Friday, April 22, 2011

The Birther Conundrum

I remain confounded by the currency that the Birthers still carry among the hard-core, anti-Obama, rightwing GOP. It has reached a point where a number of state legislatures, including my own (Louisiana), are crafting legislation requiring the submission of some kind of natural-born citizenship proof in order for any candidate for President to appear on that state's presidential ballots. Let me tell you why I think this is crazy:

1. I presume that candidates must already establish their eligibility to run for public office. I don't know how most states certify eligibility to run for a particular national office, but I presume that states already either require the submission of particular documentation certifying constitutional eligibility (and other legal eligibility requirements, such as proof of residency, etc.) or have accepted the certification of eligibility by some other official source (i.e. the Federal Election Commission). I really don't know how it works, but I presume that there must be some accepted process.

2. Even if states pass what I'll call "birther" legislation, what's going to happen when candidates submit the evidence of their eligibility? In a sense, I look forward to this because it will no longer allow people to walk that line between saying, "Hey, I believe so-and-so's a citizen, but I just want to correct a gap in the law, blah-blah-blah..." In the case of Obama, which is clearly what is motivating this birther legislation push all of the sudden, when he submits his certified birth certificate from the State of Hawaii, which he has already released, people are going to have to come out and declare their true feelings by saying either: "Yep, that satisfies the law." Or "Nope. I think your certified birth certificate is a fraud." I mean, really, what are these states like Louisiana and Oklahoma going to require? Are they going to say that another state's legal process for certifying birth information is unacceptable? The State of Hawaii has already certified, multiple times, in accordance with that state's prescribed process, the legitimacy of Obama's birth in that state. Are the birthers going to demand some kind of federal legislation requiring all states to adopt the same criteria for certifying birth records in their state?

I can just see it. In the 2012 election, for the states who pass legislation requiring it, Obama will submit his birth certificate from the State of Hawaii to "prove" his constitutional eligibility to run for President. And if some states balk at this as insufficient, all Obama will have to say is: "Look, this is how Hawaii does it. I'm just following that state's proper protocol. I'm giving you the official proof of birth and citizenship certified by the state of my birth. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, as well as long established Federal statutory law, requires that Hawaii's process be accepted throughout the country. And how Hawaii does it is good enough for the State Department to issue me a passport, is good enough for making me eligible for Social Security benefits as a citizen, and is good enough for EVERY other federal program or benefit requiring proof of citizenship as an eligibility requirement. Any and every citizen born in Hawaii running for President would give you the exact same documentation. Deal with it. Exercise your own state's right to accept it or not; and live with the consequences."

What is clear, in the case of Obama, is that he has already revealed the necessary documentation to prove his constitutional eligibility to run for President. I can't wait for the day when this birther legislation in the various states forces the moment of truth when some state official, or some state agency, or some state legislature, will have to declare outright and officially that Obama's credentials are illegitimate or insufficient.

What I think will happen is that states who get bamboozled by the birther movement to pass such legislation, when confronted with the documentation that Obama will submit in order to be in compliance with that state's legislation, will simply say: "OK. Eligibility test passed. Let's move on." And I can guarantee that if this is, indeed, what transpires, the anti-Obama birthers in that state, the very forces behind the birther legislation movement, will feel betrayed and will express their outrage that the state actually had the audacity to behave in such a treasonous way so as to certify the eligibility of someone clearly, in their minds, ineligible to run for the Presidency.

But if I am wrong, and if states declare that the documents Obama submitted are inadequate or insufficient, then this will pit the right of one state, Hawaii, to certify births and citizenship status, versus another state's infringement on Hawaii's right. In essence, we'll be set up for a legal fight over competing notions of "States' Rights" regarding the Full Faith and Credit Claus of the Constitution, that has already been settled by the Supreme Court. But even if some twist in the case law makes another SCOTUS fight over this a possibility, this fight will still have no bearing on the legitimacy of Obama's eligibility to run for office as the Supreme Court has already accepted the legitimacy of Obama's constitutional eligibility to run for federal office. All this will do will be to expose the real (and ugly) sentiment behind the birther legislation in those states who seek to deny Obama a spot on that state's Presidential election ballots.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Republicans and the Debt/Deficit

If Obama's debt/deficit reduction plan, to be outlined this evening to the public, is what we are being told it will be -- strategic and specific cuts to the Medicare/Medicaid entitlement programs, along with tax increases for the wealthy -- and if the Republicans insist with their silly notion that tax increases are a "nonstarter" (as Boehner has said), then Obama will have painted the GOP into a corner. Obama's plan, when compared with the pain that Ryan's plan will inflict on the middle classes and the elderly, will seem like the fair compromise and will resonate as balanced and built upon shared sacrifice. How can the GOP claim to want to tackle the deficit on the backs of the poor and the elderly, and yet simply take tax increases on the wealthy off the table altogether? That's not a balanced approach to fiscal discipline, that's recklessness and rigidity rooted in class warfare ideology. And in tough times when the poor, the elderly, and the middle classes are called to sacrifice while the rich aren't is a losing strategy. Any attempt to deal with the deficit simply on the spending-reduction side is simply unserious. On this signature GOP issue, one that Republicans hope will take them to the White House again in 2012, Obama wins if his plan is serious about both cutting expenses and raising revenues in a manner that appears to be "fair and balanced."