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Getting It Right

On my drive home yesterday from The NorthEast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS) (which was a terrific event but that is not what this post is about) I turned on my radio to listen to The Aaron Klein Investigative Radio show. Klein’s live broadcast is based out of Jerusalem. He prides himself on being the only radio show host in the western world who has “Middle Eastern terrorists on speed dial.” Just about every week,  he conducts interviews with leaders of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. To me, Klein’s radio show is as fascinating as anything I regularly listen to.

Yesterday, before his scheduled interview with the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Klein’s schooled his mostly-conservative radio audience about one of the great falsehoods directed against President Obama that has been floating around cyber-land for years.

Donald Trump has been on a recent  media blitz questioning the status of Obama’s birthplace. The story concerning Obama’s birth will not go away on its own, and anything short of the administration producing a validated, raised-seal birth certificate will continue to fuel the fires of suspicious people and conspiracy theorists alike. In 2010, a stunning CNN poll had 42% of Americans believe that Obama is not a citizen. This whole kerfuffle takes on a different tone when one of the world’s most widely recognized figures of significant wealth and power takes his clout, his reputation, and his wallet on a media tour to express his opinions on the matter. (By the way, I call his unspoken “candidacy” a “media tour” because until anyone publicly commits to running that’s all these things are.)

What is the law concerning a person’s status in relationship to becoming the President of the United States? Well, the Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 reads:

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.

Also, the Constitution, Amendment 14, Section 1 reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Effectively, this section of the Constitution granted the then-slaves all of the rights of non-slaves born in the USA as outlined by the Constitution, which brings us back to Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5. The term “natural born citizen” is the crux of the matter. What does this mean? The United States Supreme Court has taken up A2,S1,C5 cases on two occasions prior to the time of the 14th Amendment: Inglis v. Trustees of Sailor’s Snug Harbor in 1830 had to do with property rights during the British occupation of New York in 1776. Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857 had to do with the citizen status of slaves (they were deemed not to be citizens), which the 14th Amendment supersedes and corrects. After Dred Scott, the 14th Amendment became the focus of all citizenship cases since. In none of these cases has our highest court ruled on the eligibility of someone whom has run for, or achieved the Presidency.

The popular consensus is that “natural born Citizen” means someone whom is born on the soil of US territory, including US armed forces stations and US vessels (ships) all around the globe, This concept is known as jus soli, or right of the soil. The suspicion surrounding Obama’s status of jus soli has been clouded by people reporting and regurgitating comments made by Sarah Obama, Barack Obama’s step-grandmother. The comments were made and recorded during a phone call between American evangelist Ron McRae and Sarah Obama, in 2008. Many websites and YouTube videos play only a fraction of that phone call conversation in order to make it sound like Sarah Obama was confirming that Barack was born in Kenya. Upon hearing the entire call, and reading the entire transcript, it is clear that Sarah Obama did NOT suggest that he was born in Kenya, AND went further in saying, multiple times, that she understands he was born in Hawaii.

So what is Donald Trump saying? Yep, that Sarah Obama said Barack was born in Kenya. For someone of such considerable means, business sense, and supposed media savvy, that Trump is not up to speed on these facts cuts directly into his credibility. In addition, his parroting of this myth has influence over a large audience that he has exposure to via the mainstream media. He is contributing greatly to the muddying of these waters. If he chooses to run for president, this is going to come back to bite him big time.

What is refreshing about Aaron Klein is that I am finally hearing a conservative broadcaster speak out against this myth and against Donald Trump’s perpetuation of this false and misleading claim. Kudos to Klein, we need more honest people such as him defending truth over ideology, and using his microphone to help set the record straight to millions of his listeners.

Understand that Klein is no friend of President Obama. One of Klein’s books is titled “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s ties to communists, socialists and anti-American extremists.” As Klein (along with others) point out, The president has spent over two million dollars in legal fees fighting challenges that would allow access to his birth certificate. Klein asks: Why not release the certificate for public viewing and why fight to it to the tune of two million dollars (and counting)?  Klein also points out that this is part of a greater pattern on Obama’s part of keeping under wraps many of the records of his life prior to his presidency – the President’s Hawaii school records, his Occidental College records, his Columbia University records, his Harvard records, his University of Chicago records, his passport, his medical records, his Illinois state bar records, his baptism records, his records having to do with his studying abroad, amongst others. While there is no obligation for Obama to legally comply with requests for these kinds of records to be released, in the past whenever the media has asked for other administrations to release these kinds of records they have acquieced with many of those requests.

I personally beleive that the matter of Obama’s birth does not lie in the production of a birth certificate, but rather that Obama has apparently met the requirements of being a natural born citizen by decree of Hawaian officials, including multiple Governors of Hawaii.  As I have said before on the SGU, you can find many reasons to disagree with this administration without having to resort to perpetuating false claims.

Still, my opinion does not offer any kind of explanation as to why Obama would be legally fighting against a public release. While asking questions such as this is entirely fair in the conext of investigating such claims, it is entirely inappropraite to sustain and spread falsehoods (such as Trump is doing) in the guise of trying to uncover the truth.

5 comments to Getting It Right

  • LawnBoy

    “As Klein (along with others) point out, The president has spent over two million dollars in legal fees fighting challenges that would allow access to his birth certificate. Klein asks: Why not release the certificate for public viewing and why fight to it to the tune of two million dollars (and counting)?”


    I’m not sure from the context if you introduced these questions as a way of showing that Klein was sometimes hard on Obama, or if it was also to introduce questions that you think are unanswered. Either way, you might not be aware that the questions are flawed and misleading in a few ways:

    1) “The president has spent over two million dollars in legal fees fighting challenges that would allow access to his birth certificate.”

    The premise of this is invalid. There’s no evidence at all that this is true – it’s a number that is spread around by rumor, and it grows over time. The closest thing to evidence for this is that the Obama campaign has spent about $2.3 million in legal fees since the election, but there is no reason to think that this is largely or entirely about the birth certificate question.

    Further, out of all the suits brought on this issue, he’s been an active defendant in only three – in most cases, the court dismissed the case without any action (or cost) by Obama lawyers.

    Finally, this is a form of poisoning the well – even if it were true, how would this “evidence” of Obama’s role in the conspiracy be distinguishable from spending money against frivolous lawsuits? That someone spends money defending against lots of suits is not evidence that the suits have any merit.

    So, it’s a number based on a rumor that doesn’t match known facts and that wouldn’t prove anything anyway. It’s not worth repeating (except possibly to debunk it). There’s more info here: http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2011/04/obamas-legal-fees/

    2) “Why not release the certificate for public viewing?”

    Obama published photos of his certificate online (http://msgboard.snopes.com/politics/graphics/birth.jpg), it was checked by independent journalists (http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html) and it was validated by Hawaii officials (http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2011/04/hawaiian-official-confirms-obama-delivered-by-doctor/). How much more public should he make that document?

    The complaint made at this point by birthers is that the Certification of Live Birth isn’t the “real” birth certificate, that Obama should release his original “long-form” birth certificate. The problem is that the State of Hawaii no longer issues copies of the long form. Instead, by state law and for privacy reasons, they release the Certification of Live Birth, which shows all the necessary information to prove U.S. Citizenship for Passports and any other legal purpose.

    Obama literally has no legal access to the document that the birthers insist he release to them. If he used the power of his office to get a copy of the document, it would be an illegal abuse of office to override state law for personal gain.

    In conclusion, by repeating the question “Why is he spending so much money to avoid releasing his birth certificate?”, you repeated a question that is based on many incorrect and misleading premises. As I said, perhaps you knew that the questions were flawed, but the logical and factual fallacies inherent in the questions should be addressed.

  • I have an email in to Aaron asking how they verified the $2M figure. If I get an answer, I will share it ASAP. That there are any challenges and defenses of these kinds seems a big waste of time and resources to me, and as such, it would seem there is blame to be shared in some proportion. I admit some bias in that I loathe lawsuits that I see as frivolous, and I think this drama qualifies.

  • Of all people, Ann Coulter is on FOX tonight questioning the $2M figure. She’s seems pretty up to speed on the whole issue and covered all the main points arguing why Obama is a natural born citizen.

    As I said recently on the show, Ann The Lawyer should stick to legal issues instead of spouting ignorance about radiation and health.

  • Hey Evan,

    other commenters have chimed in on the 2 mi figure, but I also must state that the then Obama Campaign produced Obama’s birth certificate, pictures of it, and let it be verified by journalists (including factcheck.org) in mid-2008.

    Below are some links:





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