For the first time, NBC Nightly News took a look at the so-called "birth certificate" controversy surrounding President Barack Obama. Instead of researching and investigating the various claims, NBC News' Pete Williams cast everyone raising the issue of whether Obama is a "natural born citizen" as a kook with no legal basis for their claims. The report began by showing an angry woman standing up at a Delaware town hall meeting conducted recently by U.S. Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) and questioning whether Obama is a U.S. citizen and demanding an investigation to get to the bottom of it. (See video above). The crowd erupted with anger when Rep. Castle dismissed the woman's question. Williams then went on to say there is no legal basis to conclude Obama is not a "natural born citizen" according to unnamed legal scholars he says, though he conceded the courts have never determined what a "natural born citizen" means under the constitutional eligibility requirements for being president.
Williams' reporting completely ignored the two lines of argument questioning Obama's natural born status. There are those who say he really wasn't born in Hawaii, and Obama has never produced the original birth certificate proving his birth there, only a "Certificate of Live Birth." Proponents of this argument note that Hawaii law at the time of Obama's birth permitted the parents to register a child's birth by affidavit regardless of the child's place of birth and without the signature of the doctor or attending nurse during the child's birth. They cite relatives of Obama in Kenya, including his step-grandmother, who claim he was born in Kenya. The relatives' claims seem suspect to me, particularly the grandmother who charges money for interviews with reporters. It is inexplicable, however, that Obama has refused to make public the original birth certificate he described holding in his hand in his book, Dreams From My Father. Instead, he furnished what he claims is a Certificate of Live Birth that was issued by the State of Hawaii in 2007. Obama and his staff have further clouded the issue by providing reporters with differing accounts over time as to which hospital in Hawaii he was born.
A second line of argument that Obama is not a natural born citizen is the camp in which I rest. Credible legal authority exists for the argument that a natural born citizen is a person born to American citizens. It is undisputed that Obama's father was a Kenyan citizen at the time of his birth and remained so until his death at a young age in Kenya. It is undisputed that Obama's father's Kenyan citizenship made his child a dual citizen of both the U.S. and the British Commonwealth of which Kenya was a part at the time of Obama's birth. His father's British citizenship and his dual citizenship is wholly incompatible with respected American legal authority's view of a natural born citizen. Some legal scholars say mere birth on U.S. soil alone makes you a natural born citizen regardless of your parents' citizenship. Some of these same scholars will tell you that John McCain is not a natural born citizen because he was born in Panama to U.S. citizen parents while his father was serving in the U.S. Navy. I disagree with both views, but I respect the the fact that these legal arguments exist. Williams' NBC report tonight did not even acknowledge the existence of other respected legal views.
Obama's situation is further complicated by his mother's marriage to an Indonesian citizen, Lolo Soetoro, and his and his mother's subsequent immigration to this foreign land. It is undisputed that school records obtained by an AP reporter showed that the legal name under which Obama was registered at a Jakarta school was "Barry Soetoro." Those school records identified Barry Soetoro as an Indonesian citizen whose father was Lolo Soetoro. Obama's campaign claim he was never an Indonesian citizen. Unlike the "certificate of live birth" produced by his campaign, we aren't supposed to believe the plain words stated on the school document, which provides a strong inference that Lolo adopted his step-son and Indonesian law, at the time, according to other researchers, would have made it nearly impossible for a foreign student to be enrolled in an Indonesian school. It is quite possible, if not likely, that Obama held citizenship to as many as three countries at one time. Whether an Indonesian citizenship acquired after his birth had any impact on his U.S. citizenship is a whole other debate. Regardless, I think it is highly unlikely that the founding fathers intended that such an individual, "a citizen of the world" as he's called himself, would satisfy the natural born citizenship requirement.
Williams' report tonight acknowledged that dozens of lawsuits have been filed across the country and that all of them have been dismissed; however, he omits the fact that all of those lawsuits were dismissed on standing grounds and were not based on the merits of the claims stated therein. Williams further ignored the fact that some of those lawsuits don't question his place of birth as he suggested all of them do; rather, the claims are based on the argument that he cannot be a natural born citizen because his father was not a U.S. citizen. Citizens have been frustrated in attempt after attempt to get to the bottom of a question which should have been resolved by state election authorities who certified his candidacy in the presidential election. While state election authorities have regularly denied access to the ballot to third-party presidential candidates on the basis that they didn't meet the 35 years of age requirement or the natural born citizen requirement, the only two constitutional qualifications to be president, they have never exercised that authority to deny a major party presidential candidate access to the ballot. Some suggested Sen. Barry Goldwater was ineligible in 1964 because he was born in Arizona before it became a state. Others challenged Gov. George Romney because he was born in Mexico where his Mormon parents fled to avoid prosecution under California's laws against polygamy. In the case of Sen. John McCain, the U.S. Senate conducted hearings and passed a resolution declaring him a natural born citizen based on the fact that he was born to U.S. citizen parents, albeit in a foreign land.
The double standard in the reporting of Obama's biography versus other presidents and vice presidents is conspicuous. CBS News' Dan Rather poured over document after document to prove that George W. Bush didn't fulfill his National Guard duties, even relying on what turned out to be forged documents to prove his case. Dan Quayle had to defend claims by the infamous Speedway Bomber that Quayle purchased pot from him. Both George W. Bush's and John Kerry's grade transcripts from college were made available, vetted and compared by reporters. We learned that Bush was a very mediocre student and that Kerry was a slightly less-mediocre student. John McCain's U.S. Naval Academy records revealed that he finished at the bottom of his class. He produced his original birth certificate showing his birth in Panama.
In contrast to erring on the side of disclosure by past presidents about their personal biographical information, Obama has taken the complete opposite tact. Obama has a team of lawyers devoted to making sure that nobody has access to any of his college records at Occidental, Columbia University or Harvard Law School. He will not allow Hawaii officials to release his original birth certificate, and he won't allow the hospital at which he claims he was born to release any information about his birth there. He won't release his bar admission records in Illinois. What is available online suggests that he may have failed to disclose that he once went by a different name, Barry Soetoro. And fellow blogger Debbie Schlussel uncovered evidence of tampering with U.S. Selective Service records to make it appear that Obama had registered for selective service when he turned 18. Still, none of the mainstream media is interested in looking into any of these matters. How the hell can a presidential historian write about this man's earlier life with any accuracy? They sure can't rely on either of the auto biographies he wrote before he even became a U.S. senator. As the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet said of one of those books, it was impossible to ascertain where the fiction ended and the truth began. I just want to know the basics about the guy we elected to the most powerful political office in the world. Is that asking too much? What does NBC's Williams tell us tonight in his report? Some congressmen are opting not to hold town hall meetings during this summer's congressional recess for fear of facing questions similar to what Rep. Castle's constituent asked of him about Obama's natural born status.