirements of citizenship. The birther argument transcends disagreements of policy and politics, and spirals those who engage into pure nuttery. This cannot be condoned by Republicans any longer.
Republican leaders have a choice to face with birthers. They can continue to remain silent, and accept the small minority to define the rest of the party as out of touch fringe who have an irrational need to remove a duly elected President by any means necessary. The party must decide if it wishes to coddle those who are blinded by paranoia, or demonstrate to independent voters that Republicans plan to win on policy.
It is not sufficient for a party to indicate only for which it stands. It sometimes must also be clear on that which it does not. The systematic strategy of stripping the legitimacy from elected Presidents is bad for America and the concept of representative government. Republicans who rightfully chided Democrats for questioning Bush’s legitimacy after the 2000 electoral debacle are now complicit in the same behavior. This must change, for the sake of the country.
President Obama is a natural born citizen, as demonstrated by the State of Hawaii certifying his birth certificate. Therefore, he is the legitimate and duly elected President of these United States. Republicans who wish to effectively work to remove him through the constitutional election process should recognize and be able to articulate this simple fact. Those who actually care about the constitution and the republic that it defines must acknowledge this publicly and clearly.