For a while now, a large billboard just south of I-635 on US-75 in Dallas has asked the question, "Where's The Birth Certificate?" I'm curious whether the billboard is already down, now that President Obama has released his long-form birth certificate today (see article in the New York Times) and the question has been answered once-and-for-all.
I agree with Richard Land (see video) that, for a long time now, it has been irrational to maintain that President Obama is a Muslim (Christianity is obviously the religious faith that he has chosen as his to ignore) or was not born in Hawaii. Such theories belong in the same category as those alleging that President Bush plotted the 9/11 attacks or those alleging that President Clinton was the kingpin of a drug ring operating out of Mena, AR.
I disagree, on the other hand, with the suggestion from the White House that the topic itself is a trivial one or is somehow silly. That the White House would say so is, I think, evidence of what I consider to be one of the grave problems facing our system of governance today: A disregard for our Constitution.
Trivial and silly people involved in this? Absolutely. Trivial and silly theories concocted? You bet. A trivial and silly topic unworthy of discussion? Not on your life.
That the President of the United States be a natural-born citizen is a constitutional requirement. Most of us have presumed for a long time that President Obama meets that qualification, and that presumption has now been vindicated. Nevertheless, even for we citizens who did not doubt that President Obama is constitutionally qualified to serve in his office, this has been an eye-opening journey, revealing to us all that no clear procedure exists for making certain that presidential candidates meet this constitutional requirement.
Article II of the Constitution of the United States simply cannot be followed unless somebody somewhere inspects a candidate's birth certificate. This is true not only with regard to the Natural Born Citizen clause, but is also true with regard to the age requirement specified in Article II (in order to be president, a person must be at least thirty-five years old). I have to produce a birth certificate to get a passport or a Texas drivers license, but not to be elected President? Even the presentation of a birth certificate is not enough to demonstrate compliance with the residency requirement in Article II. In order to serve as President of the United States, a person must have resided within the United States for the preceding fourteen years. How, at present, is this constitutional requirement verified and enforced?
Shouldn't presidential candidates be vetted as having met the constitutional requirements for the office before they run? The Constitution stipulates clear requirements; we have no procedures in place—and no plan to create them—to implement these constitutional requirements. A candidate is not required to document status as a natural born citizen in order to run for President. You, as a citizen, do not have standing to request that any candidate demonstrate eligibility under Article II as a candidate for the office of President.
The Natural Born Citizen Clause of Article II occupies the same category as the Tenth Amendment—verbiage in our Constitution which our government has no interest in treating seriously. We pay lip-service to our Constitution, but we ignore it at will. Why did President Obama demonstrate that he is a natural born citizen? Not because he had to, but because he chose to. Have we complied with the Constitution, or have we not? To too many people in this country, that question is not important enough to ask if it gets in the way of the current mood in Washington. This entire "birther" debacle, which should never have been possible and could easily have been ended in 2008, has been enabled and fueled by that fact alone. That is the real problem, and it is not trivial or silly.