News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 11, 2008

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

By Stephanie Salter

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?”

Would that the answer were “yes.”

Instead, lawsuits related to Obama’s citizenship are lined up like planes waiting to land at O’Hare in bad weather. Two are circling the high court even as we speak.

Wrotnowski v. Ybiewicz is to be considered Friday for a hearing by the court. Justice Antonin Scalia plucked it from a re-application pile of rejected requests and placed it on the court’s calendar the same day he and his colleagues refused — without dissent — to take up Donofrio v. Wells.

For those keeping score: Nina Wells and Susan Bysiewicz are secretaries of state for New Jersey and Connecticut, respectively. Leo Donofrio is a retired New Jersey attorney with a lot of time on his hands, and Cort Wrotnowski is a prodigious author and, according to a Connecticut NBC affiliate, a health-food store owner in Greenwich, Conn.

Both men sued their secretaries of state for not verifying Obama’s natural born citizenship before allowing his name to be placed on the ballot. (McCain also was part of Donofrio’s suit.)

Lower courts tossed the cases; Connecticut’s attorney general called Donofrio’s “a baseless, bogus claim that’s apparently part of a nationwide effort to confuse or derail the election.”

The He’s-Ineligible gang see Donofrio and Wrotnowski as heroes. The pair have chosen to fight what conservative blogger Devvy “The Dynamite Redhead” Kidd of NewsWithViews.com characterizes as the “unprecedented rape of the American people.”

The second case descending for a Supreme Court landing was filed by a Pennsylvania attorney, Philip Berg. Berg is convinced that Obama wasn’t even born in Hawaii. Kenya, maybe, or Indonesia, but not U.S. soil. When the high court will consider whether to hear his appeal is unknown.

Berg and the He’s-a-Foreigner wing of the He’s-Ineligibles are undeterred by all evidence that refutes their belief.

Official statements from Hawaii health department officials? A birth notification in a Honolulu newspaper? Photographs posted on FactCheck.org that show Obama’s birth certificate with a raised embossed seal on it?

Don’t make the He’s-a-Foreigner folks laugh. Have you not heard of forgeries, frauds, Photo-shopped fakes? This is a worldwide conspiracy that began in 1961 when Obama was born — somewhere — and its vast web of conspirators are capable of anything.

Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily.com, is among the unconvincibles. He told Chicago Tribune reporter Tim Jones that even if all the citizenship cases fail, the subject will “plague Obama throughout his presidency. It’ll be a nagging issue and a sore on his administration, much like Monica Lewinsky was on Clinton. It’s not going away and it will drive a wedge in an already divided public.”

How nasty a sore? How sharp a wedge? Consider two reports on Salon.com.

The first, in a story by Alex Koppelman, notes that “Gary Kreep, who heads the United States Justice Foundation and is representing Alan Keyes in one of the lawsuits over the president-elect’s eligibility, has said his group will file suit to challenge each and every one of Obama’s actions as president.”

The second comes from Mike Madden’s account of a news conference that was conducted Monday afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., by the creme de la creme of the He’s-Ineligible movers and shakers. Among them was Orly Taitz, a California attorney and dentist (really), who also represents Keyes in his lawsuit.

As Madden tells it, along with a list of allegations — including that Obama holds passports from four nations — Taitz “harangued reporters for not investigating whether Obama’s mother was actually dead …”

Stephanie Salter can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or stephanie.salter@tribstar.com.