Opinion

Commentary: A U.S. Constitution lesson for birthers

You know, of course, a person doesn't have to be born in the United States to be eligible to run for president? Just checking. With all the "birther" craziness over whether President Barack Obama was born in this country, I'm thinking far too many people aren't aware of that fact.

Nor are they apparently aware that a person can have a foreign-born parent, even one who isn't a U.S. citizen, and be eligible to run for president. Historical tidbit: Barack Obama is the seventh president to have a foreign born parent. The last before Obama was Herbert Hoover, the nation's 31st president, whose mother was born in Canada.

None of these history lessons or facts about the U.S. Constitution may sway the diehard loonies who want to believe Obama is an illegitimate president. Nor will Obama's release Wednesday of a copy of the long-form birth certificate compiled at his birth in Hawaii in 1961. Obama in 2008 released the short-form birth certificate that Hawaii now issues as proof of births.

The short form didn't satisfy critics, recently dominated by TV personality Donald Trump who's considering a GOP run for president. So Obama got a waiver and released the long-form that Hawaii no longer uses as proof of birth, a form not available for public viewing.

The weird thing about all this weird stuff is the intense focus on Obama's place of birth. If that was such a big deal, you'd think conspiracy believers would have at least focused some attention on the presidential candidate from 2008 who was not born in the United States: Republican John McCain. But McCain's place of birth, the Panama Canal Zone (then a U.S. territory), barely raised an eyebrow.

Still, what's amazing is the long legs this idea has had, given that most Americans - as I said earlier - surely know you don't have to be born in the U.S. to run for president. Right?

Okayyyy. Here's the history lesson.

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution spells out the qualifiers for president: "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."

Congress delineates in the United States Code, Title 8, Section 1401 who "nationals and citizens of the United States at birth" are:

A person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction.

A person born in the United States of Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe, provided being a citizen of the U.S. does not affect the person's status as a citizen of the tribe.

A person born outside the United States, both of whose parents are citizens of the U.S., as long as one parent has lived in the U.S. (This applied to John McCain).

A person born outside the U.S. of parents, one of whom was a citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least a year and the other parent is a U.S. national.

A person born in an outlying U.S. possession, if one parent is a citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least a year.

A person of unknown parentage who is found in the U.S. and is under the age of 5, as long as proof of non-citizenship is not provided by age 21.

A person born outside the United States, if one parent is an alien (non-citizen) and as long as the other parent is a U.S. citizen who lived in the U.S. for at least five years (this includes parents who served in the military or were in diplomatic service).

A person born before noon on May 24, 1934, outside the U.S. of an alien father and mother who is a U.S. citizen who prior to the birth resided in the United States.

Got that?

You can find this information a number of places online, including the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School, www.law.cornel.edu.uscode/, and the Office of Law Revision Counsel, uscode.house.gov/.

Still, if you're an uncompromising conspiracist, you might even question the authenticity of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Code too. If so, bless your heart - and heaven help you.

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