News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 11, 2008

STEPHANIE SALTER: Endless line of lawsuits challenges Obama’s natural born-ness

TERRE HAUTE — You want to lose a day or 10? Get on the Internet and start reading the minutely detailed, remarkably long-winded analyses of what the term “natural born citizen” means.

Because the term is in the U.S. Constitution as a requirement for the office of President or Vice President of the United States — and because the Constitution does not define natural born — people have been arguing about the question for some time.

Because Barack Obama is the person headed to the White House, the arguments have kicked into high gear. According to at least one Obama foe, they will stay in high gear “throughout his presidency.” (More on that in a minute.)

Obama’s mightily mixed heritage and exotic childhood homes were virtues to millions of Americans who voted for him. But they are at the heart of the tenacious He’s-Ineligible movement.

Obama was born in a U.S. state, Hawaii — although a passel of conspiracy theorists don’t believe this, no matter what evidence they are offered. Obama’s Kansas-born mother was a U.S. citizen, but his father was Kenyan and, technically, a British subject. To the He’s-Ineligible gang, this means Obama had dual citizenship at birth and therefore cannot be a natural born citizen.

Some people who would block Obama from taking the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., cite writings by several of the Constitution’s framers that reject dual citizenship out of hand — it was the 18th century, after all — and that focus only on the citizen status of a person’s father.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Didn’t the U.S. Supreme Court settle this Monday when the justices declined to hear the appeal of a case that was filed to prove that Obama — and John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone — are ineligible for the presidency?”

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